Thursday, May 26, 2011

On old new beginnings

He built the huge yacht in the backyard.  It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be made from steel.  But in fact, it was made of his sweat. The skin of his fingers, his elbows and shins. The blinks of his eyes as he lay awake staring at the ceiling.

It was a magnificent venture. The goal of a lifetime, a dream being played out on a stage that was once a suburban back lawn in Nelson, New Zealand.  The neighbours stared goggle-eyed.  Partly annoyed at the  noise, dust and dirt from days of garrulous grinding and sawing, and the smell from months of welding, the unmistakable metallic odours buried deep in the curves of nostrils all around the area.  The big grey behemoth assaulted their eyes every morning as they tried to saunter casually down the gravel driveway to get their morning paper.  But mostly, like us, the neighbours were in awe of the ark taking shape in their suburban oasis, where it rarely rained and there was no sin to be washed clean.  At least, not as far as wizened old Mrs Smith from the orchard next door knew, and believe me, she knew everything.

Beam by beam the girth took shape, evolving from his imagination, created from his hands, the vehicle both figuratively and literally in which he invested his dreams, and quite willingly, ours.  He took to growing a beard.  Like Noah, only not grey, and with no hope of saving a myriad of animals from extinction - merely intent on saving his family from a dull, one dimensional existence that would otherwise be their future.

The momentous day come when the beast was turned right side up.  It was no longer a mountain of steel, perched in the yard like a rejected sail from the Opera House.  With imagination, it was a magnificent vessel, the shell of the Titanic to a 10 year old girl.  To my father, it was proof of possibilities, proof of skills; without wanting to be trite, it really was a labour of love.

He worked like a man possessed. Forty gallon drums filled with molten lead for the ballast.  Sheets of ply bent to his fancy. Planks of teak carved and sanded with the care of an artesian.  Each scrape of the sandpaper, each blister, each pile of sawdust and shard of slag was testament to his drive, ambition and dream.

Then came the day it was finally finished.  Well almost.  After a pummelling with the obligatory champagne bottle from my Nana (a woman whom I never remember drinking!),  and with the family perched on deck, we lurched backwards into the blue water of Tasman Bay.

In Maori, a Koru, the new unfurling fern frond, represents something new, arising from the old.  The boat, duly blessed with champagne was named Koru II.  For my father, and my family, it did represent something new - as we left our home, and our country for a better life.  Not for our family, a dull existence in one place, with no adventures lead.  Instead, my father's endeavours, the culmination of his dreams showed us all that change is something to be embraced, adventure something to be relished and that perseverance really can pay off.

It has taken me a long time to appreciate these lessons.  And, in fact, I don't think I have ever told my father how proud I am of him for what he achieved here.  Not only in terms of the physical act of building this yacht, but for what it taught me about how to live life in general,  for teaching us that life is for getting out there and living, and most importantly, that dreams don't have to stay dreams.

Today it's his 70th birthday.  Happy birthday Dad.  I love you.