This morning I walked across the street to the dairy to buy some milk, bread, and a morning paper before the family awoke. The headlines of the paper were about the budget put out by the government the day prior, no good news really and to be honest working away from home up in the Taranaki has kept me a bit distant from the news this week. An older gentleman was working behind the counter as the owners were away on a well deserved holiday - running a dairy, or local neighborhood market, is a time consuming and rather thankless prospect so I always chuck some of our weekly business their way. The older gentleman looked at the blaring headline in the paper and said, "not much good news there mate", to which I made some sort of perfunctory reply. I looked him in the eye as I took my change and I saw fear there, I saw the essence of so much of what is happening in our world, and I could see he needed to talk. So we did, and he told me how his business had gone south, how he was stuffed financially working in the dairy to supplement his retirement government pension, and how he felt even more sorry for people my age. Finally, another customer walked into the store and I walked back home. I wanted to give him a hug.
I have been seeing this often in my job, this uncertainty, this fear, this helplessness at certain parts of so many lives. The women I meet, particularly those whom have raised families, worked in the business, seen good times and bad, are much stronger than most men. There seems to be a calm wisdom in women, whereas most men exude anger and frustration. Not so different from what I consider the central theme of John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which in the midst of depression and chaos, it is the women whom hold it all together at the most basic family level.
As the old blues tune, What is the Soul of a Man, best version by Bruce Cockburn, states , "a man ain't nothing but his mind", which these days is pretty powerful stuff. So much of what we have been told is Right and Normal has been proved to be pure bull shit. The men with sharp haircuts and suits are liars and crooks, the career corporate ladder has been chopped off many rungs short of "success", so many of us listen to the lowest common denominator talk back radio hosts to vent our frustration in anger and racism, to express our need to Blame somebody, usually somebody of a different colour or religion. I would like to hug these men as well.
It is winter here now in Aotearoa. I drove back from Taranaki yesterday on a day so clear that, at times, I could see in the far distance snow covered peaks on the south island, and when I turned towards home the Ruahine glistened and shown in the sun with her peaks, glistening like white satin covering exposed and inviting flanks . It was beautiful. Soon I will be amongst them, first with Taylor, and not long after with John, both fine companions. It is the place I Connect, where the stuff that I wrote about above has no relevance, no place in my life. The simplicity of living amongst Wild Places is what we all need most right now. Or at least being able to drive down a highway, look over for a brief moment at Living Monuments, and even if never amongst them, simply appreciate they are there. If there is Anything I have tried to get across here at this meandering place it is that.
I was in Taranaki concluding some business with a client, a lovely lady running a small family business, and as she looked over the final contract to sign it, I looked outside her office window and saw the mountain in full glory right in view of her office. "That is just a fantastic scene", I stated, "It makes me want to go up there and climb it". She put down her pen and looked at me, then the mountain and said," You know Robb, I've never been on that mountain and probably never will, but at least once a day I look out my window and take in that view, even if I can't see it, and I just take a moment to appreciate it. So many people stop seeing it".
I wanted to hug her too.
View of Mount Taranaki from Stratford.