One weekend, during the height of summer, my friends and I went on a roadtrip to Paihia. This was months before the nationwide lockdown. The days were long, and the nights were still very warm.
It was 9pm. I was sitting in the back of the car, and had just begun winding down from a long week at work. The sky outside was coloured with hues of purple and blue, the landscape had merged into a blur of pine trees, and the kabump of the car tyres on the winding roads fell into a steady rhythm.
It was around this time of the night, that I felt a familiar hum – that tingling feeling I got whenever I passed through a place or a moment that held the beginnings of a story. The hum was telling me to pay attention.
So I shifted my attention away from the window and back to the conversation in the car. My friend was telling us about something called the Simmer Dim. I asked him what it was. He said it was the name given to a day in the year when night never reaches complete darkness.
I recalled having this conversation because despite it being 9pm, it was still bright outside.
Simmer Dim, Simmer Dim, the words hummed in my ear. I pictured a glittering pool of water with animals congregating around it. There was something unusual and mysterious about that word. Like “the witching hour” in Roald Dahl’s book. It all contributed to the air of mystery around a certain time of the night.
That evening, I learnt that night-time had three shades; twilight, night and dark, like the shades of blue in a paint swatch.
It was dark by the time we arrived at our accommodation. I woke from my deep slumber and looked up at the house. A row of solar lights lit up the front porch, throwing hues of greens and blacks against the wall. My friend said something that made us all laugh. “Is this your parent’s house, or is this a hotel?” It was magnificent. Even in the darkness.
We grabbed our bags and clambered up the porch steps, tired but eager to see the house. Barely able to stand upright, we stumbled into the living room and dumped our bags on the floor.
Someone switched on the light and magically, one by one, our tired eyes lit up. In front of us was an island, with a walk-in pantry shelved with food. We drifted from room to room, admiring the paintings, the neatly-folded bedsheets, the warmly-lit bathroom and the dusky scent emanating from a nearby candle.
My sister and I chose to sleep in the bedroom with the cute window wall. It framed the backyard behind the house, like a painting. This wasn’t just any backyard. It was a forest, as dense as any forest here in NZ. You could walk from here all the way to another town. That was how deep it was.
My friend told us that one evening, when he was sitting by the front porch, he sensed that something was staring at him. When he looked up, he saw two eyes staring at him from inside the forest. A boar. He was sure of it. It was also what had eaten the meat his grandmother had left outside.
That evening, I drifted into a peaceful slumber, sinking my head into the soft pillow, a deep smile on my face, knowing that tomorrow was going to be a big day. This is the pleasure I derive from being in nature. This is the magic of nature.