Cherishing my Omaui stoneGWYNETH HYNDMAN
Yesterday morning I took an empty coffeemaker box and loaded it up with everything I couldn't fit in my tramping pack, crowned the pile with my purple ''Invercargill Forever'' t-shirt, loaded it into my bike basket, put on my sunglasses, and pushed my one-gear wonder up the grassy verge and onto the street.
I was one of many people making this wobbly journey down the hill to the Mackinac Island Post Office, with one hand on the brake, sunnies slipping down my nose, the other hand propping up these possessions that will be waiting for me in Los Olivos, California in a few weeks.
Lake Huron sparkled below the road as the 10am sun hit the water.
It is autumn but it has gone suddenly warm and golden and there is no sign of the snow that everyone said was going to fall by mid October.
But above us each day are the beating wings and cries of geese flying south for the winter and at night there is a bite in the air that makes you wrap your scarf around your neck a little tighter and pull your hat down low.
During the mornings seasonal workers have also been making their way down the hill from hotels along the cliffs, dodging horses and carriages with these boxes that will be sent on, either to family or to their next job.
At the post office we line up with takeaway coffees and glance at the final destinations on everyone's packages. Sometimes it is Key West or Milwaukee.
Other boxes around me have been addressed to Jamaica or Romania.
My mind has prodded me awake with the same smug Beastie Boys lyrics each morning - ''because your crystal ball, ain't so crystal clear'' - along with the sounds of the ferry boats coming into the harbour - maybe because my plans keep shifting and moving and I am still trying to get a picture what is next for me when I get back to California.
Because I hastily bought a ticket out of Michigan, and stupidly didn't read the fine print, I can only take about half of what I brought to this island six weeks ago.
So I have scrunched my pack down to become the 28 x 14 inch carry-on I am allowed. And then I look over the pile of what I thought I would need here, and didn't (five boxes of panty hose? Four pairs of heels? Really?) along with the collection of sentimental markers (because who can resist an AK-47-themed barbecue lighter while standing in line at midwestern petrol station surrounded by corn fields at midnight?) and I sigh: What do I do with all this stuff?
It is a process that triggers memories of packing up my crib in Omaui four months ago and standing in the middle of my lounge with a glass of wine, crying while making the torturous calls on what to take and what to leave behind.
But this time, it isn't heavy and heartbreaking decisions I am making - it is more about deciding what to send on ahead of me.
It's like a time capsule I will open in a few weeks, I tell myself. There are no torturous calls to be made here.
These decisions are light and simple and fun. I can calm down, I remind myself. So I made a pot of coffee and opened the front door to let the sun and the morning breeze in, and the smell of rain on the trees from the night before, and stood there in my pjs, surveying my loot, all reminders of where I've been since I left New Zealand in late June.
My ''Invercargill Forever'' t-shirt - a parting gift from the Southland Times newsroom - will be the first thing I see when I open the box in a few weeks.
Tucked in there are the gold-trimmed sunglasses Southland Times reporter Collette Devlin picked out for me at Disneyland in August.
Two of my seven hostess dresses that I have worn in the hotel dining room through September are also folded up carefully. I have a collection of essays by my favourite women authors, plucked from the bookshelf of a friend in a Los Angeles beach neighbourhood and a broken up leaf from a poplar tree near the Mackinac Island Public Library in a plastic bag at the bottom.
It wouldn't kill me if this box was lost in transit. But it will be a delight to find it waiting for me on my bed in a few weeks.
However I did change my mind about sending one item on, while standing in line at the post office.
Back in April, my friend Anna - who has always been one of my favourite visitors when I lived in Clinton and then Kaka Point - came to stay at my Omaui crib while I was away for the weekend and took her children for a walk on the beach to look for sea shells.
When I came back I saw that she had left a thank you note, along with a stone she had picked up and written on.
''For beautiful Gwyneth'', she had painted in her lovely flourish, which made me feel exactly that. And below this was a verse in a psalm.
My Omaui stone has come with on every road trip, every hotel room, and on each adventure I have been on since then and it has become a ritual to place it on a bed stand, wherever I am staying, because it reminds me I am loved.
So at the post office I took it out of the package and tucked the stone in my jacket pocket and zipped it up, then passed my box over the counter to be weighed and taped up.
There are things you leave behind, or send ahead, and there are things that you just have to hold on tight to and not let out of sight, if only because it makes you brave in the times when your crystal ball ain't so crystal clear.
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