LALITA AT ORERE POINT – NOVEMBER 2022
I had been promised another adventure, an escape from my boring retirement where all I do is watch cars arrive and leave in the driveway of 24 Lily Street, Raglan. Some days, not regularly though, the woman from downstairs leaves for work in her Honda hybrid – somedays her workmate arrives in his Volvo and stays over.
The previous boyfriend had a Bunnings ute which, regular as clockwork, left at 6:30am and arrived home 3:30pm. It’s long gone. Guests next door arrive and leave in all sorts of vehicles. The camper van from across the road rolled over and down into the house a week ago. What a crash! The ground shook and the power lines came down. Fortunately they didn’t land on me and turn me into a burnt out shell. It’s all quiet again now.
They drive me occasionally to keep my battery charged and to cheer me up, but otherwise I’m left alone, dribbling bits of oil onto the gravel. She tidied up my rust one afternoon, sanding and painting all the brown bits. A very superficial make-over.
I’ve heard them talking, determining the days we have for travelling, maybe crossing over to the east coast south of Thames through the Karangahake Gorge and on to Waihi. I’ve never been there, that I remember. Her tramping gear is still packed by the house battery in the side compartment. There are food stores, spare fuel canisters, water and bedding. Everything is ready for a quick and easy get-away.
Then one day She boldly removes my squabs and drives me around to her daughter’s place. I met Laura at Pureora Park last January, when she was travelling with the grandchildren. Something seems wrong right away. William, her elder son, comes down to help. I met Asher, the younger son at Pureora as well, but this is my first time meeting Will. He helps Her shove two large wooden pallets through the tailgate onto the plywood where the squabs were. They fill me up with camping gear, a large fold-down pantry, a huge tent, smaller tents, sleeping bags, packs.
I can’t work it out. She drives me back home and then stuffs me to over the windows with more camping gear and a whole lot of painting stuff – for screen printing I hear her say to Him, who is helping. And then come the boxes of preserving jars, jam jars, plastic beer bottles for beer making, empty wine bottles for wine making. And then comes the food. It is enough to make me throw up. She adds a smelly petrol container for the lawn mower, as the last insult, before driving away on her own, without Him. I should have complained of a flat tire or refused to start after She filled me up with diesel at Te Uku, to make her reconsider. I’m not a truck, I’m an elegant touring van and I’ve done my very best to be reliable, steady and friendly.
I can see She is tired and in no mood for any more stress so I know I can’t do that, and when she stops at Te Kauwhata to shop some more. I wonder where it is going to fit. She disappears into the second hand clothes shop, to find a pretty dress for Christmas I expect, and then we are on our way again.
I relax and let myself enjoy the beautiful country side, particularly up the Miranda coast. The smell of wildflowers masks the smell of lawnmower fuel and the sun is shining and the sea is sparkling and for a moment it feels like I am going on a holiday and I become happy. I’ve been to Her place at Orere before and had realised quite early on that this is where we are heading. Usually the place is haemorrhaging grandchildren but not this time. Whew. The ducks quack and the chickens squawk when we arrive, but otherwise it’s quiet.
The place isn’t as I remember. I’m not sure we’ll get up the driveway. The grass is that long. I can feel how dejected She is. She sits in the driver’s seat a long time before getting out. Maybe she is going to cry. I’ve seen long lawns, but not this long.
Spring has been very warm and very wet. She must have known how much grass loves this kind of weather. It can’t help growing when it’s warm and wet. The grass doesn’t meananything by it, and all the weeds and everything else, all through the garden, convolvulus, kikuyu, couch grass, dock and other unnameables, weaving over and through everything, they can’t help it either. It’s just in their nature to wander and spread like that. Even I know that. She loves Orere because everything grows so well after all.
When She finally gets out, she opens the passenger seat, grabs some food, her bag, her books, her computer and She is gone and doesn’t come back out until the next day.
Usually the ducks come and settle under my belly in the shade. I love that. But the grass is too thick and wet for that now.
The next morning She opens every door, wide open until I’m feeling very exposed, and gradually takes out all the stuff. Box after box, pallet after pallet, until its just the camping stuff left, and I am left to ponder the meaning as she closes all my wings, unscrews the battery terminal and locks me up tight with nothing to do now but brood.
It’s been constantly raining here for days. I can tell, as the long grass blades are all beaded with water, and the ground is soft squishy under my tyres, maybe dangerously so. The day is overcast, forecasting more rain in the afternoon. I get her dilemma. The lawn mower comes out, starts with one pull and She’s away.
I can hear the motor groaning as She stops to raise the blades further off the ground. It’s still groaning but She pushes through the front meadow first, stopping frequently with a stick to release the wet mass of masticated grass. She angles the front edge off the ground often, before the motor gives up altogether, and waits until the blades are spinning more freely before pushing down through more grass. I feel sorry for her. It’s such an effort and I have a very powerful engine, but I can’t do anything to help. I’m just not constructed in a lawn mowing way.
Something in Her demeanour is happy though. I get that she likes using her body, being strong, She likes using a simple machine, and She likes being in the garden. Rainclouds come and go, but it doesn’t rain and it stays cool. Fortune is smiling on her.
I’m surprised at the energy She has, tugging at the weeds, long streamers of kikuyu, they don’t stand a chance and come out roots and all. Nothing resists the might of her arms; because the ground is so wet and gooey the convolvulus roots just slide free too. Mountains of weeds compete with the mountains of grass clippings, her arms pulling and yanking, fingers digging into the cool earth, tracing the roots, ripping and tugging, and all her precious plants start to re-emerge and smile their triumph.
Then come the hedge clippers and the pruning saw and secateurs. She methodically works her way down the garden, around the sleep outs, through the orchard and hen house and out onto the verge. Several days have passed already.
I do wonder what She does in her breaks, and she takes a lot of breaks. She disappears into the house and I can’t hear anything. I think She’s reading, because each time she comes out she looks very thoughtful like she has uncovered a secret, like the world seems different to her now. I can’t get inside her head, and I can’t get into the house to see what She’s reading. I’m sure its very deep and has something to do with the inner workings of everything.
I’m still wondering where I fit into her plans. I’m happy enough here with the hens and ducks and the cat, happier than in Raglan actually, but I can’t help the feeling of being abandoned, of being forgotten, no longer relevant. I do hope She’s not forgotten how much she used to enjoy sleeping in me, and travelling in me to new places, like a snail, carrying her home with her. I heard her say she’s taking three months away from Raglan, so that must include a Lalita adventure, surely?