There were too many people from tour buses wandering through the rain forest on the twenty minutes of exploration time allowed for on our itinerary for me to fully indulge my senses amongst the verdant vegetation. I’d like to have plunged my face into the silky wild grasses whispering in the wind. I’d like to have felt them whisper-tickling my brow. I’d like to have caught the trickling water on my tongue as it dripped from leaf to leaf. I’d like to have cradled my face between hand-shaped leaves of what looked like a rubber plant. Oh to be held between the palms of Mother Nature. There are so many shades of green here in this luscious forrest. My time is up in this slice of heaven and I must get back on the bus.
We drive past hitch-hikers, and a few of us who sat together the previous day on a different bus recall a young couple who left our bus to hitch-hike in another direction. They seemed very young. The girl looked around sixteen. her long blonde hair looked as though it had encountered some stormy weather. She seemed to be in charge. She carried the guidebook and spoke to our bus driver, Pete. She pointed to a map and Pete nodded. The girl knew exactly where she wanted to get off the bus. The boy, who didn’t look any older than the girl, dashed off the bus without saying anything. He fiddled with his hands, seeming not to be able to contain himself. He looked anxious. Maybe he’d have preferred to have caught the earlier bus – the one that actually went to the place his girlfriend had indicated on the map. The six of us who had sat together observing the couple agreed that if we had been driving we would not have stopped have for them. I wonder why?
‘I was like them once.” Driver Pete frequently joined in our conversation. He has a wonderful sense of humour. The six of us were like a school-girl cliche, snickering from time to time at a semi-private joke. There were two conversations going on on our bus. There was Pete delivering his commentary with the occasional comment thrown in from someone towards the back of the bus. And then there was our little group – the teachers pets at the front of the class, lapping up the attention our Pete was paying us. Pete indulged us, throwing in anecdotes that showed us his deep commitment to his glorious land and his neighbour-people.
“I’ve traveled all over New Zealand with my thumb. I did it as long as I could, but when I felt I was getting old it was time to settle down to a job. That’s why I’m here doing this.” Of course Pete hasn’t really given up traveling. Here he is driving a bus, sometimes going off for days and spending his nights all around his Island. It is obvious he likes his job. It is obvious he likes to tell us stories.
At our next stop along the way to Milford Sound I manage to escape my fellow passengers for ten minutes. I find my green this time. I am leaning over a railing looking through the green of trees at the sea and plants. I have time to meditate on what it means to be green
The art of translation – What is Green?
Five years ago when I was studying for my MFA in Creative Writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, I took a unit on Translation. The fact that Antioch offered this unit was one of the reasons I wanted to study there as opposed to any other MFA program. During my time at Antioch we focused on translating poetry from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish languages. We didn’t need to be able to speak or understand any of the languages. In fact, our Chinese came from ancient Chinese languages. There was one translation exercise that affected me more than others. We were given a poem consisting of about 6 lines of Chinese characters. For each word-like string of characters we were given a list of possible English word translations. I was struck by how many English words could possibly be substituted for each Chinese “word.” You can imagine how potentially difficult this made translating a poem into English, modern day English at that. We soon learned the importance of learning what we could about the author. Sometimes we didn’t have any information about the author. We researched the political and cultural climate of the time. We considered spiritual aspects of life at that time.
My senses were infused with a multitude of descriptions and essences of “Green.” In my favourite poem (sorry I can’t remember it now. I’ll go back to my MFA notes when I get home) I felt absolute awe for the number of “greens” the author was able to convey. The poem was about a man sitting in what I can only summarise as a rain forest. The smells, shades of light, textures and tastes of green, the character of the man along with the sounds of nature evoked in that poem will stay with me always.
I am Green
I have eyes that sparkle jade when I am happy and dull to the grey of a threatening ocean swell when I am sad. I was conceived on an emerald isle where once I was the apple of my father’s eye.
I can inhabit the infamous green-eyed monster on occasions, although this is lessening as I grow sage with age. My skin turns to olive in the summer sun. I inhale the fir forest and feel drunk on the scent of new-mown grass. In autumn I* can sit in the gold light of evening and will sometimes with the drooping willow.
Green is the colour of my early days – callow then as the day was long. I could strut with my teenage friends opening our feathers to reveal the peacocks we were in every sense of the bird. As a child I would eat spinach only because so did Popeye.
Green is my state of mind. I can sink into a puerile state of meditation. I am naïve, but often creative, burgeoning, budding, bosky and blooming.
Our planet needs green and while I try to live my life as kindly as I can to our blessed planet, we all need to work much harder at embracing green.