Featured in Capital #37 Subscribe to get the real thing here
Every year it happens and every year we are surprised – we wake up one sunny January morning, blink, and suddenly we are back in December facing down the barrel of yuletide.
Even for those who love Christmas so much they get dressed up, cover their faces with glitter, and dance around like a good-tidings fairy (*cough* me *cough*), the combination of too many people in confined quarters, stress-drinking and additional pressure on already-stretched pockets can be too much for even the happiest families. Plus depending on how old your kids are, you likely haven’t had a good night’s sleep or a therapeutic orgasm for anywhere from a month to five years – so it’s little wonder many of us struggle through to this point only to collapse at the finish line under the weight of keeping all our stuff together.
This time round my feelings are especially mixed – while I often wish for time to slow down so I might properly enjoy the good stuff, I know I’m not alone in thinking this year has been a pretty tough one. The year of Australian bushfires, Covid-19, Trump (still), #BLM, more extreme weather patterns and sea level rise looming over our shoulders. Don’t even get me started on house prices, homelessness and the ever-growing gap between the Haves and Have Nots. I’ve never been more in need of a bit of vitamin D-therapy, or more grateful to live in the hemisphere where the transition from old year to new is eased by a (mostly) temperate climate.
There are many valid criticisms of the claim that New Zealand is one of the best places in the world to live, but one way in which we are inarguably blessed is in our relative abundance of and proximity to the bounty of mother nature. Even in our biggest cities we are never more than a few hours away from beaches, mountains, bush walks, national parks, swimming holes, freshwater lakes, waterfalls, or natural hot springs. Mostly free and available for the enjoyment of all.
If you didn’t grow up in an outdoorsy family, you’d be forgiven for thinking that packing up the kids for a camping, hiking or beach adventure requires too much energy to be worth it, but you’re missing one crucial fact: nature is the lazy parent’s best friend. We took our firstborn camping for the first time when she was only a few months old, and when she was a month shy of her first birthday we upped the ante with a three-week camping trip to Maraehako on the East Cape. People thought we were nuts, but it remains one of my absolutely best and happiest memories. Like most days at home, we were up with the sun, but that’s so much more tolerable when you can just unzip a wall of your house and watch it rise together, snuggled up in bed arguing over whose turn it is to put the coffee on.
Gone was the need to seek out entertainment – suddenly grass and sand and trees were more than enough. And while I’ll admit there was one night where we roamed the campsite at 3am with an unsettled baby crying out from her pram, for the most part Sadie slept better while camping then she ever did at home – even now she’s up at 6.30am on the dot if she sleeps in her own bed, but has to be woken at 8 from a camp bed.
I once stumbled upon a gem on Twitter from Spencer Madsen (a poet and small-press publisher, as it turns out) that read: “Suffering from depression? Just exercise a lot, socialise more, eat better, and do all the other things depression prevents you from doing.” Of course seasonal blues, state-of-the-world angst, and bone-deep parental exhaustion are not comparable to clinical depression, but the idea that it can be hard to do the things that are best for you is one we will all recognise. But when the pohutukawa are in flower and the ocean temperature is Wellington’s version of swimmable, reconnecting and re-grounding the whole family can be as straightforward as stepping outside and closing the door behind you.