There’s very little that I counted important enough to tuck into the backpack I’m living out of this year. One such item was a small silver bracelet from my grief counselor that reads in Latin “she flies with her own wings”.
It’s a mantra of encouragement: moving to another country alone with no plan, no job, and no vehicle. I can do this. I can live this madness, absorbing the sunshine and processing the grief lingering beneath the surface. I can fall in love with adrenaline, I can find my place in my altered world.
The only thing is, that’s not the entire story. I may be living a life I’ve dreamed of, but it is hardly only my volition that allows me to soar.
It may be my wings that lift me, but it is the winds of others that give me the space to let go and glide.
This afternoon, I hiked the Tiki Trail. It’s a relatively short but very steep hike from Queenstown to the first really good overlook of the city. Four years ago, I was dying: huffing, red-faced, and embarrassed I was holding back Glenna and the rest of our guided group. Today, my legs were giving out before my lungs and I played hopscotch with a group of construction workers. One of them wryly commented that I made the trek look easy. EASY! That simple sentence was like a breath of fresh air for me to fly on up the hill.
I continued hiking, and a gentle older woman was working her way down the trail. We nodded to each other and sidestepped. Ten seconds later, I pull out my music thinking I’m hearing a voice. She’s calling to me, offering me her gondola pass to get back to town after my upward trek. These things are about $35, so a generous gift!
By themselves, these two interactions would have been enough. But that wouldn’t be a very Eliska-like story, now, would it?
Those construction workers were hauling beer up the hill and handed one off to me to drink. I passed them and managed to lose them, only to find them again at the Skyline. They offered me another beer and I struggled to understand what they were asking me with their accents (I have been in the States for WAY too long! I used to be able to distinguish between London, Northern, Irish, Scottish, and almost Kiwi and Australian. Nowadays, I can’t even understand someone speaking non-midwestern English, let alone know where they’re from 😦 )
Halfway through the second beer, this group of Kiwi’s and Brits with a token Frenchman started commenting they needed to get going to go on the Luge and started urging me to come along. No, no, it’s nice to meet you, and I’ll giggle at you from above, but I’m not going to have a job for at least two weeks, I don’t want to spend the money on… Next thing I know, we’re all shoving our bags into one locker and I feel as though I’ve been properly adopted by these men as the foreman happily adds one more 2-run ticket to his purchase and starts passing out helmets for everyone.
The Luge, for lack of a better description, is gravity-fueled go-karts? The first round, you are required to go down the scenic route – going one at a time and a little bit slower. Round two? Utter chaos, turning into more of a bumper car escapade.
And what do Brits do best after self-declared carnage? Pass out another round of beer, of course.
“You. You said words,” I said to one of them in response to sounds pointed in my direction. He laughed, and repeated it, and I shuffled away in embarrassment that I still couldn’t understand his accent and slang.
I may have flown on my own wings to get to the top of the mountain, but I coasted into Queenstown on the winds of absurdity.