Monday, September 12, 2016

Te Whakapiri Mauri Ora

 21 August, 2016 Sunrise hut Ruahine range

It has been a long time between drinks of these mountains. Not since early January with John and Pete have my feet been placed here. And today I left definite footsteps in the snow that lie just halfway here. By the time I arrived at the hut I was breaking through to thigh deep snow and the saddle and tops look deluged with the white stuff. I am having a cup of coffee and some hot noodles and deciding if I want to cross the saddle to Top Maropea today. I have a few hours up my sleeve and it is a lovely day. I'm just a bit concerned about all the snow. My plan is to get to Maropea Forks for a few days. I was last there with Charlie in late 2014, and in those near two years since have been wandering in the Oroua valley so the thought of the forks, river and whio appeals. A bit of work lies ahead..

This year has been a fruitful one in spite of my lack of mountain time. A mokopuna to increase our whanau, Charlie starting high school and entering the teen years, and my undertaking of a new career. A steep and daunting challenge at my age. Yet I feel that part of my life invigorated, moved in a direction that feels right. It is a difficult under taking and one where the rewards are far and few between. Small shifts that hold great significance.

I am connecting many dots. My Te Whare Tapa Wha needs re-balancing after 7 months. (I wrote about Te Whare Tapa Wha a few posts back for those interested)...And a recent concept I have been made aware of through involvement in the Tikanga programme. Te Whaka Piri Mauri Ora...or in essence to Step up to, or Enhance the Spirit or Breath of Life. Which fits the essence of the four pillars of Te Whare Tapa Wha and my need to assess that balance. What better place for me to do that but here in the Ruahine. One foot in front of the other.
(Note again...shortly after writing this a few people arrived up at the hut. I decided solitude was my immediate goal, so I packed up and left in the late afternoon. It usually would take less than two hours to cross the saddle, over the short stretch of tops and down into the forest to Top Maropea.)

21 August late evening Top Maropea...

I arrived here a few hours ago. It took me nearly 4 hours to cross the saddle, tops, and drop into the forest to here. Snow conditions were extremely difficult. Icy on the narrow ridge and deep all the way. Every few steps I would break through the surface knee or thigh deep, and in places where the obliterated track was rutted up to my waist. Extracting myself from that was both time consuming and exhausting. By the time I got into the steep drop through the forest to here it was dark. The forest at night with deep snow all around is essentially featureless, and I had to stop to get out my head torch so I could locate markers on the tree. I knew the hut was close but I could not find the next marker. I felt a sense of panic welling up, thinking I might have to bivvy in the snow during a very cold night. I focused on being mindful and present and my experiences here. I moved a bit towards the sound of the creek far below and suddenly not only saw the marker but the roof of the orange hut. I stood there quietly just looking at that little refuge where I have spent so many nights. I tried to utter a karakia but the words choked in my throat and so I just thought them. I was shaking, wet and cold and it seemed to take ages for me to get out of my wet gear and into dry stuff, get the billy on and get some hot drinks inside me. Lighting the fire seemed too much. Eventually the hot tea and soup worked and I managed to get a fire going which is now built up into a roaring conflagration. The heat and glow have warmed me immeasurably. The difference a few hours can make.

In spite of my physical and mental tiredness I feel a sense of warmth within beyond the heat of the fire. I found resilience, mental toughness, experience and inner calm today. Perhaps qualities I know I have anyway but maybe I needed that reassurance. I'm thinking maybe those people arrived at Sunrise for a reason. A Gift from the Ruahine.

22 August. Late Afternoon. Top Maropea hut.
The fire crackles and takes the chill out of the cold confines of the tiny hut. The hut was re-piled a few months back and some of the old piles left behind. Original totara from when the hut was built in 1958. Totara burns bright and hot and I feel it is appropriate for me to use and enjoy their warmth here. I have spent a bit of time here over the last 20 years after all.
A sleet and ice driven snow patters on the tin roof. A fine, even reassuring melody when in front of such a fire as this. I munch contentedly on olives and salami and contemplate over a wee dram of Jameson 12 year old...I gaze over to my bunk and rumpled sleeping bag from which I recently awoke from a dreamless and deep afternoon nap.
This morning I battled down through the forest to the where it drops to the side stream. I was already wet, cold and tired. It is perhaps a 150 metres down to the stream. Straight down. There is a track that zig zags down but it was obliterated by snow. The thought of getting down that then spending another 4 hours or more in and out of a freezing river to Maropea Forks was too much. So I battled even harder back up to the hut. What should take less than 30 minutes took well over an hour. So here I contemplate and I am okay with this....

The sheer beauty of these places. This historic little hut which I have spent over 50 nights and feel a small part of now. The possibility of solitude and remoteness here, a day's walk from the road end. All that awakens something within me, just as the last 7 months in my working life have. Maybe the uncertainty there is symmetrical to the weather here, just as a blue sky day here to the small shifts out there. Best laid plans are still only plans. Reality often steps in to reminds us, sometimes gently, sometimes with a sledgehammer. Like yesterday out there in the dark seemingly fighting for my life, or today not arriving at Maropea Forks. Lots of small choices. And this fire needs another log...Te Whakapiri Mauri Ora!

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 23 August Afternoon Sunrise hut..
It was snowing and blowing a gale at Top Maropea all night. I rolled over in my sleeping bag and mentally resigned myself to staying here another day. When I drifted off into a fitful sleep finally I awoke to quiet and blue skies. It was another long and grueling climb up through the forest and across the tops and saddle to here. Took me 3 hours and I arrived to an empty hut. Being a week day I fancy my chances at solitude so have settled in here, filled the wood bins and have a cozy fire going.

In spite of the deep snow it was a beautiful day and I was again mindful of the immensity of that splendour and what this place means for me. Which I guess helps to alleviate the tough conditions and travel on days like this. In any case I have had three revealing days here. Not the days I had planned or envisioned but how many are? I have had a few moments that have awakened me totally and completely to the present. What more can I ask? Te Whakapiri Mauri Ora!

The time for me here begins to dwindle
My presence a mere gust of a nor'west wind
reaching probing fingers down
to rattle this hut
or one of the icy snowflakes
bouncing on the tin roof
destined for creek, river, and sea
Listen to the crackle and pop of the fire
Hard earned
The wood hissing from rain, snow, and life
in these mountains
The final act to give warmth
then like my own temporal moment
a smokey wisp
So I gaze out the fly specked window
One more time...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Bukowski and Trump

I understand the mechanics of the American political process and system very well. My degree from the University of Wisconsin was in Political Science. So I understand the nomination process currently being undertaken by both the Republicans and Democrats involves a very small number of registered party members and that the actual numbers of Trump's support are spread actually very thin across the Republican Party....Still...
What concerns me most is the continuing rise and utter bile of such lowest common denominator tripe that Trump puts forth. No actual policy just repeated utterances that mirror the ugliness of the man, his bigotry, racism, and fear mongering.
 Charles Bukowski wrote this poem about America decades ago. It seems to be breathing and heaving more full of life today...


of late
I've had this thought
that this country
has gone backwards
4 or 5 decades
and that all the
social advancement
the good feeling of
person toward
has been washed away
and replaced by

we have
more than ever
the selfish wants of power
the disregard for the
the old
the impoverished

we are replacing want with
salvation with

we have wasted the

we have become

we have our Bomb
it is our fear
our damnation
and our

something so sad
has hold of us
the breath
and we can't even
Charles Bukowski

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Te Whare Tapa Wha

Had an amazing week here at my new endeavour. A real adult portion. Early in the week had a day out at the prison. Something that is part of what I am doing.
On this day, however, most of my morning was spent in the Te Tirohanga unit, meaning most closely as The Focus, and programme. Which is a total immersion into Te Ao Maori, or Maori world view. To walk slowly into the whare, or house, while 50-60 men are engaged in a full fledged Haka is a pretty humbling and intense experience. A powhiri, or welcome, as a manuhiri, or visitor, is a highly emotional moment. To listen to the Whaikorero, or formal speech, by men who a few months ago never had uttered a word of Te Reo Maori is powerful stuff. To hear those 50-60 men then sing us Manuhiri, visitors, waiata, songs, will make the hair on your arms stands straight. All are required to speak and acknowledge themselves, their whakapapa, genealogy, and place. When I stood I spoke of the Ruahine. The deep breaths and inhaling of my words by people now my whanau moved me deeply. It is not difficult for me to speak of my aroha and hononga, love and connection to the mountains which have gifted so much to me. Yet my eyes were filled with tears as I did so. I am still moved by the experience as I write these words.

I have been learning and exposed to the Maori concept of Te Whare Tapa Wha. Developed by Dr. Mason Durie in 1982 it is a philosophy that incorporates Maoritanga, or values, beliefs, and way of life into a way to assess and monitor physical and mental well being.
 I am pleased to be part of an organisation, that despite the negative views around it, has recognised and embraced the need to incorporate such values into it's work. And I identify strongly with the essence, again in particular to my own relationship with the Ruahine and how that really expands into the rest of my life. Such fine lines divide us all.

Te Whare Tapa Wha essentially translates to the Four Walls of Our House. If one wall is weakened or at risk it threatens the entire structure. So to balance our house is to be mindful and present around the need to nourish and support all four walls.
The four walls are:
Tinana...or our physical well being. Exercise, food, diet, how we nourish our earthly presence and care for it.
Hinengaro....our mental well being. The balance of our thoughts and emotions
Wairua...our Spiritual Well we nourish whatever connections we feel or seek.
Whanau....our family. And the definition of whanau also includes anyone who supports us and nourishes us.

It seems so simple, and perhaps the cornerstone of all organised religions, philosophies, mantras, courses, and so on and so forth. How many of us can write in any given moment all four of our walls are in line? Certainly not me.

I thinks in terms of the Ruahine. Rarely have I ever gone into the mountains with my my Te Whare Tapa Wha truly balanced, or "all my ducks in a row". If too far out of whack it would be dangerous so I can perhaps write that the balance has been enough to have me still writing. What I can acknowledge is that coming out of the Ruahine is that my four walls feel stronger, my foundations more settled. The truth is those foundations are settled upon a very volatile land, and I lead a very volatile life. The real beauty of Te Whare Tapa Wha is the gift of Awareness. I am taking that into my heart. It brings back memories of times I did travel in the Ruahine, alone and wounded of heart. I recognize now that my own Hinengaro was unbalanced and I had to compensate with the other other three in order to carry onwards. That might be okay in the short term but is not condusive to good health in the long run. On the other hand carrying that pain to such a place for me was a burden worth bearing. For being alone in the mountains I was able to focus on the whys and whats in an honest way and even if I did not know it then I was nutruring and repairing my own Te Whare Tapa Wha...

19 April 2006

"Maropea Forks


The corker stove warms the hut quietly, rain bounces on the tin roof, I can hear the river as it mutters past outside. It was a magic walk down from Top Maropea, I almost felt outside myself as if watching my own self, I felt light and free. I came down river with no burdens, I shed those last night at Top Maropea, and I realized my fear of not Being Connected here was baseless. Shedding anger and pain and frustration has allowed me to feel something other than the thick fog of those heavy emotions. I suspect they will still be waiting somewhere beyond my mountain cocoon, but not today, not here at this beautiful place. I did not hurry down river, I was hardly cognizant of any time, I walked very slow and deliberate and arrived in faster time than ever before. How is that? A whio greeted me at the waterfall 20 minutes from the hut. I sat on the huge log and watched him, he also seemed in no hurry. When he finally left in his graceful unerring flight back up river it seemed as if in slow motion, every detail stood out, the sound of the river, the sound of the waterfall joining the river, the rocks and bush, and the whio seemingly hovering above me. I arrived at the hut with tear stained cheeks.

I feel very clear, and very focused in this moment. Everything seems to have a reason and make sense, even the pain I brought here with me. Maybe letting go of that is measure or mark to where I am at as a man. I have two more days to contemplate these things. I have been given a great Gift. I am content for me.".......
I am moving into new terrain but these encounters are validating. My life has moved and shifted in ways I am still gathering. Ti hei Mauri Ora!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Ruahine Summertime

"High Camp Sunrise"
Awake with the full moon 
I unzip my cocoon to look 
and gaze into the first breath
of today
the hushed silence around me
As if even the mountains quietly watch
the unfolding
The layered spectrum of creations prism
A single star twinkles above
as the prism contracts as a line and expands
Across the horizon
The middle of which glows a brilliant hue
Of fiery red and orange
as if the birth of life and possibility itself
And suddenly there is the glowing orb 
burst forth!
The new day is here...

27 December 2015..Camped on the main Ruahine range above Armstrong saddle...This seems a fitting place to be this evening closing out this year. A year of great change and awakenings in so many ways. Visiting my home in Wisconsin with Charlie, seeing Tara embrace a new role which challenged her, and us, in so many ways, the continued struggles of parenthood, and then being told while away I am no longer wanted in a job I have worked in for over 15 years. Sitting here now with a wee dram and knowing I have addressed that situation I can smile with the sunset. In reality, being 55 and jobless was a frightening and somewhat shattering prospect. A reality I know so many men and women face at this age. Feeling unwanted and useless, questioning what we have done and accomplished. Having our identities and self worth tied up so much in "what we do for a living", and "how much stuff we have". For the most part I have been able to not get caught up in that, but in spite of that the self doubt cannot help but creep in. No wonder the highest growing suicide rate is men in their 50's. Again, sitting here now with the warmth of the day and the mountains, not to mention the Glen Morangie flowing within I recognize part of the gift the Ruahine have given me. It seems apt that this part of them I have spent so much time in, have crossed literally fighting to stay upright, or hurried through the rain, snow, and mist to get to Top Maropea, that tonite all is calm and serene. As if the mountains and I reflect, and celebrate together..





 Top Maropea evening...29 December
The sun has finally passed over the valley to the west and quickly the air chills. The mountains waste no time in their extremes. I return to the hut and dig out a bit of warmer gear. Steam rolls off my breath. I want to be here with the final moments of this day and sunset. It may be awhile till I return. A lot of new challenges lie ahead. So I share this gentle time with the Ruahine. How many times have I watched the sun move over the valley below and far off peaks? The play of light on the distant peaks. The rounded fullness of Orupu, the sharpness of Waikamaka, and shadowy Remutupo. And to the west the bald peak of Puketaramea..the least imposing of all, yet for many reasons my favourite of all. I have learned to relish these moments as if they may my last. The mountains teach well. 
I have gathered much wood though I will leave it for another. I do not feel the need for a fire as I normally would. I feel part of this, connected to it. The fire burns within.

 30 December...camped again on the tops. Spent the day walking down to the Maropea without a pack. Far enough to finally come across the whio! The weather has held amazingly well and today was hot and still once again. I was going to camp on the river but my left hip is playing up and with an outing planned with John for next week I am giving that more importance. So I packed up and headed back to the tops. It is not often in this part of the ranges the wind holds so still and I consider it a bonus to be up here in my tent. I'm pleased to be here in these hills. Pleased that in years past and rushing from place to place that I questioned that. Pleased that the result is a more intimate relationship with certain places as the nuances and beauty reveal themselves. Pleased that it turned out to be that I was right where I should have been all the time...

 5 Jan...mid morning Whanahuia tops of the Ruahine. "We are enjoying a lunch of bagels, salami, cheese and tomato just below the tupare (leatherwood) zone with the forest and steep drop to the river still below us. We are in no hurry and it feels good to sit in the sun and look across to the main range. We arrived on the tops late yesterday intending to camp but the high winds, intermittent rain, and cold made the empty Rangiwahia hut look very attractive. Who would have thought that on a January summer evening we would fire up the wood stove? As the temperature was 1 degree Celsius this we did. A southerly system has blown in and though the morning was still very cold the wind had died and the sky a cloudless deep blue. I left early and made my way up the Whanahuia, the richness and allure of the early morning sunlight on the tussock is always a treat. I waited for John near the high point of Mangahuia and then we ambled along together to here. We fall easily into our patterns and rhythms accrued over two plus decades roaming these hills. To break bread right here in this spot, in this moment, with such a friend has almost a spiritual and cleansing quality to it. I smile at the thought of the 4 days ahead."...

 The Oroua river...

 John in the morning waiting for the sun to hit from the east over the valley. It was bloody cold!


 Then in the afternoon on the river we were doing this!

 Our campsite....

6 Jan.. Camped on the Oroua river. "Last evening just before dark John and I went and sat by the river to enjoy a wee dram and hoping to see or at least hear the whio. We had gone upstream to the gorge for a swim but had seen no sign. Dusk and dawn are the best times, so even if fighting off a few sand flies, the Bushmills, the river, and the company made our "effort" well worthwhile. The hut sits in front of the Oroua river and on the true left of a side creek which meets the river there. We sat at this confluence watching and quietly chatting when suddenly around the corner of the side stream into the main river came cruising a whio! I adore the sight of these ancient indigenous birds. The shrill whistle of this one indicating he was a male and in fine condition. It fills me with delight to just observe their beauty, elegance, and unerring connection to the rivers and streams of these mountains. They are the heart and soul of the Ruahine. He swam down stream a bit, then flew back to right in front of us and climbed up on a log. He kept gazing up the creek which I hoped meant he had a female and brood of chicks as this is the season. In any case he didn't seem to find us to be a threat and after hanging out for a bit flew off back up the creek. A great way to end the day...I slept by the river in my tent and at 5:00 am was awoke again by the male and then heard the female as well. I couldn't see any chicks as it was far too dark and they didn't stay long. It felt like a winters morning and when I went up to the hut for coffee the temperature on my barometer was -2 Celsius! Summertime eh...yet mid morning when the sun finally was over head it grew hot. So we packed up and headed down river. In no hurry to be anywhere we found the best pools to swim in, the best spots to boil up the billy, and searching for the best place to pitch up a camp. We chose here, a place where the river grows quiet with a pool on one end and a cozy river flat along the other. With enough old driftwood for a fire. And just like that the day has passed and the sun has now setover the valley. The evening chill returns and we are back sitting by the river with another wee dram. Waiting once again for the whio...

 7 Jan....Whanahuia tops. "I left the river late this morning on my own. Took my time and stopped frequently on the relentless climb to both rest and simply enjoy the quiet ambiance and essence of the living breathing forest. I can judge my gains not just through my steady steps and sweat but by leaving the stately tall Tawhairauriki below and moving up into the Kaikawaka and gnarled hearty Tawhairaunui and finally into the Tupare and tussock. The story of the forest. I made way up and along the tops to a sheltered basin by a tarn and boiled up the billy and waited for John. Though the wind was up my protected spot allowed me to enjoy the Suns warmth and in time a little white speck appeared in the distance making its way along the tops. It was an enjoyable moment to just watch my friend on his way to join me...

 8 Jan. 2016. "Our final night up on the Whanahuia. I have been fortunate enough to have spent 9 nights in these mountains over the last few weeks. Roaming last week on my own was fine, but this week with John felt very special, very satisfying. Like the culmination of our 20 years in these hills. We have practiced Whakawhanaungatanga, or the Maori concept of coming together and working to a common cause, (as I understand it in this moment), and not even consciously have practiced it but rather emerged into it through our experiences and friendship here in the mountains. Another Gift from the Ruahine. And so we watch the final sunset on the Whanahuia, perhaps the finest of all the Ruahine ranges to do so as we gaze to the west...

The final morning arrives
the last mountain
only to be climbed down
to the car
to the shingle then concrete highway
where we become 
something perhaps a bit less
than what I feel here
But for these days up here
we have lived
amongst the the tupare and golden tussock
with the cloud, wind, and sun
We have lived in the forest
high up with the gnarled and fantastic
and their more stately cousins far below
We have listened to the difference
the Ruahine breeze plays through them
And we have lived by the mountain river
sparkling in the sunlight like jewels
followed her twisting turning bends
heard her songs and been embraced fully within
her deep clear cold pools
And we have lived with whio
and their unerring grace
united if briefly
 as brothers...


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Wisconsin part 2... Lambeau Field

One of the highlights of our return to Wisconsin was to be able to attend a Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field. The day was flawless, perfect blue skies and a beautiful fall day. By the time the game finished in the early evening the sun had gone down and the night autumn air had become decidedly chilly. But the warmth of sharing this day and experience with Charlie, family, and so many friends made our smiles broad and our hearts warmed through...and a Packer victory at Lambeau of course helped a bit too!

Charlie and I before the game at my sisters house. 
To grow up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is to be a Green Bay Packer fan. Much like my current home of New Zealand, lives and dies by the actions of our rugby All Blacks, Green Bay is dominated by the presence of the Packers and the ultimate symbol of that is the looming forbearance of Lambeau Field. For a city the size of Green Bay, the population of which even now struggles to reach much over 100,000, to even have a professional team, much less a gem of a stadium like Lambeau, is an amazing story in itself. And if you have grown up there, suffered and celebrated the lows and highs, but have always loved and supported our team regardless, it is a story we actually feel a part of in our hearts. The team and stadium are without an actual owner and instead are an incorporated part of the city itself. It is a unique and special relationship between city and team.

Charlie had watched many a Packer game with me in New Zealand. I took him out of school when he was 7 in 2010. The Packers were playing in the Super Bowl. Far more important than a day of school in New Zealand. It was his heritage and history. He has seen me rant and rave at the television as I despair at times and delightedly roar at others. He has become familiar with his own favourite players, and tracking the results on his own. But for every story I can tell, and I can tell a few, for every game we can watch from over here, nothing speaks more than a trip to Lambeau itself on a game day. A world class sporting experience. The pageantry, the place, the people, the sights and sounds of 75,000 people in such a place. To be able to share that with my son from halfway around the world is a whole series of dots I needed to connect for him. For me.

Our tickets. 40 yard line behind the Packer bench. I sat in these seats on a snowy Christmas Eve with Charlie's momma in 1995. One those dots I wrote about above.

My sister, Trish, Charlie, Robb, and brother in law Steve in the Lambeau parking lot. What a day to tailgate!
The one part of this which I cannot explain to my son is how deep this connection reaches into the lives of those of us whom have grown up in Green Bay. Even those few whom are not football fans are certainly aware of the Packers and Lambeau, especially during football season, but also in our daily lives when our travels bring us down to the south west part of town and Lambeau comes into view. It is always there casting a giant but quiet shadow over the events of our lives....such as this event I commented on before the Super Bowl in 2010. An event that rocked my world and still does....

 1975 Bishops Charity Game Packers vs. Giants:
 It was summer 1975, I was 15 about to be a junior in high school and though school had not yet started two a day football practices had. My friend Kevin, who was born and lived across Tommark street from me his whole life, was out for football but was injured and had stopped attending practice. kevin and I had been best friends from day 1, but in the past year or more we had grown apart. Well more like he was just in a different orbit than me, a faster crowd, a better athlete, better looking, he had just moved beyond me in the stratified teenage world. SoI was surprised and delighted when he rang me that hot summer evening and said he had gotten to tickets to the Packer game that night and would I go with him. We walked from Tommark street to Lambeau Field , 15-20 minutes, one of the beauties of a small town having an NFL team. I recall now being almost overwhelmed at how happy Kevin seemed to be in my company, laughing and talking about old times, things we had gotten up to in the neighborhood with our mates, and how much fun we were having at Lambeau Field watching a meaningless exhibition game sitting high up in the stands. It is a beautiful place to watch a football game, and that night it was spectacular, warm, a gentle breeze, and in the company of my best friend. After the game we walked back to our street, and as I had practice at 7:00am bid Kevin goodnight. But he insisted I come into his house and we sat around his kitchen table, as we had so often done, and continued talking. I finally insisted I had to go, and it was almost reluctantly Kevin walked me to the screen door leading to the garage and street. As I walked out the door he suddenly grabbed his very cool brown denim jacket and handed it to me, telling me he didn't need it anymore and wanted me to have it. I remember walking across the street to my house, the street lights casting those golden shadows and thinking what a great night.
A couple days later the phone rang around 5:00 am. As my bedroom was downstairs and had an extension I picked up the phone at the same time as my mom did upstairs. All I heard was Kevin's mom screaming to my mom that Kevin had shot himself and was dead. I hung up the phone and went to sleep, as if refusing to believe what I had just heard. I went to football practice as if nothing had happened, and it was not until Coach Miller gathered us around as a team an announced what had happened ad he broke down, that the truth of it, the enormity of it hit me like a sledgehammer blow and I lost it. It is still hard for me to write this. I still miss my friend. The last time I shared with him was at a Packer game. My life unfolds and the Packers weave in an out as a constant presence, marking good times and bad. That is how it is when you grow up in such a place. It doesn't matter if you like football or not. The Packers mark time and events in our lives and that is one of the reasons I hold them so dear. I will think of my friend as I watch this game, and I will remember him.

the next generation

Or this memory...................
I was 27 when my dad died. Like all fathers and sons we had our ups and downs, he had his demons, I have mine. Sport was the one thing that always connected us, the Packers were always a big part of that.
He died a few months before Christmas on a holi
day with my mother in South Carolina. I had to fly from Minnesota where I was then living to SC to pick up my mom, make some arrangements, and drive mom back to Wisconsin, a near 20 plus hours drive, then go through the funeral. Before I knew it, I was back in Minnesota at work, and wandering around in a sort of a daze wondering what all that had been about. Christmas came, and it was a not a happy time as I recall, I was still not really together, it was our first Christmas without our dad, my mom's without her husband. For those whom have lost parents or loved ones you understand the difficulty of those first holidays - a representation of life ahead, of change, of moving on, of acceptance.
Christmas day came, and early in the morning there was knock upon the front door. I answered it sleepily, and probably a bit hungover, and there stood my old wood working teacher from West high where I attended school and my dad taught. I could see he was a bit nervous and uneasy. In his hands he held a great big package. He said, "Robb, I don't know how to tell you this, but this is a Christmas present for you from your father. He gave it to me shortly before he died to be made into this". He handed it to me with his eyes tearing as I stood there stunned, said "Merry Christmas" turned and left. I sat on the couch alone and opened it. Inside was a beautiful wooden plaque upon which was mounted half a genuine real Packer helmet, and below which was mounted two pieces of the original goal post from the very first Superbowl the Packers won in 1967 and that my dad had procured and saved all these years. It was if he reached out and hugged me, and I could finally let my tears go and miss my dad. I still miss him. It was the best present he ever gave me. Go Packers Go!

My friends Greg and Phils on my left. They had driven the two plus hours from Milwaukee without even having tickets. They were coming simply to enjoy the pre- game tailgate atmosphere and knew I was in town from New Zealand. great friends. I have attended many games over the years with these fine gentlemen. On my right is my old comrade Rick Parduhn. A fine man and I have shared many adventures with him near and far.

On the way into the stadium we ran into many old friends. This is James, and high school friend and former team mate at Green Bay West high school. He is now a teacher himself.

My beautiful sister Trish surprised Charlie, myself and Rick by getting us passes to actually go onto the field prior to the game. A pretty stunning development. I have been at many many games at Lambeau, seen some of the all time great players and games over the years. There has never been a time when I have walked from the stadium atrium to the actual field that I have literally not gasped at how incredible it really is in person. The fabulous green of the grass, the colours and sight of the chalked lines and uniforms of the players. The massive lit up scoreboard. It always feels like the first time. To share that moment with Charlie, and then be able to actually go onto the field was spectacular. A moment we will always have together. Lambeau Field!

Charlie with a couple of the Packer Cheerleaders. Look at that smile!

nephew Max and Steve  in their seats

In our seats with my other nephew Benjamin. Family and friends. What a spectacular day!
It was a great game! The Packers were not playing particularly well but stayed in the lead as the Chargers marched up and down the field. The warm afternoon faded into the slightly windy and growing cold of an early fall evening. The crowd grew restless as the game came down to final play from the Packer 3 yard line. See the video link below the last photo to see what happened....

A few days later we were privileged to dine with and meet the Packers coach, Mike McCarthy. I have been honoured in my time in Green Bay to meet such Packer greats as Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Ray Nitchske, Tony Canadeo, Charley Brock, Ted Fritsch,  Dave Hanner, Fuzzy Thurston and a host of others. It is always a pleasure and they have always been accommodating and kind. Must be a bit of a fishbowl experience for them at times so I appreciated the coach making my son feel a bit special. Go Pack!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Wisconsin Part 1...The Fall

 I sit here now in somewhat bittersweet contemplation of the journey back to my original place. Even Charlie commented to me while I was driving him to school, and me to work, this past Monday morning, on how it seemed almost unreal that time had passed so quickly. I am glad he made that connection and gets it. It seems a bit surreal to me as well. We had some amazing experiences which I will try to unravel in a series of posts here....

  The one part of this trip that impacted most significantly, and certainly more so than any of my past trips home over the last near 24 years was my sense of place. My Turangawaewae, my place to stand. As much as I love and feel connected to the Ruahine ranges here in Aotearoa, I am still manuhiri, or visitor, there. That does nothing to diminish the connection I feel when amongst them roaming, indeed, one of the gifts the Ruahine have given me is the Powerful sense of connection I felt to Wisconsin on this trip back. The Ruahine have bestowed within me far more awareness of my own place than I ever had when I was actually there. Wisconsin! I love just saying the word...

 One of the questions I am most frequently asked in Wisconsin is what do I miss most about America, about the states, about home. I think most people might expect me to say a kind of beer, or food, or the Packers, and so on. It is far deeper than that. It is the place itself, and unequivocally at a certain time of year. The Fall. The dramatic and stunning change to the seasons, the exchange between the lush greens and heat of summer to the subliminal softening of the landscape building into the booming crescendo of the full bloom of autumn. The heart is light and not yet grasping the reality of the long cold months ahead but rather delighted in the beauty and change. We caught it perfect and I spent a lot of time walking in the woods and forests with Charlie, other friends, and mostly on my own.

Above is a moment at Devil's Lake State Park, or Manitou (Spirit Lake), as originally named by the Indian tribes which lived around it. This is a glacial lake formed 12,000 years ago when both ends of an ancient river that flowed through were blocked off by glaciers depositing terminal moraine boulder fields on either end. The hills around the lake are thought to be over 1.6 million years old and though now called the Porcupine Hills were once mountains towering higher than the current Rockies. The lake is surrounded by quartzite bluffs up to 500 feet high. In the company of two fine and treasured friends we spent the whole day tramping, climbing, and taking in the splendour of such a place. These ancient hills seemed to be nudging me and reminding of the Ruahine, that how in comparison how youthful and full of vigour and restlessness they are in comparison to these eroded giants now melting back into the earth. Yet no less significant.

Indian Summer! Helped an old friend check out some new ground for the upcoming deer hunting season. Over 35 years ago I took my friend to land I was allowed to hunt on owned by family friends. 500 acres. Some a Christmas tree farm I worked at during summer trimming season, and then a beautiful hardwood forest and ridges running into a lowland bog. A lot of deer were taken there. Karl got to know the owners and hunted there for decades after I left. Eventually the owner died, and the land was sold. No more hunting. We are mere caretakers of the land. In any case we scoured this new public land for deer sign and trails. On such an amazing day it was easy and fun. The company even better. It reminded me how I discovered on that Christmas tree farmland that I never really cared that much about the deer. I just liked to be in the woods. Rave On!

A long walk in the fall woods today along a trail I used to cross country ski upon back in the day. 6 miles through the birch, pine, and maple forest. A real adult portion of Wisconsin woods. The leaves which a few weeks ago were brilliant oranges, yellow, and the colour of spice, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric, now fallen. The trees now mostly bare except for the occasional splash of remaining fall hue. A stark and bare scene, different than the full bloom of fall, yet still beautiful and stunning in ways equally smile inducing. The trees themselves seemed to be sunning themselves on such a day. As if knowing the approach of the long cold months ahead. The leaves on the forest floor have accrued the crunch and papery sound of completeness. A fall walk in the Wisconsin woods.

The autumn carpet. On my first walks the leaves were still soft and resilient. The winds blew gently through on the Indian Summer breeze and the leaves floated to the ground. We tried to catch three falling leaves for good luck as they swerved, swayed, and danced to the ground. I never did.

Above Manitou on the bluffs looking below the southern moraine terminal. Just beyond here lies Parfrey's Glen...

Parfrey's Glen is a spectacular gorge carved out of the prevalent sandstone interspersed with quartzite boulders and rock from the retreating glaciers. Spent a lot of time here back in the day hiking around and through and cross country skiing nearby during winter.

That's the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn't matter much whether you get where you're going or not. You'll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home."
-  Edward Abbey

At Manitou Lake with my friends. A moment with Jeff, one of my oldest friends and one in particular with my relationship was built and continues to be through nature. We have walked, tramped, skied, paddled, wet lines, listened to music, and played an awful lot of basketball together. He, like Mike who observed this moment with his camera, have both come to New Zealand and tramped in the Ruahine. Days like this, even though overcast, still shine very bright. It felt like somehow the circle was now complete.

I enjoyed most just lingering behind Jeff and Mike and watching them walk and interact ahead of me. Gesturing, laughing, and earnestly discussing one subject or another. Even in my lingering I felt part of it, connected, knowing, and understanding it all. The smiles and hugs from that day still warm me. Kia ora!

Charlie loved this sign along another old cross country ski trail we walked one fine day. The possibility excited him. Me too. We never saw him or her, chances are the bear would have smelled or heard us far before such an encounter. Good to know they are out there. Charlie said on the way out the bear was me. I liked that...

Te hei mauri Ora!