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California, New Zealand. Two passports, two homelands. And detours.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This last Saturday, walking through rain, hood up and rapidly blinking water off my eyelashes, I listened to a man walking a few feet in front of me talk over his shoulder about a play that ran at the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin called Belong.
We weren't talking about theatre in general, but he began talking - or shouting; it was raining and we could barely hear each other - about it after I joked that I still get my feelings hurt a little bit if someone mimics the way I speak.
It was just an aside comment and I didn't give it much thought when I said that. It's not a big deal when someone does it, but it gets tiring that there is still a place in my head that recoils to hear how different I sound to people and suddenly the way I pronounce herbal and scone becomes yet another quiet, cold assurance - face to the wind - that no matter where I go in the world, I will always be an interloper.
He told me the play was about people coming to New Zealand and trying to make a home here and be accepted by the communities they had moved into. He described a whole story line that I don't remember. But I understood why he mentioned the play. That what he heard in my voice was a desire to belong, and that it was not unusual for here, and some playwright recently had been able to capture that in a three-act play.
Milford was as stunning as it has been for a thousand years; I have pictures.
But the part I loved the most about walking for four days through glacial valleys, under icy peaks, passing waterfalls you can't even see the top of and pools of water that reflect all this, after years of just hanging out around Milford's boundaries, was having a woman named Judith come find me in the lobby of Pompolona Lodge after I had taken off my pack, sit down next to me and ask if I was Gwyneth Hyndman - and tell me her mother was a Hyndman, and she always looked for my byline in the newspaper, which always came a few days late with the supplies, because apparently I am a lost, but now returning member of the Southland Hyndmans. They know I am here, she told me. And I thought, weird, but I was kind of thrilled by this.
I have this picture I took of it as my screensaver. Every time I see it I am reminded that someone saw my name down on the dinner list and she came out and found me in a group of strangers and drew three generations of Hyndmans from memory (then the rain got into my pack and soaked the paper, but I put it together a bit and took a picture of it).
But there was something about walking out of the mountains with a piece of paper like this, that I can draw a line to and say - if I am mimic-ed - this me, right here, and these are my people.

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