We left Ahipara late Friday afternoon and drove the “twisty turny road” to Kerikeri, our name for the shortcut through the mountains. The hour and a half drive is a two-way, two-lane highway with lots of blind curves. Scenic and interesting in the daylight, nerve-racking in the dark. We stayed overnight at a small motel in order to catch the early morning flight to Auckland. Security for the NZ regional airports is non-existent so we arrived at 6:20 for a 6:40 flight. At 6:30, the flight was cancelled due to heavy fog in Auckland. After re-booking for an afternoon departure, we headed back to our motel for more sleep. Mid-morning, we wandered across the road to a farmers’ market for breakfast.
The jewelry tables were selling jade and shell necklaces, and the purse vendors had a variety of “possum” items. Vegetables on display included giant New Zealand pumpkins(gray/green and a brilliant orange inside), the world’s biggest leeks, and unshelled macadamia nuts. Orchids were for sale in a wide variety of colors, and the cutting boards were made of kaori wood. The local swim team was raising money with all things lemon: lemon curd, lemonade, lemon tarts- probably because almost everyone has a lemon tree in their front yard, and who needs another candy bar.
We sat down to eat our Thai chicken curry pie for breakfast and listen to the local band do the cover for some Creedence Clearwater songs. The sun was out, but the temp was in the 60s- perfect weather for killing time and reflection. John and I took inventory of how many people looked like they were from the 60s and 70s. Strong “hippie” culture survives here. Back in high school, I wore the same clothes- tie-dyed, loose dresses, and beads. That flashback conjured up Mr. Berkeley, my sophomore English teacher.
Mr. Berkeley was an opinionated, pompous man, who liked to pontificate about life during class time. He assigned the topic “The Good Life” for our class narrative essay. The assignment required us to list five things that we needed to have/do/obtain in order to say “I had a good life”. I don’t remember all five of my requirements, except that number one was travel, and having a family was number two. Today, I would reverse that order. I do recollect agonizing over the list and putting serious effort into the assignment.
Money, however, was not on my list. I reasoned that I knew some really unhappy people who had money, so I didn’t think it belonged in my top five. I still don’t. Money is essential but I don’t want it driving all my decisions. One thing I have learned this year is so much of what I think I need is unnecessary, and, yes, the really important things are truly free, like watching New Zealanders guzzle beer and eat mussel fritters at 10:30 in the morning sunshine.
Sitting at the farmers market was the perfect moment. I was totally delighted with my cup of tea and pies and listening to music and basking in the sun. We were so enjoying “the vibe” we decided that taking that morning hike could just wait. It’s not everyday that I get to hang out with fellow hippies and listen to “Kansas City” being played by a live band. I loved everything about this unplanned, accidental moment.
I got a “B” on that sophomore paper because, as Mr. Berkeley explained, my list was impractical due to my oversight of the almighty dollar. In fact, he admitted to the class that he downgraded anyone who did not include money on their list because he thought it was the most important element
to the good life. He also didn’t feel travel was all that great. The next year I dropped out of the regular high school, and enrolled in an alternative high school program. Mr. Berkeley probably had something to do with my decision- but, then again, here I am traveling, and full-of-hot-air Mr. Berkeley, who thought there was no need to ever leave Oak Park, is dead. Funny how that worked out.