Always leave on a high. That’s what Great Aunt Hazel advised when I was a young strumpet. ‘No matter how great the party, leave at the peak, don’t wait until it’s all over.’ It’s a tough motto because what if there’s another fabulous conversation to be had, witty line to inhale or person to flirt outrageously with?
I didn’t always stick to it.
When we first arrived in our Californian woods I could never imagine reaching a peak. Ever. Most of the time I felt like I was doing backstroke, staring back at our beautiful lives in New Zealand as I sank further into the heart of darkness. And there were no parties.
‘Paradise!’ people used to exclaim when they came to work here. ‘You’re in paradise!’
You don’t live here, was my silent retort.
There were many things to be irate about. No power in winter, like, every morning. No heating forgotten coffee in the microwave, not to mention making my own coffee because the nearest café was three thousand light years away. No cell coverage. Moody Internet. No connections. Fretting I had nothing to say because I was so out of touch. Not that it mattered because we had no friends to say anything to anyway.
That first summer here I often woke up thinking not another fucking day in paradise. The truth was, I was lonely. Great people surrounded me but like good wine, good friends take time. And I missed my dear peeps in New Zealand—the ones that understand that I think I’m a dazzling dancer and that’s all that needs to be said on the matter.
Or course, everything I hated about being here I now love. The isolation. The silence when the Camp generators go off, along with all modern appliances. Living with distinct seasons. The ridiculously enormous Redwood trees that block early morning rays but provide an infinite sense of calm, like Ents. Growing food, even stinky pigs. Watching our kids find hours of entertainment in an old stump. Understanding how amazing this place is for kids that grow up with no Ents and the haunting sound of gunfire. Knowing each other. Before we came here, the Dimple and I were two people figuring out how to be in a relationship AND fandangled parents at the same time. Now we’re a team and somehow we created a family. And as soon as I stopped fretting about it, I made some amazing friends. I have a gaggle of gals I prance, dance, laugh and cry with. And they come with wigs.
Together, we have friends from the city—that’s how woodsy we’ve become, we call San Francisco The City like it’s the only one in the world—whom we holiday with and the nice surprise about living in the forest is that people don’t pop over for dinner; they come and stay for a few days. Turns out we can be the party.
People turn up now and say, ‘Wow this is paradise.’
And I think, yes.
We couldn’t imagine a better life.
Which is why it is heart wrenching that we have decided to leave. We are right in the high. The peak. And we don’t want to go but we’re doing it for us over there in our future. Before it’s 5am and there’s nothing but overflowing ashtrays and empty bottles.
You see, Bob and the ‘Dactyl would eventually resent living so far away from movie theatres and behind bike sheds. Plus, we want them to grow up feeling like New Zealanders and knowing they have cousins. And I want Bob to stop calling me Mom.
According to Great Aunt Hazel we have to go now, when our memories of the woods will forever be the best. We’ve booked one way flights in December.
Telling a girlfriend about it recently, she asked me what our plans were in New Zealand.
‘We have no plans,’ I said.
She couldn’t hide her shock. ‘You haven’t set anything up?’
‘Erm, no,’ I said, my voice getting smaller.
We might be crazy but the Dimple and I can’t yet decide where to live—Auckland, Wellington, Nelson, Piha—and what to do. I relate it to that feeling of being pregnant—how you can’t really focus on raising a child because you can’t get passed the birth, the getting the child OUT part. That’s how it feels as we can only imagine up to the departure. We have so much to do before we go: leave our solar legacy at Camp, set up another dance party for girls in Ghana, see the Grand Canyon, have adventures with Jayne and Stéphane from France and Uncle Mammoth from London, spend time with our friends here, and reduce our life back down to four suitcases.
It’s enough to make a girl want some good wine.
While we figure out what the heck we’re doing, I’ll leave you with some photos of the woods taken by our good friend, Chris Moss, who came to visit this summer. He has a brilliant eye, check out his site full of shots of the world and flying machines. Or his FB page.