What did I see that others did not? What did others see that I did not? And even if we saw the same thing, did we perceive it the same way? I would try to observe through the eyes of a visitor.
Almost immediately, I found myself wallowing in the comfort and safety of the small New Zealand town, crossing well-surfaced roads devoid of the impenetrable smog of overseas cities. Well-tended gardens lent colour to the otherwise uninspiring natural palette. Were humans to blame for the lack of wildflowers and the splendour of pohutukawa?
The clement breeze bathed me in the fragrance of cut grass as I marched purposefully across the Botanical Reserve to climb the 143-metre landmark.
Transitory perceptions were quickly erased by the imprint of the mighty palm trees enticing, like Sirens, those seeking the track.
I thought of children as my eyes magnetically followed the receding safety rail, its moss-laden timbers the size of Scottish cabers; and smiled as I imagined my son, climbing over.
I thought of what I didn’t see, and how I’d like more benches.
I thought I was thinking too much, and stopped.
Landslips were evident, but cultivated nikau and kanuka discreetly planted fought to bind the soil. The entanglement of branches testified to the wrath of the wind. How rewarding it was to be miniaturised by Nature, yet within walking distance of home.
Grey soil, yellow soil, gravel and gullies, the track meandered on, and with it my musings. Piqued by curiosity, I examined a horse trough. No horses here, yet maybe there’d been some?
Meadows and pastures conjured pictures of England. My reverie was short, though, with the bang-clang of cranes at the port in the distance.
Wagtails, like ballerinas, fluttered and danced, but it was the humble sparrow whose voice prevailed. Do cicadas have voices? Their scratching was deafening. A sure sign of summer; I wasn’t complaining.
Soon at the summit: the soothing satisfaction of something achieved – I could see over Nelson, the Bay and beyond. I thought of my problems. What problems? From the Centre of New Zealand, my problems were dead.