It’s level 2. We are in the fog of a pandemic, like the fog of war. It’s hard to know what the truth is about a lot of things so we are with our own truth/s, tentatively moving forward.
My friend and I who’ve been trapped like many, her with a small child, me living alone through lockdown, decide to go to a party which is small and socially distanced. Then she takes me to a bar on Ponsonby Road which is socially distanced but packed. It’s nice to be out amongst the living, though it takes adjusting to be around people after so much abstinence. There are lots of drunk people. She’s dressed up to the 9s, I’m dressed casual. It feels like the 1920s and we are out in some underground club in Babylon Berlin.
We last about an hour before going home, a humble injection of social life. I’m still adjusting to being in New Zealand socially after living in Berlin for a decade, and coming through a pandemic is certainly an obstacle to social life. My friend and I both live near Ponsonby Rd in opposite directions, having grown up nearby, and we depart at the top of Williamson Ave.
Having walked so often home alone at night in Berlin because it’s the safest city I’ve ever been in the world, I wonder if its safe to just walk down to my house in Freemans Bay at 1am in pitch black. The difference in Berlin is that usually there’s people in the streets at 1am. I don’t know how safe Auckland is now and I’ve had a few drinks.
I walk down Hepburn Street and get to view the city in its glory from the hill, a gorgeous futuristic site through old style villas, and native trees surrounding Western Park. It’s a walk I love, and I notice how clean the air feels because of lockdown, and appreciate the clear night sky, and the stars, despite the glow of pastel colours from the city. I see one lone figure ahead, a man on his cell phone standing outside a house and I cross the road. It’s still, its quiet. A city emerging from silence, in silence.
A feeling I’ve had many times in my life, I walk deeper into the darkness and mysticism of the night as the street goes downhill, and when I turn onto Beresford Street which goes across the bottom of Western Park past the “artist ghetto” housing block, its almost pitch black and dead silent. No one is around. I walk almost like in a fairy tale silently across the city asleep toward my house on the other side of the park. I can’t tell if such silence created peace for the city or not, but it feels transformed.
When I get to the bottom of the park where there’s tennis courts I notice a fog caught by the street lights on the road and as I walk into it I look back up across the park, which is also filled with fog into the darkness. I take a moment to appreciate how beautiful and mystical it is as I patter through it. It’s like seeing a rainbow or a rare animal, it feels magical and like some kind of omen.
Another person, particularly a woman alone, might find the situation eery and be scared of the darkness in the city, even the fog, and perhaps I should be. But having lived in different parts of the world I appreciate the way Auckland merges city with deep nature at the blink of an eye, I enjoy the child-like wonder. Sometimes in this part of the city, nestled beside motorways, big trees and a beautiful park, I can hear an owl (ruru) at night. I walk through this “oldest park” in the city all the time during the daytime.
I wander through the mist as if part of another world, take a mental picture of the beauty of fog sitting snuggled at the bottom of the park in the dark, think momentarily about the physics of why fog is there in this moment and what conditions it must need, then proceed to my house, which is on the other side of the fog.
Like any mystical natural phenomenon there’s a transforming element to fog being part of or an ending to my night out. I feel like I’ve been touched by another world, moved through something that’s poetic, primordial and has a depth I cannot grasp. Such moments I would never get to experience were I afraid of the night. I am curious about the wild, and adventurous, so I often reclaim the night by default.