It was a lovely day here in the Lower North Island, blue sky, a warm westerly breeze, hints of summer abound. I took a 20 minute drive from our house up into the foot hills of the Tararua ranges, which lie directly south of the Ruahines, separated only by the Manawatu river. I intended on going to a relatively new track, the Sledge track, which ambles along a lovely stream as it climbs into the Tararuas. I had with me Charlie, and my nephew Mac. The plan was to walk up the track an hour or so, and have a wee picnic by the stream at a cool spot I know. As sometimes typical on New Zealand twisty and unsealed mountain roads, we found it closed before the parking area due to slips. Having to walk another 20 minutes up the road before we got to the trail head, I decided we would just have a walk along the track for a bit then head back to the car for our picnic by the stream. Walking along a muddy road with two boys is very interesting, stopping at every mud puddle to test its depth, and there are many!, finding the waterfalls which course down from the steep spur above the river, finding cool sticks, getting them over thoughts of sore legs and being tired, and the thoughts of chocolate biscuits not far away.
I tried to put myself in their world, something I have gotten better at doing in my time with Charlie than I was with Taylor. To find a really excellent stick, to watch water spill off a cliff, chuck hunks of wood into the pool and watch them be taken down stream, and of course, just throw rocks into the water and see the splashes. It seems a hard place to get to sometimes these days, seeing through the eyes of a child, with economic melt downs, job losses, and greedy power companies rubbing their hands together coveting these places. Not to mention all the issues that existed prior to that, world hunger, racism, pollution of our world. Yet looking at these boys running free, free of computers and television, free to let their imaginations run wild, free to discover the joys of a river. So I allowed myself to be free, to just be in this moment, in this place, with these boys, and relish it completely. It was a pretty huge realization, maybe I am finally understanding what Abbey meant by keeping half of ourselves back to enjoy Nature. As I lie in the sun by the river bank, I became very in tune with the river's song, the hills and scrub shimmered in their green hues, and I could hear the voices of the boys clearly. I don't know how long I lie there, and it didn't matter, in these moments time means something very different.
As the boys and I drove away Charlie asked me to play him a song on the cd player. Charlie, in my opinion, is something of an old soul, and his taste in music is different from most 5 year olds I have come across. The song he asked for was by Ben Weaver, and called "Voice in the Wilderness", very much a cross between Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson, and John Prine. Part of the lyrics are as follows:
I'm not gonna give what you want to hear
I'm not gonna be with you in the end
It's as cold as the stars down inside of me
Hear the Voice that stands on the edge of the wilderness
Crying my god what'll I do with all this mess
Unless you aim right for my heart
you will always miss
You can hold a match to my love
it will always burn
In her arms I can make any two words rhyme
My god this a strange place
and these are strange times
words by Ben Weaver
I looked at Charlie singing along to these words, maybe not even understanding them, he just likes the song. These boys are living in strange times, and all the more reason to get them into Nature, and to fight to ensure that wild places remain for them to roam.
After all. little boys grow up fast.