Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yuletide Depression

It is always a bit depressing for me this time of the year, my 15th holiday season away from my original place and family. Not that my blueness stems from not having all the traditional Christmas trimmings around me, and certainly not the religious aspects of the season. Rather, and simply, thoughts of home, the Wisconsin winter, gentle snowfalls illuminated by the admittedly over the top lights, but still etched in my mind from youth. As I get older the past seems to take on more meaning, the future less in some ways. I find little joy or excitement in Christmas, except perhaps in that of my son Charlie. Even those reasons evolve around false conceptions only waiting to be destroyed for him as well. Maybe it is because now I am the one trying to figure out how to participate, and pay for it all, or worse, accept gifts I do not deserve.
I drive by the local mall here in Palmerston North during work and see it loaded day after day with cars and people out in droves buying stuff and more stuff. I read daily updates in the newspaper about how the retailers are feeling "the season" is progressing. If I walked into the Warehouse, our local Shopko type store, I am sure I would run out screaming within a few minutes.
I feel a bit depressed just writing this, knowing my words are more or less for my eyes alone. My attempts to share thoughts seem to have gone mostly unnoticed, or acknowledged with vague, brief emails. Certainly not the conversation starter amongst family and friends I had envisioned. It may be time to return to the old fashioned notebook. Plus I have been reading a few blogs which only serve to point out my shortcomings as a blogger and a writer. My friend Joe from Ripon college and his blog Gumption, and a fellow I wrote earlier about in this forum, Pete, whom I met at Iron Gate hut years ago. Both far more observant, intelligent, and more capable of stirring thought and response than I am.

I need a trip to the mountains. It has been too long, and though I have a 6 day trip in early January with John, I need even just a solo night out by myself before too much darkness engulfs my soul. I don't know why I am feeling this way to be truthful. In terms of how the year 2007 has progressed I would state miles ahead of 2006, perhaps the most single stressful, and strange year of my life. My marriage is probably as stable as it can be, which does not exactly fill me with confidence, but maybe marriage is not supposed to automatically fill us with confidence. In any case sitting here writing this I am not consumed by a need to rush off and listen to Tom Russell's excellent 2006 cd Love and Fear as I probably was last year. It has been hard work to bring us back from the brink. It is always hard work to recognize weakness or faults in ourselves that might contribute to a break down of a marriage or ourselves, even harder for two people to even think it is worth saving anyway. Yet I have wrestled, and continue to, with my personal demons, and Tara has undergone immense personal changes, finding a purpose and great passion in her soul in simply caring about people no one else seemingly wants to care about. Her sense of out rage at the treatment of the worlds indigenous peoples has made my life better - is that not a strange conundrum. My problem has never been being in love with Tara, but more so her loving herself. Now maybe my problem is allowing myself to be loved so I can love in return.

These are things I should be thinking about at Top Maropea.

I don't know if I will continue with this blog in the new year. Perhaps I am just better off with my notebook and pen. My friend Joe might disagree, as his passion is using technology to connect people, as he has done, and does for a living. Yet I have only connected with myself, and I can do that just as easily with an old note book, a cold beer, and some photos, so it makes me wonder.

Indeed it has been an interesting year. I awoke very early this morning, consumed by thought and having dreamt about my friend Kevin for the first time in a long while. He killed himself at 15, I still do not why. Last year while in the states I had lunch with an old friend, Julie. I had not seen her in over 20 years. She suffered from cancer after high school, and is now battling hepatitis C, a virtual death sentence. When we sat down she took my hand and said the first thing she needed to talk about was Kevin. I was blown away and for the first time in 32 years I cried for my friend with someone who knew him. I have had 32 years Kevin could have never imagined. Thank you Julie for that gift you gave to me.

My favourite music of 2007 :

1. We'll Never Turn Back by Mavis Staples

Produced and arranged by Ry Cooder, perhaps the worlds finest slide guitarist, this album would most encapsulate the changes Tara has gone through, it is a powerful work by one the finest woman singers America has to offer. She can stand side by side with Aretha, Etta James, Billie Holiday, any of them. And these so called modern diva's, well forget about it. These are mostly traditional black American songs of longed for freedom, oppression, and desire for equality, human rights, and general over view of not just southern America, but all of it. Also included are a few tunes written by Cooder and Staples, and the highlight a stunning version of the JB Lenoir classic Down in Mississippi. The songs do not date because the cause and meaning behind them have sadly not dated either. A powerful statement upon America by Mavis Staples.

2. Leaving Paradise by Tama Waipara

An Aotearoa offering by a New York Kiwi. Not favoured by all I know, but I think it is outstanding, if not simply for one song alone, Leaving Paradise. It transplants me to the Ruahines and that says it all..

3. Mischief by Beoga

This an offering by an Irish band, which puts a somewhat different slant to traditional Irish sound, sometimes jazzy, sometimes bluesy, but all good. A very cool cover of Dirty Work by Steely Dan.

4. Dirt Farmer by Levon Helm

The wonderful Levon Helm's first offering in 25 years. Levon suffered throat cancer in the late 90's and resigned himself to never singing again. His studio burnt down, and his long time friend and brilliant musician Rick Danko died. Helm fought through the depression wrought by all this and rediscovered his voice - not the powerful timbre of The Band days, yet still wholly recognizable and fitting with his choice of music. That is mainly old timey music from his youth and the inescapable line drawn to the tunes world changing music of The Band. Sounds like The Band unplugged having a jam.

5. Try Me One More Time by David Bromberg

Another 25 year between drinks offering by a maestro acoustic guitar, violin, and mandolin player. David tired of the music scene in the 1980's and retired to Chicago where he took up mandolin and violin making. He became one of the most sought after instrument makers in the world before, as he says, finding his mojo again, and putting out this stunner. I was literally shaking as I put this on and was not disappointed, entirely Bromberg on his own and every second a gem. An American musical icon, if unheralded among us common folk, he is certainly revered by his peers, story teller and player extraordinaire.

I feel better just writing words about music. Well that is it from me. Might see ya again might not. Happy Yuletide to one and all. I leave with the words of Edward Abbey:

"May your trails be crooked, winding, and leading to the most amazing views. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds..." - taken from Tom Russell's amazing cd Hotwalker, song 10, Benediction : Edward Abbey. Anyone who thinks they understand, or should understand, or wants to understand, even a little bit about America needs to listen to this cd from top to bottom without disturbance. Ka kite.


Gustav said...


First of all I share most of your sentiments regarding Christmas. I too am bewildered by the endless ads, promotions, and fake Santas.

Many people are looking to material gifts for fulfilment like a junky searches for his next fix.

However for myself I view the gift that I buy or make for my family as a are a part of giving, of thinking of others, of enriching those you love.

My daughter has made everyone gifts in our family including our dogs, our fish, and Carol and I. This is what its all about.

This is my 8th Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere and inevitably I have the same sense of loss, of never seeing my dad again, of all those Christmases that are now nowhere except in my mind and heart.

Yet I at least have that. Others are not so lucky. Many have never had a white Christmas, or a family that loves them or even enough food to eat.

Finally brother do not give up on your blog. It is another way for your friends and family to connect with you. We are all lonely and sad at different points of our lives and we need each other. Your blog is one of my homes - please don't lock the door.

Happy Yuletide Brother!

maya said...

hello dobber

this is maya. i really like your blog and i would like to hike with you and taylor, charlie.

Merry Christmas!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Gustav and Maya,
Thanks for your thoughts to you both, I appreciate the effort and love in your words.
Maya, I hope to tramp with you as well. Maybe one day your dad can bring you here to New Zealand and we could all go up Top Maropea and beyond! It is one of the first places your dad and I discovered in the Ruahines and very important and cool spot.
Hope you guys had a great Christmas and a Happy Boxing Day. We are going to Tara's uncles farm for lunch and a walk where Charlie can try out his new pack. Talk, or write to you soon. Ka kite.

pohanginapete said...

Hey Robb, that's a very generous and humbling mention of me. Thanks. But don't downplay your own achievement here — this post moved me deeply and I greatly admire the way you've shared how you're feeling, because i think it's something that touches most of us, to some degree, at some time. Moreover, I suspect we believe others feel the same way — but hearing it, or reading it, somehow helps in a way that believing it doesn't help.

In any case, blogging's not competitive. Each of us has his or her own voice, and in the best blogs, the writer's voice comes through strongly. On that basis (and others), your blog rates highly — at least with me, which is why I've linked it. I'm with Gustav — I want to continue reading your blog.

Enjoy the trip, Robb. Catch up soon.

Ruahines said...

I really appreciate your words and encouragement Pete. I didn't mean to appear as if I was looking for, or need, validation, or maybe I did, more so I was just feeling out of sorts with the season I guess. In any case I am very glad to see you stop by and I look forward to actually meeting up sometime in this new year.
I am trying to figure out how to link your blog to mine, but my techno ignorance has so far prevented me from doing so. I am sure my family and friends would greatly enjoy your writing and photos.
I am gazing at me heavy pack sitting here beside me, an old and trusted friend seemingly grinning at me knowing those first few hours will truly reacquaint us!
Have a great week Pete

Anne-Marie said...

Kia ora, Robb. I too hope you continue with the blog, I've really enjoyed reading it.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

michi said...

kia ora,

i found your blog via a link on gustav's blog. i don't actually know gustav, but he left a note on my blog today ... no idea how he found me, but you know how it goes.

i absolutely fell in love with new zealand when i spent over two and a half months there in 1998. the south island is magic. i wish i could go back, but at the moment it does not seem likely at all.

anyway, nice to view your pics and read a bit about your hikes and such.

but what made me comment was this line: "My problem has never been being in love with Tara, but more so her loving herself."

i got divorced in november, after 6 years of marriage, 15 in all with that man. and i am working on loving myself more right now. it just struck a chord with me, this line, because that was one of the major problems in our relationship, i think.

good luck to you, and say hi to the land of the long white cloud for me.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Michi,
Thanks for your words. Marriage is hard work, sometimes it takes more courage to leave than to stay. I have just returned from a 7 day trip to the Ruahines and am feeling a bit disconneted from the real world currently. I will be posting some new photos and thoughts soon. Thanks for stopping by, stay in touch. Kia ka ha, which is Maori for Be Strong.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robb,

I laughed when I read your comments about listening to Ry Cooder as I was doing so today on my iPod while I was hiking in the Korean hills. Kharmic connection perhaps brother? Did you know he played with Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band in the 60s? Their album 'Safe as Milk' is still one of my favourites. The line 'factory no place for me - boss man leave me be' was particularly inspiring for me listening to it as a teenager. Have you seen Buena Vista Social Club, the movie Cooder made about the visit he and son made to Cuba in search of Cuban musical greats? It's an excellent movie and if you haven't seen it I totally recommend it. I would love to go to Cuba. Having already been to East Germany and North Korea, I would quite like to see another socialist country up close. We're probably going to visit China later this year, but I think China is about as capitalist as communism gets these days.