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Manuka Road

posted Feb 29, 2016, 8:09 PM by Grace Bridges   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 9:34 PM ]
Published in The Island Review, October 2015 (link to full text)

All the way along the road are the trees. Manuka. Always the manuka, reasserting its original dominance. This is not the fringe of urban settlement. This is within sight of the very heart of New Zealand’s biggest city, as proven by the volumes of traffic that pass me. But we are reminded ever and again that we are newcomers here, that the trees and birds owned this place before our ancestors came or the builders with their clever kitset houses in the latest models for each era of architecture. In every direction there is forest canopy, blanketing the rumpled hillscape, obscuring the marks of civilisation. The manuka swallows our roofs and we are at ease in the clattering greenery, for the land has been good to us.




The Kaleidoscope

Coloured scraps, broken toys, jagged edges, refracted light tumble around life’s kaleidoscope, never the same pattern twice. Everything is there: memories, desires, tender hopes and evil laughter, old clothes and cat hair and shreds torn from photos, dreams and losses and strawberry sandwiches, and words.
 
I am fire. I am rock. An endless tangle of words that sometimes make sense. I’m failure—because there’s nothing I ever tried that didn’t fail at first. But I wasn’t finished yet.
 
Words. In many hues and tones. Words from books, words from screens, words from inside the head. Words read many times, and other words considered but never grasped enough to speak out. Things said, things we wanted to say, and things we’ll say one day.
 
I am iron and satin and sand and wind. I am the sea, loyal to the end. I want to blow your mind with tales spun—tales of deep-seated otherness. If I take you into my heart, don’t expect to leave.
 
Here’s the eyepiece. Spin it around; shake up the substance; see what’s in there for your eyes alone today. Because no one will ever see it again like you do right now.
 
I’m a workaholic, sometimes. I’m a notebook fiend. I see everything, remember everything, and if we pass in the street I’ll see you before you see me so I can avoid you if I want to.
 
There goes a big piece of “I-miss-my-dad” or whomever else. It stings the eyes, but we tell ourselves that’s only the smell of burnt toast. And over there, a couple of TV starships and a blue time machine shaped like a phone box.
 
I am ice and flame and dreams and storms. I am full of bizarre worlds. I am sensual. I’m an engineer of journeys in the mind, an artist gripping nightmares for your entertainment.
 
Glowing hazes pass by the viewscreen—signs of treasured friends who cast light into dark places. Now and then a whole book floats by, and we want to grab it and say, “Read this. It holds a strong trace of the universal human experience.”
 
I find myself in books I did not write. I’m positivity. I’ve got the DIY gene. And if there’s a cool how-to that can be learned, I want to do it. Impossible is not an option.
 
Bits and pieces cross paths in the kaleidoscope, sparking ideas like a runaway Delorean meeting its fateful power surge. From here, we can go anywhere. We can’t follow all the tracks imagination gives us at moments like this, so sometimes we stand, bewildered, amidst the tossing pieces of life that alternately crowd in, pull apart, light up, colour the world, and threaten to drown.
 
I am bushwalks and wild honey. I’m the call of a tui or the chitter of a fantail following unexpectedly. I’d probably be your best friend, if you’d be a friend to me. I’m a house full of people, I’m the feast on the table, the mess after a party.
 
Kaleidoscope. A hodge-podge of so many different things, crammed with conflicting interests and driving forces, soft and sharp, dazzling or dim, deep in sleep and extrasensorily aware. Tonight it’s a passionate rugby game to cheer at, a song from the 80’s, a recalcitrant colleague, a future journey, and a procrastination problem that sees us finally sitting down to write this at one in the morning.
 
I am broken, but stronger than ever. I’ve been discarded, but picked myself up. Been chewed up, swallowed, regurgitated, spat out, and set on my feet. I’ve done wrong, but time is forgiving. I’ve been torn from my homeland and I’ve walked the great deserts—the Sahara, and the deeper one of life. I’ve loved, and lost, and loved again, but differently. I’m wired to the world. I am too broad for a ten year old suit, but too fragile to sing. I can float away on music that has no words. I invent planets for fun.
 
It may be a mess in here, but if pages were mirrors—and they are, really, aren’t they?—we’d see a repeating pattern that somehow makes sense of the crazy mix, and might even please the beholder’s eye.
 
Let’s go in.


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