Wednesday, February 8, 2012

From D to NZ -- Eine Wanderung

This blog post is part of An Aotearoa Affair: A Blog Fest from Kiel to Kaitaia, a collaborative web initiative in anticipation of the Frankfurt Bookfair in October, where New Zealand is the Guest of Honour.

On sunny autumn days, the mountain lakes of Bavaria are overrun with families and couples and elderly hardcore walkers getting their last walk in before winter, at which point many of these people will then strap on their cross-country skis and do essentially the same thing...just a bit more quickly. Walking, for them and for me, is a solitary endeavor: a time to learn the rhythm of one’s thoughts.

Marienplatz in Munich
In Munich, I work in two parts of the city that are miles apart from each other. I walk between my appointments to free my mind. In fact, I have some of my less awful ideas while walking. I've learned that I need moments when I'm not trying so hard to come up with the perfect phrase or an original plot. When I walk my mind has permission to wander—die Gedanken sind doch frei, gel? Not long into the wandering, my mind will work out a problem in my writing, and I'll think, "Man, why didn't I think of that?"

You know the adage If you want to find something, then stop looking for it. That's hard to do when you're walking in an extraordinary place bursting with photo-ops. When I'm walking in the mountains, my camera often stands between me and my thoughts. Always looking for a perfect photo motif is like always looking for that great idea. You could drive yourself crazy looking, turning the idea this way and that to get just the right perspective—and in the end you rob your brain the chance to wander. Though there was natural poetry all around, I didn’t take many photos in New Zealand. I think the beauty must have been too big to capture within the frame of my little Nokia camera. Or maybe I just didn't know how to use the camera? 

Auckland, New Zealand
I started in Auckland, where I hiked The Coast to Coast Walkway through the city, the university and up to the domain . . . and then I got lost in a residential area, wandering through imagined stories of the people inside the houses. The next day, I left Auckland in a motorhome and travelled from the North Island to the South Island on a 16-day trip—bis jetzt die beste Reise meines Lebens. I had no idea where I was going. Just south. It was like wandering on four wheels--or I guess six.

Abends--after I'd walked for seven or eight hours around lakes and up glaciers--I listened to Crowded House in the motorhome. I woke up every morning to freezing water lapping against the shores of mountain lakes. A Crowded House lyric would still be lapping in my head. ‘Lose yourself when you linger long / Into temptation.’ I was tempted to linger a lifetime in that motorhome, wandering through New Zealand. What an incredibly free place for my thoughts (and my legs) to live.

On the third day when I stopped at a supermarket to stock up on steaks, salad and wine--I wasn't exactly roughing it--I also grabbed a Brooke Fraser CD. I’d heard one song on the radio. I liked the song, but I ended up loving the CD. It became the soundtrack of the trip. I sang the songs as I walked along rivers, through temperate rainforests, up to (and onto) glaciers, up the hill in Queenstown and a small part of the Queen Charlotte Track. I walked and walked, my mind wandering through the lyrics of Crowded House and Brook Fraser songs. The CD still brings back those days in New Zealand, still reminds me that wandering through New Zealand worked ‘an indelible change in me.’

Read more about An Aotearoa Affair HERE

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to R is for Rio de Janeiro.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.