Each time we visit my husband’s native New Zealand, I spend the first five days or so completely gobsmacked by the physical beauty of the place, feeling emotionally massaged by the gentle and courteous manner of its people.
And the cows! New Zealand’s sheep get all the press, but I’ve never seen so many cows in my life, and I come from a farm community. Everywhere—alongside the motorway, next to roadside cafés—cows roam verdant hills, chewing contentedly, sometimes just standing completely still and staring, seemingly at nothing. Not necessarily my idea of a good time, but their sleek, well-fed appearances and placid expressions lead me to think these cows are pretty happy with their lot in life.
The people seem generally happy too. Oh, there are problems, of course. But even in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, we were met with the steadfast civility of people who have long enjoyed relative prosperity and social security. Yes, if ever a place could be described as Taurean, with its leisurely contentment and celebration of earth’s beauty and bounty, it’s New Zealand. Just stepping off the plane in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand, translated as “land of the long, white cloud”) is enough to make your blood pressure plummet.
So why is it that after about five days of basking in the politeness, civility, and bucolic wonder of it all (and I haven’t even mentioned the dairy products, which are—as implied by a nation knee-deep in contented cows—superlative), I’m ready to run screaming back to the States?
I suppose it’s that while travel is stimulating, broadening, and all the rest, it’s also pretty intense. The simplest things become a challenge; just crossing the street can be life-threatening when you’re visiting a country where traffic crosses in the opposite direction from what you’re used to. It would seem that for most of us, real contentment requires some measure of home’s creature comforts, familiar objects and routines. So even visiting bucolic New Zealand can be stressful, while finding myself back in my accustomed hectic, suburban surroundings, with the cats underfoot and a plate of my favorite dinner under my nose, soon has me lowing contentedly.
We need a secure, contented platform from which to launch ourselves at life’s persistent worries. The Sun’s annual trek through Scorpio each November is exactly the right time to look these worries in the eye, to march up to life’s edges and peer into the abyss of extreme experiences, situations, and emotions. Like an intense, smoldering stranger across a crowded room, Scorpio summons you to leave what’s comfortable for an opportunity to join in ecstatic rapport with the unknown, the unseeable, the mysterious. (more…)