Friday, January 4, 2008

The 45th Parallel

I got my first glimpse of the Southern Cross the other night … early morning on January 2nd I think it was. I wandered out onto the balcony of our room in Queenstown and there it was as unmistakable as the Big Dipper. The night sky … it is a comfort to look up into a familiar set of stars … a dominant Orion in fall and winter … a dominant Dipper in spring and summer. There was nothing familiar about these heavens. I am a stranger here.

On the road between Wanaka and Queenstown there is a marker carved in stone telling you that you are crossing the 45th parallel. It FEELS like I am at the bottom of the earth down here with penguin colonies a mere days drive away. So I looked at a globe to see where the 45th goes in the Northern hemisphere. I was surprised to see Augusta, Maine and Lyon, France riding the line.

The drive from Queenstown to Tiramu was through what we might call in the States “Big Sky Country.” Sometimes it looked like California … sometimes like Montana. It called for big music. We had picked up a two CD set of Pavorati and we let him fill the wide open spaces with arias as we drove along in this wide open place.

We are now back down to sea level and out of the high country. A few days rest in Christchurch and then on to the North Island.

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