A year in people #9 – the lady from Pigeon Bay

A few days after my relationship ended in New Zealand last year, I decided to go on a bike trip around the Banks Peninsula. I had a week to spare and needed to go do something rather than sit in my friend’s spare room. I’m not one to mope around so if I was going to question my life choices and work out what the hell had happened, I figured I may as well go do it outside.

My mind whirred at a million miles an hour, my stomach cramped with nausea and anxiety and my heart was heavy, but having the wind in my face and keeping the legs pedalling went some way to start the healing process.

I cycled out to Little River, and onwards to Akaroa. After spending a few days hiking, reading books and eating scones, I set off further round the hills. I felt somewhat rested and rejuvenated, but as anyone going through a break-up knows, it takes more than a couple of days to right yourself. Especially if your whole life was hinged on the relationship, which is the situation I’d found myself in.

I decided to camp at Pigeon Bay, over the other side of a big hill. It’s only an hour away from Christchurch, but feels like a million miles because it’s so tucked away. A quaint, quiet place right on the water, there’s a handful of caravans permanently pitched, proper kiwiana, each giving little clue about the people who might occupy them.

It was early afternoon and I made light work of pitching my tent, choosing then to sit at a picnic bench and figure out what to do for a few hours before bedtime. My brain was still going at a million miles an hour and no distractions meant I’d sit and go over and over things in my head, which was exhausting and annoying but hard to stop. I was just having an internal conversation with myself when a woman, who looked to be in her late sixties, with bouncy grey hair and a big smile, came over.

“Hello! Where have you come from?”
“Akaroa.”
“Oh! The hills!”
“Ha yeah I know. Ouch!” I laughed.
“Do you want a cup of tea?”
“Oh my god I would LOVE one, thank you!”
“I’ll stick the kettle on, come over when you’re settled, I’m in the caravan at the end.”
“Oh thank you.”

Relief rushed through me; a perfect distraction. As much as I was needing to be alone, and wouldn’t be great company, I also knew that a bit of time talking to a stranger would put the mental merry-go-round on hold for a bit.

I can’t remember her name, although she did tell me. After some general pleasantries, I quickly found myself telling her all about the break-up, my move to New Zealand and how lost and alone I’d felt, both during and after the relationship. She listened, without judgement, occasionally asking questions. I think she could tell I needed to talk, and talk I did. In turn, she told me about her life, and her relationship, and how she’d begun to find herself and her own identity in her fifties and onwards.

We sat there for quite a few hours, chatting about all sorts. Life, learning, the role of women, children, travel and adventure. I can’t remember much about any of the detail, as my brain was in a bit of a fog, but it doesn’t matter. One of those in-the-present moments, it did me the world of good. Not just a distraction; by giving me a place and time to talk, as well as listening to her stories and advice, she helped remind me that there’s more to life and me than one relationship that hadn’t even really started, and for that I’m grateful.

The timing couldn’t have been better; perhaps it was one of those meetings that was meant to be.

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