Saturday, October 6, 2007

Fatherhood and the Mountains

My son Taylor is now 14 years old. He was 7 when I first took him into the Ruahines accompanied by Nigel Robson. We guided him to Top Maropea for a one night stay, and it was a proud moment for me as a father, as not many kids that young have made the journey, judging by the hut book, prior to and after that time. Nigel and I also took Taylor to Maropea Forks and Parks Peak, both places I returned with him, and he has done the Triangle loop trip, and probably one of the youngest people to ever be at Gold Creek hut as well. He more than earned his RTC badge at such a young age.

Yet now, as I write this, it has been almost 2 years since Taylor and I have traversed the Ruahines together, the last being a visit to Maropea Forks along with his mate Ethan on a 3 night trip. Part of the reason for that has been my own reluctance to push him, and part, I suppose, his growing into his own interests, teenage hood, and wanting to do ANYTHING but hang out in the mountains with his old man.

I must push through my own limitations and laziness, and his, and be a better father to him. I must force myself into his life a bit more, even if only by insisting he accompany me on a Ruahine journey. Tara and I just had a talk about whether or not I should have a chat to him about the perils of drugs and such. Not because we suspect he is using them, but rather because, at 14, it is time. There are probably many things I should talk to Taylor about, and I feel the best place for me to even approach these things would be him and I alone in the mountains, and me applying the principles I have been writing about in this forum.

I personally think the best thing, as a father, I have done for Taylor is to have exposed him to the mountains at such a tender age. My hope is that he will discover a Gift I have given to him, one he forgot to Open. Truthfully, I perhaps pushed him too hard, too soon, on those then little legs. He was a tough hard trooper and he went to places deep in the Ruahines not many kids will ever see.

But it could be those very experiences I now treasure may have put him off a bit, I hope not. We shall soon see. Taylor and I used to be so close, both emotionally and physically, and I cannot blame his natural growth as a young man for our recent icy interactions. It is natural for him to separate himself from me, yet I sense he is still there waiting for me. He also has his younger brother Charlie, who at 4, now has, in his eyes, usurped his place as the apple of my eye.

And so it is time to use this place I love so much, and where I have learned so much, to use the supposed wisdom I gather there, and reconnect with my son. The years I have left with him grow short, and though I feel like he has no need of me, or what I have to offer him, the reality is I still have to try and perhaps he needs me more than I might think. Although Taylor is on the bridge to becoming a man, he will always be my little boy.

I have another son, Charlie, who at 4 is a wee bit too young to be tramping in the Ruahines, though he has been there - see photo below. In a way, he will benefit from my mountain experiences with Taylor. The tough lessons Taylor and I learned will make things easier for Charlie, particularly in taking it slow and easy. In retrospect I pushed Taylor too hard, and it would be cool, for me, if Charlie truly enjoys the experience and will want to continue with it.
When Charlie was born I took his placenta up to Top Maropea, frozen and wrapped in plastic. And in the Maori tradition of Whenua, or connecting to the earth, I buried it there beside a young beech tree. I built a small cairn over it,and through the intervening years that cairn has grown to be fairly substantial as people add rocks to it. I think that is cool for Charlie and I hope Top Maropea does become a special place for him, as it has for me.

To go there one day with both my sons. To stand in a spot I stood in many years ago, looking out upon these majestic mountains and yearning to travel amongst them and know them, which I have done, to stand there with my boys will be a defining moment in my life.

No comments: