A key feature of Karitane is the shoreline - a long stretch of beach with the jutting headland at one end, and stacks of rock in the other direction. The sand slopes gently to the water and is perfect for building castles, the water, whilst cold, is great for a dip. Because of this, it’s popular with families, surfers, walkers, fisher-people; anyone wanting an escape from city and home for a while. (Side note, there are several gorgeous properties available for short stays!)
If you haven’t already guessed, Karitane beach is the location for Out of my Depth.
It’s a hot, blustery December day after the culmination of the school year. Lambing is done and dusted on the farm, and the protagonist’s family are after some hard-earned time out together.
Our protagonist is a girl fast approaching her teens, with a new passion for books and a tendency to push back if she thinks she's missed out. She hasn't yet learned to listen to her gut instinct, though the events of the day might change that.
Come along on the adventure, feel the sand under your toes, the sun against your back, and taste Pacific Ocean salt on the stiff breeze, for there's adventure afoot and our girl needs a witness; one who’ll see what happened from her point of view.
I seem to be in a little bit of a whirlpool of writing memories at the moment, and this story started very much as one of those. I did accidentally go swimming in a thunderstorm with my best friend, my mother, and my sisters. It was calm and still when we left and we had little idea of what was to come. Never before had such a violent storm overtaken our little corner of the Otago Peninsula, and had we known what was coming, we never would have ventured beyond the house! When our hair started to stand on end, we were confused and intrigued but we carried on. Then the heavens opened and the lightning, thunder, rain, and wind, let loose.
Whilst the event itself was worth a story, the effect on the senses is what I remember above all else. The strange quality of the light and the contrast in sound and sensation all amplified the experience, and it’s still clear in my mind now, nearly thirty years later! That’s what I’ve tried to focus on in this story, and to stress the fact that to be waist-deep in water during an electrical storm is about the dumbest place to be! Without intending to, we’d put ourselves in quite serious danger, and lived to see the tale.
Incidentally, just last year we had another massive thunderstorm (though I live at the other end of the farm now and was NOT swimming). It happened between Christmas and New Year, and late in the evening. It rolled on over us with constant flashes, and a bolt struck a tree less than thirty metres from the house. We’re surrounded by mature blue gum and macrocarpa trees atop a hill. There were taller trees the lightning could have hit, but one down an old, overgrown hedgerow wore the strike and looked like it had been clawed from tip to ground by a massive, angry bear. A thick macrocarpa with multiple trunks got struck, as did the tall tree next to it. When the storm had moved off, I went in search of the source of the massive flash that lit the window I happened to be in front of at the time, and found chunks of bark and wood on the ground. The sodden earth released its pungent odour, cut sharply with tree sap. I still struggle to comprehend the violence of that moment! By March, the tree showed clear signs of injury in yellowing foliage. Now, seven months later, it’s clearly dead, the foliage completely browned off, and the tree next door looks unhappy too!
I’ve done a bit of research around lightning, and positive and negative charges. My thought is that the tree must have had a higher charge than those around it, thus attracting the strike. Whatever the science, I can confirm that it’s just unbelievable to experience the power of a lightning strike at close range. The whole house lit white in a triple pulse, and the instant explosion of sound shook everything like an earthquake. My husband and children screamed from the hallway (the light tubes flooding them with light), I screamed, levitated, and ran! At first I thought our neighbour’s house had been hit. It was a massive shock to find ground zero closer to home. I’m not in a hurry to experience another thunderstorm, I’ll tell you that!
In this story, though, you’re perfectly safe. I’ve tried to give a sense of the sensations and bewildered wonder we experienced, so you can be immersed in it too.
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Happy reading everyone!
Hi, I'm Emily,