Gone To Pieces


She had an open plan living area that welcomed you into her bosom; wrapped arms around you and smelled of the soft scent of acceptance.

Forget all notions of a cute cottage; this century old dwelling had been stripped by the previous owners of all her endearing features. It had been ‘modernised’ with a patchwork of fittings procured from the scrap yards by someone lacking a discerning eye. The charm was her hillside position overlooking Lyttelton Port and it didn’t matter what she looked like – she just FELT good.

The decor of mis-matched flooring, furniture and kitchen wares put weary hearts and restless souls at ease: this was a place with no airs and graces. Friends shared the map of their lives; pored over the difficult intersections together and figured out in which direction to proceed.

When words ran out and there were no easy solutions; the view of tug boats washing into port; pregnant container ships delivering cargo and layers of hills the other side of the harbour; offered respite … and a change of perspective. Fondly named “Gone 2 Pieces”, this was my creative space. Here my emotional tank was refilled for return to the family home …


… the one estate agents described as:  “architecturally designed, elegant, spacious living for a luxury lifestyle”. Far from it – here life was messy.  Rooms bulged with teenagers, my own and extras, in need of steady adult guidance through their various crises.

Pieces of young disjointed lives and troubled minds were gently reconfigured into collages of hope …

… but it was trying on my own mental health. We contained the chaos within, wrapped it around with a neat garden and fences to maintain the pretence of the suburban dream in a quiet cul-de-sac. And it worked for me because I had an escape … the cottage.

‘Gone 2 Pieces’ crumbled in the earthquakes and I lost the external structure which provided a haven from the pickle of life.  Forced to examine my internal framework, it was time to dig deep and find inner strength to bolster me through this next life phase. I renamed the uninhabitable cottage ‘Piece By Peace’ as a metaphor for the painstaking internal and external rebuilding processes that would lie ahead, and decided to travel to change the view.

My inner space fits more comfortably now – I’m clearer about what I need to maintain a sense of emotional balance and I’ve learned that …

… my refuge is portable and requires relatively little except opportunities for fresh perspectives. My outside supporting framework comes from friends – a variety of them for no one particular person can be expected to share an entire load.

In the interim the teenagers have grown up and left the nest. We downsized to another home in Lyttelton. It has beautiful views too but no garden. Over the last couple of years we have been re-establishing a garden on the steep cottage site – hard but rewarding work. It’s a schlep though not having access to our plants from the place we are actually living in but exciting that we can now start to think of actually getting back to the old cottage site. It’s taken more than seven years but architectural plans for the rebuild are with the council now awaiting consents – all very exciting!!

I’ve yet to think of a new name for the rebuild – it needs something with “oomph” – ‘ta da we’ve arrived at last’ … ish. But of course we never actually ‘arrive’ in life because there is always another journey.

‘May your trail be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds’.  

Edward Abbey

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