Awakening on the eighth day on the trail, I drifted towards consciousness with the liquid melody of tui birds somehow woven into my dreams.
Tui are revered by Maori who consider them to be the guardians of the forest.
Maori also prize these birds because they can be trained to mimic human song. In older times, a tui would be coached to call the song of welcome to strangers approaching a marae or meeting place. Ironically, tribes also went to war over the very best birds.
Heralded by tui, a gorgeous day dawned now, illuminating a gold and green haven: a meadow sparkling with dew, a clear stream flowing from a small marsh to a tinkling miniature waterfall and even a long-drop toilet tactfully hidden behind a stand of small trees. I decided on another "make and mend" morning to wash, dry out and mount field repairs on the increasingly troublesome left big toe and shin. When I flexed the foot, the shin tendon creaked ominously under my hand. The toe felt fllushed and looked bruised.
I procrastinated as long as I could, fearing what I might find and what it might mean for this journey. So, I ate oatmeal, drank coffee, tried out the long-drop, washed in the stream and hung my rinsed clothing from bushes to dry in the sun.
When there was nothing left to do, I sterilised my knife and cautiously lifted the toe nail.As I feared, it had turned septic after the repeated batterings and muddy immersions of Mirkwood, With the knife-blade, I scraped off as much dead matter and dirt as possible from the underside of the nail and exposed skin, rinsed the toe with purified water and bandaged down the nail. That would have to do.
I treated the inflamed tendon by swallowing two ibuprofen tablets.
Last night, I had asked Rusty and Lisa what had brought them together. Lisa had laughed, "He's a cool guy. He never stresses!"
After swilling another hearty glug of wine, Rusty had declaimed, "Don't worry about what you can't control!"
I decided to follow his example. Healing takes place so much faster when you are relaxed.
The tui called again and again. I wondered if they were known as healing birds. My senses filled with fresh air, warm sunshine, sounds of running water, rustling leaves and birdsong, the scent of fresh grass and earth, the touch of a gentle breeze on my skin.
Nature is my nurse and in her therapy room, I surrendered to her healing touch.