There are some things in photographs you can live your life without believing they’re things that really exist. Baby bumps on celebrities or naked mole rats, for example. Sometimes, too, it’s hard to believe that real, untainted beauty can be found in more than just a good fantasy novel. Untainted beauty on the scale of snow-capped mountains and crystalline turquoise waters. Or even a friendship that’s lasted my whole life and has woven itself into one of the strongest relationships of my life. It was these things that I encountered when I left Auckland for the city of Queenstown in the South Island of New Zealand. Of course I’d been hearing of Milford Sound for four months, and yes I was hoping I’d get to see plenty of the Southern Alps. But that can’t really prepare you for seeing them. It’s hardly even enough to stand before them in air that’s so pure it hasn’t got a smell. You’re dazed by it, really. When I climbed off our Milford Sound tour bus and into a vast grassy field at the foot of snowy mountains capped with dense gray clouds, I turned in circles with my mouth open, trying to fathom that unfathomable beauty. It isn’t often we humans are surrounded by things so much bigger than us that we haven’t made ourselves. That were there long before any human was there. Things that exist quite well without our self-righteous crusades. Mountains are humbling.

The change in this trip from the rest of my travels in New Zealand had most to do with my travel companion. I’ve had Brooke in my life for years and years. We’ve done boring things together and we’ve shared hours worth of laughter. I’ve been on family vacations with her family; she’s gone camping with mine. We’ve fought; we’ve made up. We’ve shared our whole lives. And so when we faced a brand new world together, we knew how to treat each other. And for me, someone with the tendency to fuss over relationships, this gave me such a sense of relief. I mean, we’d never been together before for 10 sequential days, and we’d certainly never been so far from home together, but that was an extension of things we already knew.




What am I supposed to say about all the things I saw? I’m afraid I’m at a loss. It’s the things everyone always talks about, all the beauty everyone knows. Only I saw it before my eyes. I walked on pure soil. I thrust my hands into water as it was meant to be, untainted, cold, and rushing. And so whereas I usually have all the words I’ve got none for this. For once I have to rely on the pictures, and try to call up the feelings I had when I was there, and when I can’t, I must hold onto the pictures until I can.