whats going down further South..
I've been in Wellington for five days now. This is the capital city of New Zealand, but as my friend Sarah, who I'm staying with says, "Its the Brighton to Auckland's London".....! I can see why its also drawn comparisons to San Francisco. Theres all these steep and heavily tree lined streets and avenues from which white weatherboard houses stand. From where I am in Brooklyn theres the most beautiful views I have ever seen, of Central Park, which dips down from here in a kind of deep foliage basin, after which you look out over a harbour and you can see the islands not far from the coast and far off mountain ranges turning blue in the distance. Theres a freshness to the air and I've felt authentically chilly here, for the first time in months and I love it. The walk from here into town is the most rejuvanating one ever, the view lifts your soul, the air lifts your headstate.
I travelled here on the Overlander train from Auckland. This is a twelve hour long train journey that runs pretty centrally down the North Island, top to bottom. Its a sweet train, quite small, with these massive huge windows so you can see the views. You have a tour guide type person announcing when you go through areas of historical or spiritual significance. Or anything at all really. Theres a guy called Dennis who waves to the train at the same time every day and he gets a mention too ("Hey theres Dennis, he's here every day, lets all give him a little wave!"). And you can also stand outside on a viewing platform which is amazing. You can get lost in the landscape, or laugh at all the people trying to have sneaky cigarettes and failing dismally in the wind. Its like going through a film set, all these buildings from the 1950's, farms and dairies, people out in the fields raise their hats and wave as you go past. Theres like this innocence which is born of all this space. The fact that actually, there still aren't that many people here in New Zealand outside of the cities. And part of you thrills to it. And another slightly cynical part going "My God, I've landed in a place where they still point at planes". Its wonderful.
The landscapes like nothing I've ever seen. Its like the most beautiful parts of Wales and the West country of England- that is, rolling green hills, scrubby moorland, deciduous forests. You also go along these amazing viaducts and two rivers- which are always prefixed by 'The Mighty' and you get a sense of the river spirits being alive and well here. Then you get to something completely new, like some tree you've never seen before. there are all these trees that resemble Tuscan cypresses that ascend upwards, that are seemingly randomly placed in rows, like part of a stage set with scenery that just needed using. Its weird. Sometimes you look out and the scenery's like a two dimensional Surrealist painting with these odd aspects. I used to work in a print gallery and we used to sell some really tacky and horrible abstract landscape pictures, but seeing this scenery I understood what it was some of those artists must have been trying to emulate. And I remembered this conversation I had with an artist in South Africa once, when we were looking at the darkening sky over Table Mountain and I said to him that you could never hope to emulate it. And he said "Thats no reason not to try...".
Wellingtons a relief after Auckland. It has its fair share of nasty Milton Keynes style architecture also but is smaller, prettier, more compact. I spent all afternoon in the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand yesterday. It is incredible- it is built on a huge scale, taking into account Maori planning principles, and is full of the most wonderful items. They have a real Maori Meeting House like in the picture above, in there. And several boats. I never knew catamarans were based on the double-hulled boat design of the Pacific Islanders. And all these interactive exhibitions you can play on. And the history of the Maoris, the Treaty of Waitangi, is all covered. I sat inside the Maori Meeting House for a while, looking at the carvings. The continuous spiral patterns have something in common with Celtic La Tene art, maybe coming from the same ethos that all life is continuous, it shape shifts rather than ends. And when you look at the rows of carved statues sitting next to one another, for one moment, they all look identical, like uniform rows of Storm Troopers. And then the next moment they all have their individuality back and they keep changing from one to the other. As if again underlining that all separation, all character individuality is fleeting and illusory. I also learnt that reproductions of Maori art is quite strictly monitored these days, as it is considered sacred. Any depiction of the head specifically. The head, as in Asian culture, is considered sacred, as it is the sea of the intellect, the springboard to growth.
And as this is a Yoga blog I should tell you what I've come across so far in the Wellington Ashtanga scene. A really beautiful shala, just off Cuba Street, called Te Aro astanga (www.astanga.co.nz) where I went to a Mysore class led by Mike Berghan. Like all the other Astanga teachers I've met here he was brilliant. Another student of Pattabhi Jois with a friendly and workable approach. I had a very exciting moment... After aiming to understand and be able to do Supta Kurmasana for quite a while now, I had sort of given up on it. I got into the full posture here, ankles crossed behind the head, the classical postion. The thing was though, it didn't feel that exciting. Another lesson, I was attaching too much to it before. And excitingly enough, Pete Sansons doing workshops here next week! So I get to work some more with him which is amazing. Very early mornings again so I"ll have to quit the late night wine and meals I've been enjoying here. Sarah's partner, Jen, is the most beautiful and hearty cook. Its good to spend time with them again, they are two friends from the Brighton days and I used to work with Sarah. They have a lovely house here, and a lovely ginger cat called Zsa Zsa. Makes me nostalgic for a bit of domesticity.
There is something magical here. I lost my Tarot cards last week but it didn't bother me. I thought I'd go looking for some more. And I found the most amazing set here, the Aura Soma cards by Pamela Matthews. There are a few versions of these and if you google them you don't find them, just some dodgy soft focus angel/aromatherapy type stuff so you''ll just have to take my word for it that these cards are beautiful. And she's reproduced the Major Cards so you have 22 cards 'returning' as well, as lessons learnt. And they seem to work. I met a woman called Maria who's a local clairvoyant and reader here and she says that this land is really something special. a very healing place. And I've had a series of dreams, almost like a catalogue of things I didn't want to think about. And its like with each dream, somethings being let go of, more than just wishful thinking because they don't seem to come in order of personal importance and old memories I never gave a thought are being held up for scrutiny. Hmmmmmmm. All very cosmic......... Three weeks to go before my course starts. I'm just going to focus on doing lots of reading and practice, and start doing some writing again. Proper writing.
Happily its been the Wellington Arts Festival while I've been here and I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman yesterday!!! I've loved his work since I was a little Sandman goth/fan in my late teens, and more recently I really enjoyed 'American Gods', as a book it really excited me. And he read an excerpt from it which was wicked. He is a fantastic speaker, very funny, very quick and he was speaking for an hour or so, dressed in his trademark black. And a member of the audience asked him what advice he would give to an aspiring writer and he said "Write. Write and write and make sure you finish stuff. And get t published because nothing makes your weaknesses more apparent than seeing them in print. This is my advice. I know that some people would like something else. Like 'Slaughter the Goat..... Then wait until midnight when you will hear three raps at the door..... For the love of God do NOT open it then..... A little later you will hear FIVE raps at the door..... at which point you must open it and I will be standing there holding a scroll for you. With Stephen King and JK Rowling on either side...' I am sorry, it doesn't happen that way. You just have to write." So inspired by that, I have lots of reading to do, for as I sat there a few ideas came my way.
Visit Wellington. Amazing place.