A Secret Place

21 March 2002
Powell, Wyoming

Everyone needs to get away from it all now and then. Often this results in some isolated location where one can find quiet and calm. For me, the high desert expanses of Polecat Bench address this occasional need. However, finding a suitable replacement in New Zealand wasn’t easy but I did find it, in the strange form of a racetrack—Addington Raceway.

Living in a major city like Christchurch and not having an automobile translated to a restrictive status when it came to “getting away from it all.” I was fortunate to have the famous racetrack practically in my backyard. In five minutes or less, I could walk from my flat to the abandoned venue and contemplate every sad country song my mind could drum up. The visits weren’t often, but they were meaningful. Days when I was homesick, days when work got the best of me and days when there was the need for major soul-searching, I would gravitate to Addington Raceway—always at night when it was empty and still.

Sometimes I would sit in the stands and look out beyond the fenced-in racetrack—into the heart of the Canterbury’s famed city. Other times I would meander along the one mile plus dirt track and despite the emotional weight I was carrying, I would contemplate the ghosts of famous horses that had stirred the same earth I was trekking over—Lyle Creek and Farlap were two that always came to mind. When I was on the other side of the gigantic oval, I never felt further away from Wyoming.

During those introverted moments, there was usually a camera along for the ride. It seemed like the thing to do with my hands as my mind processed whatever it was that brought me there in the first place. When the horses or dogs were in town, I never went near the premises because I feared its sanctuary would transform and take on a different meaning in my mind and thus, I would never seek its refuge again.

Addington Raceway will always be my getaway while everyone else in Christchurch will just think of it as another racetrack. And now, each time I return to Polecat Bench and its isolated sanctuary, I always think of Addington and that faraway bend on the other side of the track.