Two weeks after arriving in New Zealand eight years ago this month, so that I could take a university position teaching creative writing, my wife and I found ourselves housesitting. It was what they call here a lifestyle block–an old character house (built circa 1910) sitting on a couple of acres, surrounded by paddocks, the running water from a rain tank. We ended up living with the owner, who became a friend, for two months. But for those first couple of weeks our job was to keep the place going. Within a few days, I found myself spending two hours on a ride-on mower. An unusually rainy January (summer here), and I found myself trying to push a heavy ride-on out of the mud. I stopped, looked at the cows in the neighboring paddock looking back at me, and thought, “Now, how did I get here?”
Eight years and two kids later, it’s a question I still ask myself. This blog is about being an American poet and fiction writer (and city/suburb boy) living in NZ. Life here has been about many things, but one consistent thing is adapting to a more rural, hands-on lifestyle–living nose to nose with sheep and cows, keeping chickens, dealing with a recalcitrant vegetable garden, stripping paint and oiling timber in our own character house, stacking blue gum, relying on a woodburner for heat. If there is one thing living in NZ has done in getting me out of the familiar grooves of my life is reveal character. And there is one thing about my character that I’ve learned for sure. I’m one lazy gardener.