Around the time I was reading about Holocaust survivors who lived in Wellington after the war, I found the sculpture Rudderstone* in the Botanic Gardens in Wellington. The sculpture has two faces. The one facing the path shows the Old World as shiny black mica-flecked-granite. The black granite is also said to represent the night sky. There is a curved hole in the black granite, which a sign encourages viewers to walk through. According to this sign, if I accept that challenge and walk through that hole, I take my body on a physical and metaphorical journey from old to new.
This is exactly it, I thought. The Old World is where the Holocaust happened. In Poland most of all. The sky over there is black. Heavy and thick with ash. The people over there hated Jews so much that they killed nearly all of them and probably nothing much has changed. That place over there is the Old World. (‘Over there’ is a term preferred by Israelis, I am told, but making good sense from here too.)
I took some photographs of the black side of the sculpture. I also looked through the hole to see what would be waiting for me if I went through to the New World. It was like looking through a keyhole. I saw a short path leading towards a stand of bush. I took a photograph of this too.
Then I walked through the hole and found myself on the other side, looking at white and blue marble. According to the sign, white is the sky and blue is the sea; the blue in the mind’s eye of everyone who lives on the Pacific. I let my eyes linger on that blue. I belong to that blue and it belongs to me.
I let my eyes sweep across all the swirls and shades of the blue. There are some small, irregularly shaped pieces of black in there. I am fine with the fact that there are small clumps of black in the swirls of blue. They are pieces of the Old World that came with us. And, human nature being what it is, there might have been blackness here already. But mostly we have blue here. That is the point.
Then I look through the hole from the blue side, back towards the black side. I am astonished to see that a short path leads to a stand of bush. The bush there is the same perfect green as the bush on the blue side. The trees are as tall, perhaps taller. In the light of this finding I look further at the irregularly shaped clumps of black in the blue swirls. There are more of them than I first thought, and some of them have a brown area around the black which seems as though it is on its way to turning black.