The wind. It sends shivers through the trees, and then draws breath and suddenly blasts across the buildings and carparks. The plastic shopping bags filled with Christmas presents blow about on their handles in the hands of shoppers, and the skirts of the women hug their legs. People lower their heads and push into the wind; pity the cool kids who have to hold their caps on their heads.
In Lyall Bay the waves when they crest and fall burst and the spray is thrown high and whipped about. The marram grass flails at the sky; the dunes give off whisps of sand that blow out to sea. If you wait a moment you will see a plane coming in to land; each wobble in the wind makes you pity the passengers inside.
Eleanor and I went to the tip. High up at the back of the valley there is a cyclone fence where hundreds of plastic bags have caught and then slowly shred themselves in the wind. Eleanor pointed them out,
“Look,” she said. “It’s snowing.”
Being at the tip is like being at the end of Christmas already; like waiting in the bathrooms for the first dinner guests to begin using the toilets after the banquet is over. All the boxes with their clear plastic windows that were filled for a moment with action figures, and dolls. They come here. All the plastic wrappers, the polystyrene blocks, the emptied Christmas crackers, the miles and miles of wrapping paper. Here. It’s the punchline in the joke; the one about the true meaning of Christmas.
We gave our good stuff to the tip shop. We put our cardboard boxes in the recycling bins. We dumped our garden waste in one place, and our general waste in another. I am a good citizen. When they ask me what I did when the Titanic went down I will say that I straightened the deck chairs, and kept calm.
One of the things I notice now when it is windy is the rubbish. In any given street you will see the McDonalds’ boxes, wrappers and cups, or chippie packets, cans and bottles. They race across the roads and down the gutters harried by the wind. If you were out on the coast you might see an old shopping bag dipping and darting in the air currents as it is sucked out over the agitated sea.
What mighty invisible force has drawn all of this together? The plastic bag blowing out over the sea from the shop. The shops filled with goods that arrived on ships. Goods made of parts assembled in factories. Factories, ships, goods, bags, people, the sea. It was invisible to me once. An unnoticed miracle. I went to the shop and bought things. There was no need to think at all about how that miracle had occurred, and where it might lead.
In my shed now, I can hear a sheet of roofing iron flapping on the next door neighbour’s house. One day, I suppose it will go, and the wind will get inside, turning over the contents of my neighbour’s house, stopping for a time the easy flow of their lives. For now it is just a weary bang every now and then. A minor irritation among many.