I’ll Fly Away

“New Zealand? NEW ZEE-land!! Why in the world are you moving to New Zealand?”
The answer isn’t complicated, really. What’s complicated is putting the answer into words that make sense. For most of us, the idea of traveling to the other side of the planet seems impossible, even in today’s global marketplace. And the thought of moving there? Why? Why would anyone do that?
The flax. It’s all about the flax.
When I was a young girl, I had heaps of journals and scrapbooks filled with pictures, maps, and articles of places I wanted to visit, adventures I wanted to have, and things I wanted to see. Whether it was clamoring toward Angkor Wat, sailing down the Rhine, or discovering whether I liked Buda better than Pest, I wanted to experience all of it. More importantly, though, I wanted to understand a culture different from my own. Meet people who had a different sense of the world. See and know things I would otherwise never be able to.
It was an act of happenstance that got me to New Zealand the first time. A perfect happy accident, I suppose, because on that trip I began to understand a few things about risk, about myself, and about the idea of really living my life as if each day mattered. And yes, it started with flax.
During that visit, I came across a huge plant that looked almost primordial to my un-fauna-cultured eye. Large, robust bean pods dangled from great big stalks shooting from the center. it looked like a combination of vanilla and sea oats. I took ten–no twenty–pictures of it. I was sure I’d found something that only existed in New Zealand. My adventure had begun.
I asked what it was, prepared for an answer full of exotic syllables and amusing descriptors. Like Tanzalia, or Devil’s Striped Tongue, or something. But no, that’s not what it was.
“It’s flax,” I was told in a flat, unassuming voice. Wait, wait–what about the Tanzalia? Are you sure it’s not devilish in any way?
“No. It’s just flax,” again said the flat, and unassuming voice.
And why should that voice have been any different? There’s nothing remarkable about flax, really. It’s just … flax.
It was more than that, though. It was the embodiment of that kind of adventuresome, intellectual curiosity that can only be found in a young girl with pigtails surrounded by grand piles of travel and adventure books.
Life has a way of carving out a path for you, even when you don’t realize that’s what’s happening. And if you find yourself in a situation where things haven’t worked the way you planned (and insisted), its time to make your own rules. When you do, perhaps you become fascinated with things like flax, the correct pronunciation of tena koe, and the culinary possibilities of kumara. Perhaps you stop reading about adventures, and instead, have one. And perhaps, it’s the first in a long string of adventures in which you come to know yourself and the world better than you could ever have otherwise. It’s quite a daunting possibility for a South Georgia girl who’s never lived more than 250 miles from where she was born.
A good friend said to me recently that the best thing about having an adventure is that you can stop it whenever you want. “When do you think your New Zealand adventure will end?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I guess when I stop being fascinated by flax.”
I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of flax since that first visit. I suspect I’ll take thousands more.
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