Journal » Trout 14 » Snap Shots [Jessica Le Bas]
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snap shots

Nelson to Nelson, via St Bathans

Jessica Le Bas

snap shot # 1

The wooden seat outside the store at Kekerengu, because the first view of a real ocean is necessary to break you in. You breathe deep and slow. You savour the fare, and the wind ties small knots in your hair.

the Kaikoura Coast is a roll of film

Blue and bluer. Seals like stone. The sea and the white tops of mountains are painted on your wind screen all afternoon.

snap shot # 2

You stop at Orari for an album shot of the Wheatfield's House. They've painted it. Goosebumps run the length of your arms. You recall seven years back, finding Sylvia and Beata in the old orchard, the wet grass to their knees, picking apples the size of pumpkins. Mount Peel is a grey cloud.

the camera is left on the back seat

The Jones's invite you to lunch. You ask at the dairy on Evans Street and a customer points above Caroline Bay, to the hill and Morgans Road.

There's salad, and lemon sponge cake with clotted cream. He shows you the working drawing in the hall of his daughter. A fine-pencilled grid shows where the artist has assembled her perfectly, square by square. She smiles like her father.

In the lounge the Hawkdun Range stretches the wall like a winter window.

snap shot # 3

The house on Eden Street looks dead. It's black-eyed windows, its mouth closed with secrets.

There's the old man walking two terriers like magpies, in Chelmer Street. Walking the last ten years he says, through the willow glen, watching the looters skive off with memorabilia, corrugated iron now the last of the keepsakes. And he'd not be surprised when that's gone too. It is too late in the day for photographs.


At the backpackers by the Octagon your washing steams on the radiator. Warmth is rationed. You push a button for one hour's heat and huddle close to wet socks.

People arrive in the next room at 3am, from Wellington. They have driven ten hours and need to discuss their journey.

snap shot # 4

At the Point the perfect horizon is snapped, tight lipped. A patient audience of warm faced cribs does not applaud, though you can see from their glazed eyes that they marvel at the performance.

There are green bellied paketi in the fringe waters of kelp, like pick-pocketing thieves, they trick the squid from your hook, sinew by sinew in their small boned mouths. Your cast trawls in, naked.

snap shot # 5 6 7

There's a blue lake, and men drinking the golden afternoon under. The one on the stool at the Vulcan's door forgets where he last saw you, and really, does it matter? He still has no name for the yellow flowers on the road north of Oturehua.

a group photo – he brings a tripod

There's the military man, retired to the shepherd's hut, forgetting where he's been, asking his guests for stories so he can return to places he knows; Sarajevo, Vietnam, the Congo… There's his wife at peace with his quiet company. Forty years of farewells and his exotic sojourns pooled money enough to deal with silence, and the long view through the Ida Valley.

mist in the valley

There's Drybread Road, and Vinegar Hill and a shepherd's stone rolled over in innocuous form, where the pickings were scant. History tickles your hunger. You drive to Alexandra for croissant and coffee.

the West Coast rain comes like a curtain call.

The beach, the miners, the timber millers plundering – it's now deserted. No one with an invitation. The kotuku keep to their long leg of lagoon.

Okarito and the heritage snap # 9

They have covered Donovan's name on the old store's front with new paint. Called it conservation. Who would want to peel back time where there is none? And all of your people's bones are elsewhere buried.


There's a txt message from the National Bank. They are going to Thailand to ride elephants. The signal cuts out at Whataroa.

the mind's eye is a welcome shot

The other side of Motupiko, the cellphone blares out a backlog of days down the coast.

You return to a house that feels like a foreign place.


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© Copyright 2006 Jessica Le Bas & Trout.