The early light of dawn comes later and more muted, the morning air starts to contain a chill hinting of colder mornings to come. It is a time of year I find myself very busy with work requirements, Tara and the boys resuming school after the summer holiday, and knowing the day to day realities of our lives keep the mountains just out of reach for me for at least another month. My yearning to be amongst them and free is strong but I must content myself here for now.
I am not entirely sure why the mountains call so strongly to me in the autumn. There just seems to come a time when I have to go there to get away from myself out here. I always manage to arrange a visit sometime after my busy period ends, but unfortunately that usually coincides with the Roar. The Roar is when the Ruahine stags go into rut, claim a piece of mountain terrain, and fight for the right to gather and mate with the fertile hinds. Which means the mountains become the domain of the hunter for that month or so, seeking out these bellowing enraged large animals and perhaps even finding a trophy set of antlers. So the huts are more likely to be occupied, and for longer periods of time, than other times of the year. Though I have managed to avoid them in more than a few years, it is just a fact of life and I accept that. I also carry my tent.
In a vicarious way the hunters do not bother me so much. I used to be a hunter, and perhaps one reason I feel a need to roam in the fall are the memories which emerge deep within me at this time of year. Learning to walk in the forest, how to handle a weapon, how to hunt, the smell of gun oil and powder. Or just sitting in the woods on a still and quiet November morning waiting for a deer to walk by, but more so just relishing in the beauty of the woods. It never really mattered to me much if I actually shot a deer, rabbit, pheasant, or partridge. Eventually I just stopped hunting and began walking, and when I moved here it seemed just a natural progression to become a keen tramper. Yet part of me understands that urge. There is something very magical about walking on a clagged in Ruahine ridge, the track barely discernible ahead through the grey mist, and then to hear the bellowing roar of a stag down below somewhere in the head waters of a stream or deep in some steep bush clad gully, or even to SMELL them. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Some of my most memorable walks have been done alone on these cold autumn days, when the cloud and mist shrouds the ranges like a grey cloak. While it takes away the panoramic view, it brings into very sharp focus the immediate view, the forest comes alive and trees sway and moan the mountain blues. And while it has taken many years to develop that cognizant recognition of the beauty in each step these walks always fill my soul with joy. The simple act of stopping on chilly day, if there is no great wind, to change a sweaty poly prop shirt for a fresh warm one, or simply putting on a warm jacket on a spot on the river while the billy boils and sitting down to enjoy a cup of tea by the river. A huge smile never seems to leave my face, there is always a song in my heart. I wish that were true out here in the world I inhabit most of the time. My friend Adam at Bloggenpucky recently wrote on his post from 15 Feb. words that really impacted me. " As we hiked, I collapsed to the Earth at the sound of a canyon wren. There were times I could not step three times without a stunned silent look, or a cameras shutter release. We were home. Why is it that (insert worldly beauty or wisdom) sounds, looks, or seems silly when put into the context of this place? Why is it that edicts of churches and states seem like the prattle of thin, pasty, drawn out old women when voiced under this sky? We had sung songs that sounded majestic within white plasterboard walls with curtain windows and they were now laughable or sad. We need to find a way that is as equally meaningful at home, in places of worship and labour, and in this wilderness. Our ideas ought to be in harmony and synergy with all these places in order for our species to find its home".
These words summed up so much for me, this battle I have between two worlds, or maybe more even than that, this battle I have at times with myself. I think I am arriving at a better place out here slowly, but oh how those mountains whisper to me. Adam's writing and photos can be found at : http://bloggenpucky.net/
My thoughts are somewhat fragmented lately. I again think of hunting. I never had to hunt in order to supply meat for our family, it was sport, challenge, and for me, a much deeper introduction to Nature. Having to be quiet and letting the Earth fold back in around me as I sat above a deer trail or tried to stalk as silently as I could through the fall woods. I wonder had I HAD to supply meat if I would have seen things the same way, or maybe I would known more and seen less if that makes sense. The point is if I had to supply meat now, I would, or at least I would try. I see little difference between killing a deer for its meat, than ripping open a package of steak or chicken, its death far removed from my conscience. But if I had to do that would I lose some of the reason for which I seek out the mountains?
Which for some other seemingly disjointed reason has me thinking of food. Many of the places I visit seem to be asking similar questions about these times we live in, how we relate to one another, to the Earth, to our food. Many, such as ourselves, have started small gardens, or already have large ones. Many are paying attention to the food we are eating, where we buy it, and how we prepare it and share it with our loved ones more than before. Perhaps a sign of these troubled economic times we are living in. We have started a small herb and tomato garden and for some time I have been attending our local Saturday morning farmers market and buying our weekly vegetables and fruit, and now chutneys and eggs. It has taken a wee while but our family is now eating healthier, the dinners may take longer but are filled with the real love of cooking we gladly share. Two things stand out to me over the past few weeks, one is that we seem more connected as a family, calmer and better organized, and secondly I have noticed the amount of trash we produce has been reduced to less than one council rubbish bag per week. Recycling paper, glass, plastic, tins, and card board we have been doing for years, but reducing the amount of packaging and plastic wrap quickly adds up to a big benefit. Maybe not much in the big scheme of things but hauling out that small bag of rubbish on pick up day gets my day off to a more satified start. Maybe there are benefits to these times of uncertainty we have not fully considered.
19 April 2006
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 happy for me.