“Let’s do it”, I said to my son. Neither of us are morning people, so it would surprise some to find we were discussing the idea of getting up at dawn to go to ‘Gem Beach’ (which I am tempted to keep referring to as Turnbull’s Beach, because in my childhood, an old couple, the Turnbulls, lived there in a tiny cottage – which by some miracle is still there – nestling into the fat, butterscotch-coloured cliffs forming the only bulwark between them and an often raging ocean).
The morning dawned cold and uninviting, but seeing the delicate sunrise showing its colours behind TeWaeWae Bay’s backdrop of mountains, was totally worth it. Magical. Both the views and the pebbles.
I was stoked to see the stones. On a previous visit down to Orepuki last year, I discovered the beach satisfyingly scattered with drifts of differently coloured stones. Agates, quartz, garnet … among other varieties … all possible finds. Choice!
This was unlike visits I have made here in past years, when such an array of stones has not been the case – the smooth, rounded stones being deeply buried under sand. Seemingly, it’s all dependent upon the sweep of tides. I was concerned that in the time between these two more recent visits, the stones may have again been snaffled by piratical tides.
But no. They were still there.
Apart from the chance to treasure-hunt, I was thankful to recapture some of what I remember of this beach as a child, seeing again the stream carving a deft wave through sand on its way into the sea. It is an image that is stamped on my memory’s stem cell, ingrained on my brain, embedded, tattooed … a touchstone-image; a lodestone I have used literally, to build a novel around. (Still in manuscript form by the way, in case you were wondering, thanks for asking – one day my book ‘Craggan Dhu: Time Will Tell’ will see the light of day – sitting proudly for sale, on some cafe’s public noticeboard shelf, like the self-published one I saw today, the one I bought and am now enjoying. Very much. A novel like mine: also set in Southland).
But hark at me. I digress …
… Or maybe I don’t … because in truth, certain spots on this beach (for example the mouth of this particular creek) and my imagination, field a playful, semi-symbiotic relationship. This space calls to a very deep part of my inner world. It’s almost primitive; the intensity of which kind of scares me. I shy away as if scared of becoming totally consumed. But then, I also keep going back for more. Needing the inspiration. Who knows what my imagination will produce if I allowed my mind a deeper soaking in this charmed place? I’ll find out one day, I expect. And trust.
I kept pointing my eyes, and the camera, towards the cliffs with its woven desert-like colours, the soft surface tempting people to sculpt initials, dates, insignias and hearts – then swerving all lenses involved away again from the cliff’s abstract, secretive beckoning, back to the more pragmatic ocean, its magnetic, glinting draw of fierce light and wild surf.
It was all becoming a little too entrancing.
Before being completely taken captive, it seemed necessary for my more practical side to instruct my legs to turn away. It was time for us to go.
We left thankful, both for the gifts released by the mountains to the ocean – the small sample we each carried of banded stones weighted with ancient stories – and for the understanding (unspoken – for remember, neither my son or I are morning people) that we may have been witness to a special dispensation from a jealous ocean more often than not, loath to share.
Go HERE to TumbleStone Blog to read a far more educated, informed and fascinating take on beach and river gemstones (with some posts dedicated to stones found on beaches in and around Orepuki). For anyone interested in collecting stones, John’s posts are definitely worth reading.
P.S. I believe in exhibiting sensitivity and respect towards any stones I collect, acknowledging and treating them as national treasures and seeking to maintain a selective, meaningful and conservative approach.
Tags: Orepuki, stone collecting, beach stones, gemstones, sunrise, imagination, novel writing, nature, childhood, memory, touchstone, landscape