Getaways, Travel, Xavier Masson-Leach
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The North Island


Xavier Masson-Leach takes a trip to the North Island in New Zealand.


The strangest thing is the silence.

When the wind is not running between the leaves, as now, there really is no sound at all.

No serene drone of insects, who change their set as the lights go down to dusk.

No whirring wings or shuffling in the trees; no dripping frog calls.

Even the birds, who rule these islands, sing out in occasional interruptions only: hushed and



The earth is clean, as if you could lie down without being touched.

There seem to be no squirming wrigglers, no segmented exoskeletons with tickling fingers.

No spider webs; no slugs or leeches; no ants.

Just dark black soil still warm from the earth’s central fire, rich with the ingredients that allow life

to spring from rocks.


The plants are fresh and rebellious, taking impossible forms with barbaric confidence.

Every landscape is beginning here.

One moment icy wind blows clumps of shaggy sheep across the soaking grass of Ireland; while over

the next ridge towering black sand dunes lie waiting for lost Bedouins.

Then spreading ferns and huge reed stalks bend to touch green-tea water, as if it’s rural Japan or

Vietnam. Except for the silence.

But that silence is not empty; it is not dead. It is pre-life.

The stage has been set for Asia or Europe, the performers are holding their breath in the wings and

the audience have submerged into the moment of silence before the lights come up.



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