"Fantail and Carry On"
5 x 7 inches
India ink on Bristol borad.
“I have to stop,” I said, “I can’t go on.” Tears of frustration blurred the trail.
We’d been trekking three days in the New Zealand bush, and I was experiencing increasing pain as we zig-zagged our way down a ridge.
Something was wrong with my knees.
The first day they’d been fine. So had the second. But somewhere around mile 23 it was as if my cartilage had worn away and every step caused a wince.
I had, of course, packed too much weight; and our initial pace down the steep, unrelenting incline only added to the strain.
So like an overloaded camel I groaned, collapsed and refused to move. My hiking partner and I had to be at a certain pickup point by 4pm, and there was no way we were going to be able to make it. We’d be stuck in the bush for the night with swarms of biting flies, with nowhere to stay. If only I’d packed lighter…..If only I’d paced myself better…
Tears flowed more freely, as no one could see us; the rest of the group — even the slowest stragglers — had already hiked past.
A small, drab bird landed on my trekking pole.
It spread out its wings and began a curious display, flicking and fanning its long tail as it pirouetted on the pole. It was a piwakawaka, also known as a fantail.
Mesmerized, I stopped crying.
It flew to my shoulder, then my head — made one last chirp — then took off as suddenly as it had arrived.
After a rest, I managed to limp down to more level ground and finish the last ten miles of the trek.
Nowadays, whenever I consider giving up on something that seems too formidable, I think on that bright little bird, and carry on.