Thursday, July 16, 2009

Into the Quiet

I have felt myself falling into the quiet as of late. That place where the words swirl about but trying to grab onto them , much less write them down, gets further from my reach and I seem to grope around trying to find my way. As if on a cloud obscured Ruahine ridge and not quite sure of my direction. Sometimes it is easier to just stay in the silence.

To be fair to myself, we have been a busy family, Tara enduring her third year final exams and papers while also working full time dealing with the causalities of our society, the ones damaged by abuse, drugs, and alcohol. How she does it sometimes is beyond me. Busy with us both the proverbial ships which pass in the night, handing our parental responsibilities off to each other as she comes and I go, much less trying to find time with each other, or ourselves alone. I have spent the better part of 3 months up in Taranaki with work during the week. It all takes a toll.

Sometimes the cold seems to ooze out of all around me trapped in the same depths of this cold, damp, bone chilling town. Everyone I interact with greets me with same dull glare. The cold chill of the afternoon quickly leading to another dark winters night. Thank god for the wood fire, the mere act of preparing the kindling, chopping the logs, getting the fire going and feel its lovely heat, hear the crackle of sanity, and see the late night glow of those embers as I lock up the house, does wonders for my soul.

Charlie in action for the under 7's Kia Toa rugby club

The boys after a half time pep talk. Those are the Ruahines in the distance.

Of course there are things beyond the fire that warm my soul in the cold Palmerston North winter. Early each Saturday morning brings Charlie's rugby matches. He is learning the basics of rugby and being part of a team, and it is always fun to watch, and about as big a slice of Kiwiana one will ever encounter. Standing on the sideline of an invariably muddy wet field on a cold Saturday morning with all the other parents lets me feel like a real Kiwi as we all watch these boys and girls running around in shorts! Then afterwards we roam about the local farmers market and buy our weeks fruit, veges, and eggs, his cleats still clicking on the pavement as he doesn't want to take them off.

And we just celebrated Taylor's 16th birthday. He had his mates around and with parental approval we let them have a few beers, and as suspicious as I was about all that it proved to be a very good evening. I lit the fire out the back for the boys, put the tunes out for them, and even went joined them from time to time. It was almost instinctive that I went and lit that fire, and those young lads were drawn to it like moths to the flame. A focal point to gather around, and more importantly keep warm, rather than just drifting about aimlessly. Most encouraging was a few of them gathering around me and asking me about tramping, and would I take them out into the Ruahines and getting some plans set down. Made me feel pretty cool really. I find it hard to believe Taylor is 16, a young man whose presence in this world brought Tara and I together in spite of the fact we barely knew one another. Yet here we are 16 years later, still playing together to paraphrase Stephen Stills talking about Neil Young. And coming out the other side capable of things we were not capable of not even so long ago, never taking anything for granted, yet now more than ever when I see her my heart leaps - even in winter.

Most of all, what seems to my Quiet Soul as a little slice of heaven, is starting to gather my gear, supplies, to pour over the maps, and look forward to my reunion with the Ruahines on the 30th of July. My birthday, and the 9th one I will have spent in the Ruahines, at one place or another. Many alone, and many such as this one, with my fine companion John Nash. I miss the mountains, though they are never far my soul. I have watched her as she has gathered the beautiful cloak of winter on her tops and flanks, accentuating the loveliness of her presence. She always seems to be whispering in my ear, calling to me, saving me from myself. I am learning when to really Listen, and I must go.

Though it is only a fool who would look upon those wonderful snow covered mountains and think it is merely a playground for us to wander about. The Siren's Song perhaps? Only a few days ago the Tararua's, the sister range of the Ruahine to the south, claimed the lives of two experienced trampers caught out in a blizzard on the tops, both froze to death less than a kilometre from the shelter of a hut. I think of them as I begin to gather my gear and plan this out. I think of their families and friends, now grieving their loss, and I wonder if being in those mountains, that wild terrain, was recognized by those loved ones as being acceptable, as being part of the essence of who those people were, and in some small way brings some comfort to that overwhelming grief. I hope so. For me, who did not know them, it serves as a reminder of the country I travel in, the volatile nature of wild places, and how much I love them.

Robb and John, 2005 30 July, a self timer photo, hence the flash and all, but a really enjoyable moment at a very cool place.

Not quite sure where we are headed. I suspect John is at a Quiet Place as well, though at the best of times with us he is a man of few words, and that suits me fine. We have four nights and five days to enjoy. In winter, in this cold, and in those very temperamental mountains, I just want to get some remotely wild and quiet space and just BE. I reckon John does as well.

I know I have put this photo on previously, but it is my favourite picture of John Nash. High above Kawhatau valley, another good ramble to the Ruahine high point at Mangaweka. And a day John and I will both remember well.




kylie said...

aroha robb
you know, in life i can be happily in the quiet place but in blogging i cant. whats with that?

you have some beautiful poetic imagery in this post. i dont remember seeing that from you before. it fits beautifully with your comments on your relationship. you both can be proud.

i'm struggling to get this comment together so off i slip for a quiet moment


Marja said...

Don't worry you didn't loose it Your writing is stil marvelous. I know all about how busy a family can be so I am impressed how Tara can combine work study and a family
That's hard work. You really have a beautiful wife. Nice picture
Good you can go out in the mountains again. We found it a bit slippery. We went for a walk in Hanmer Springs and there was snow
everywhere and in some places we were sliding down, to the big amusement of my daughter and her boyfriend who came with us.
She is 16 too and after a difficult time she is now the most wunderful person (most of the time)
So your birthday is in August as well. Mine too and many people I know. Have a good tramp and I will read all about it I think

Barbara Martin said...

Robb, a lovely post with inner feeling on keeping your family relationships going. You're doing well, and your wife to be able to combine her work, study and family matters is inspirational.

Your restlessness comes from the anticipation of your hike and being again with your good friend. It looks like you will have new charges to teach hiking to come the summer months. A fine thing indeed.

I see now why you were so happy the "tonic" worked as you are able to go off into the wilderness to ease your soul back to the connection of the cosmos.

We Leos have the same need for the wild that hiking in rugged nature brings. Have a safe and good tramp in your wilderness. I can hardly wait to read and see what adventures you have when you post again.

Jamie said...

Hey Robb

Love the images of the fires. You are so right. I wish we had a wood burner here, so when the sun goes down I could stare at its flames instead.

I hope the boys had some of their own tunes! We have to encourage the creativity of the kids aye! God help us if the next generations keep on growing up with the flawed perspectives of ours.

Take care aye


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
I always enjoy what you have to say Kylie, you always bring interesting perspectives to every day life. Which is kind of what I was trying to get at in some ways. So keep raving on.
Thanks for your presence, support and appreciation. Kia kaha my Kiwi - Aussie friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I would love to sit down with you and talk about teen agers Marja, and if you sent me an email so we could do that "offline" that would be cool. I could really use some sound counsel. Not that all is bad, but I just struggle sometimes with all this parenting stuff. I still regret we never hooked up in Christchurch but i knew from your voice on the phone our connection was real.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Barbara,
Thank you so much for your lovely presence here as well. You are absolutely correct in the reasons of my recent inner battles, and I never quite got that until reading your comment. Sometimes here we can read words from someone we have connected with and just find ourselves staring at this screen. At least I do. Yes I cannot wait to get amongst those mountains, but there is always the anxiety of winter, weather, and this cranky ol'hip of mine. I am so anxious to try out the effects of the apple cidar vinegar tonic. Sorry if I have been a quiet presence at your place, but I have been reading, just struggling to find the words to relate. Kia ora my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Jamie,
Yeah, the wood fire is crackling away right now, just soothes the soul.
Don't worry brother, all I did for the boys was put my Bose sound dock out the window, and they all whipped out there ipods to play their own Tunes. No way would I subject myself to the abuse of my Music being played, or the fact I would have completely ruined the party by doing so. Personally I still prefer Elvis Costello to Megadeath, but to each his own.
I'll raise a toast to you in the Ruahines mate. I hope one day you get up this way and we can share a hut for a night or two, if you can stand my slow pace! Rave on man, you are raising awareness of a lot of issues I appreciate getting a lead on, and your outdoor pursuits are always inspiring. Kia kaha!

lph said...


Good to read another post from you. As usual it is heartfelt and passionate. During our time together in Madison and Minneapolis I always remembered how much you enjoyed life. It is comforting to know that your zest is still strong.

I like how you are using your son's rugby team to dig even deeper into the Kiwi lifestyle. The best way to become a part of a culture is by just chillin' with the locals. Sounds like you have it figured out pretty well. I can only imagine how much fun it is to watch a bunch of young children forming a big old scrum.

Your anxiousness with your trip is exciting and quite normal. I always get crabby and uptight as a trip draws closer. The mountains are now right there for you to grab. Enjoy your tramp through the mountains.

Take care my friend...go breathe in some deep mountain air.


Anonymous said...

"Most of all, what seems to my Quiet Soul as a little slice of heaven, is starting to gather my gear, supplies, to pour over the maps, and look forward to my reunion with the Ruahines on the 30th of July."

Dude, we NEED wilderness, we need wild-ness, it is as important to all of us as money, or TV or culture or fact, I have a hard time separating it from love and family...

My knee hurts so bad after I tried a jog, that all I can think about is how it my limit me from accessing the places I love....

It's a real concern...

Get out THERE man!

troutbirder said...

Family, wilderness, touching the infinite. Its the place where I often took my sons when they were young. Our place was the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness in northern Minnesota. The mountain do the same thing.

Robin Easton said...

Dear Wild Brother, we walk a similar path this month. I too am headed into the wild, a week before you. I am going solo, headed to the mountains to hike and do a vision quest. Although I do not seek visions I only seek to come face to face with myself, without the muting filters of society.

I will think of you on you on your birthday, while you are in your beloved mountains. And I ask for your prayers and thoughts while I am in mine. You can read about my trip on my blog. I just posted it.

Robb you have given me and continue to give me such a HUGE gift, something so real, just through being who you really are. You inspire me to be my most genuine self. You have done so ever since I met you.

I am really excited about my time alone with the wild. I need it to test myself, to experience myself and the wild world I am passionately in love with. I need it to remember who I am, I it need to slough off the constrictions of domestication, of the city, of the internet, phones, cars and social edicts, judgments and conditionings. I need it like I need clean air and fresh water. I need to KNOW who I am. I need it to make sure I am not swallowed up by mediocrity. I need it for a thousand reasons that do not even matter. I simply need it without reason.

This post of yours is beyond precious. The photo of you and Tara is profoundly beautiful. There is a depth shared between you that is palpable and moving. She has a beauty that goes beyond her external beauty. So do you. There is something about you both that I cannot even put into any words.

Your writing here moved me to tears and is crucial for the world. The wild needs your voice now more than ever. Know that I am with you and that you and your beautiful family are in my heart. I think of you and connect with you far beyond the world of blogging. But then you already know that. Thank you for affirming everything that feels true and right in my heart. There is goodness in you Robb...and so much of it.

Thank you my dear Wild Brother. We are both blessed in our lifetimes to be part of the wild. So blessed Robb. And blessed to have spouses who understand and encourage our need to 'be' wild, people who believe in us.


Ruahines said...

Cheers Larry,
The fervor people have for rugby here and in particular the national team, or All Blacks, reminds me very much of the relationship between Packer fans and the Packers. The fact the Packers are so unique in the ownership structure and the team literally belongs to Green Bay gives that same sort of undying devotion, and I sensed that when I first moved here in 1993. The game then was only coming into the professional era and has changed a lot since then. You understand the importance of rugby to New Zealand standing in the early Saturday morning chill watching hundreds of kids running around.
Indeed there is always a sense of nervousness, or heightened anxiety when heading into the mountains anytime, but moreso in winter. The death of those trampers not far from here brings that home. Once my feet hit the track all comes right pretty quickly. I will breathe deeply of that mountain air though mate!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lost Coyote,
Amen brother, your words resonate with me in every way. That connection becomes inseperable, even when the times between being there and being here grow too long. So the frantic anticipation builds within me.
Get the knee looked at brother! The sooner the better. My hip is part of that constant concern, yet they will have to drag out of those mountains.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Troutbirder,
The Boundary Waters where were I first began to understand or appreciate this pull to wild places. I wrote a post about my time there back in April of 2008. I used to just paddle on those mystical lakes and stare almost bewildered by some much remote beauty. So they are my cornerstone as well. I still think of them often.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Robin,
Of course you shall be in my thoughts as you roam with the coyotes, bears, and mountain lions. You are part of the wilderness yourself Wild Sister and I shall ask the Mountain Spirits to watch over you.
Leaving behind the world out here and traveling amongst Nature with all we need upon our backs, living simply and honestly, accepting Nature's gifts in our journey, is truly living, and the possible dire consequences brought forth in our solitude well worth the risk in my view. Our loved ones know this and understand that essence within us, leaving us to travel light of spirit. So dive in Wild Sister, and come back smiling and bursting with Life. I am there with you!
I am in on the mountain breeze, and in the babbling brook, I am there because I too cannot be swallowed up by mediocrity out here, and because I am most Alive out there. May your evening fire warm your soul, and may the mountain breeze blow gently upon your soul. Rave on Wild Siter!

Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Robb, winter, cherry red logs warming your heart, beautiful memories with more plans to come, time for family, a love for living.

What a beautiful post and photos!!! You have given me imagery that calms my soul.

Have a happy birthday, kindred spirit.

Hugs, JJ

Maithri said...

Dear Robb,

Ah brother this is so beautifully expressed...

I know this feeling... Sometimes the cold world struggles to understand a warm heart...

Thank you for the warmth of your soul dear brother,

You and Tara and your loving kindness has meant so much to me on my own journey,

Blessings to you and your precious family always,

Warm love to you brother, Maithri

Lynda Lehmann said...

What an inspiring and articulate post, Robb! You nourish us all with your free and inquiring spirit.

I love being in the quiet, because it means I am in sync with my own soul and not distracted by minutiae. Rather, I am drawn into simple Beingness and harmony.

I wish you a safe and rewarding experience, glad you are mindful of nature's fickle moods.

Stay safe and bring us back your wonderful musings and a taste of the wild.



Ruahines said...

Kia ora JJ,
What a beautiful comment - thank you! Your first sentence sums it up totally JJ and I love that.
I am off to the mountains for five days this coming week. I am excited, my pack sits here beside me ready to go NOW. Stay tuned my lovely friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Maithri,
So good to read from you my friend! Following your journey and work has been amazing, and your ability to bring the dignity and deepness of peoples lives to your readers, in spite of those lives being lived with so little, or nothing at all. Not many of us out here in the western world could cope with such circumstances. Bringing that alive to us is important, and both Tara and I are honoured to be within your sphere. Kia kaha Maithri, Rave on brother.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
I love your words, " I love being in the Quiet, because it means because I am sync with my own soul and not distracted by minutiae. Rather I am drawn into simple Beingness and Harmony".
That pretty much sums up thought of why I go to the mountains, the Ruahine. Beautiful words Lynda, kia ora.

Joe McCarthy said...

I hope you find - or create - that quiet place you seek, on your birthday in the Ruahines or at some other time and place in the near future. Sometimes, I find that simply articulating my longing(s) helps open up new paths that take me closer in.

Phillip Collyns said...

Hopefully you might get out to Ruahine Corner! Lots of snow up on the tops! Good Luck and safe travels.


-New Story-One of my finest works-
Yep I'm getting better at writing...just completed this trip this weekend.

Canyoning in the Ruahines

Upon careful negotiation of the road in we arrived at the Waipawa River at 8:30am. Immediately the cold hit us, although sun was forecasted.

Luckily our feet remained dry as we used the farmer’s bridge across the river; he arrived in time to unlock the gates for our use on the bridge and leading up the hill. A DOC sign directed us to a very muddy road. A triangle pointing into the obliss at the top did enough for us to find a decent style in the fence. Ice very much covered parts of the track and snow was just above us at 900 metres, a very thick blanket that shrouded the tops did not look at all inviting. The first stream seemed bigger than usual but our feet remained dry for the time being. Travel through the regenerating bush allowed for the sun to beam down on us. We found another sign above Middle Creek where we debated the worthlyness of the track times four hours to travel four kilometres sounded ridiculous! A rope down a decent sized cliff which you could just step down did little as we rock slided onto a root part way down before we could continue. Cairns marked the way down the old creek bed. Got to the head of an amazing gorge which just about made a tunnel as it loomed above our heads, the rock consisted of limestone containing sea shell fossils. It led us to look back upstream where we followed tape (only one piece) before a thigh deep crossing and a scramble up where access to the ridge was gained.

The rest can be found on the website..

Photos are also uploaded onto the site...the new logo at the top is from the Ruahines!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Joe,
"Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness"
John Muir

I am not quite sure I am as accomplished as Muir at going into wilderness without baggage, either physical or mental. And I gaze upon my hefty pack waiting to go I know he would consider me overpacked, never mind my mental condition. Yet I am learning to understand what he meant, at least to me. I thank you my friend for your birthday wishes and more so for the quiet solitude I seek. Time to Listen. Always good to read from you Joe. Cheers.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Phillip,
Looks like some rugged weather heading this way so may be following your recent footsteps via Rangi, Triangle and that area. Triangle is a great place to spend a few days, a day walk up top or down to Iron Gates, or if highly motivated over to Pourangaki.
Hey my young mate your writing is just starting to bloom, and I am always happy to read of you roaming the Ruahines in particular. I shall be over to read before I leave on Thursday and get some inspiration! Cheers my friend.
Ka kite ano,

Beth said...

Hi Robb, finally catching up here. This is a beautiful post - I think that quiet is infecting you with its poetry and calm reflection. Enjoy your days in the mountains, I envy you this chance for solitude in nature and hope for some of that in a month or two. Travel well and safely, my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Beth,
Thanks for that and a pleasure to read from you. I know from reading at your place you are ready for some calm and quiet as well. I will think of you when up there.

Pam said...

As I read this and your authenticity of feeling...honouring of "To thine own self be true" came to my mind.That really is one of the best gifts we can give to ourselves, family, and others isn't it.The benefits that you, Robb, receive back through these calm musings or soul searches, (and in turn pass on to others through this site,)is something that sparkles with clarity, wisdom, and is wonderfully heart-warming, thank you!The family photos featured of you and your close friend, children and Tara are a joy!You are a beautiful family, surviving I am sure, all the demands put upon it. As always, such an interesting,and thought-provoking post.Thanks for your visit and comment recently.I look forward to hearing of your next adventure in what is indeed a very cold part of the world at the moment!

KB said...

"Though it is only a fool who would look upon those wonderful snow covered mountains and think it is merely a playground for us to wander about." You said this beautifully. So many people seem to see the mountains as a 'recreational opportunity' rather than the mystical wild places that they are.

Gustav said...


I just left a happy birthday message for you on the machine. Yet I know you heard the message as you sipped your dram of whiskey under the stars in the Ruahines.

The best is yet to come.

sarah said...

greetings Robb!

i am back to thank you for your timely advice in april and to let you know that, once again, i am endeavouring to head south and experience the wonder of the ruahines, this time with my brother (a fairly experienced snowcrafter) and his mate. thanks to my enthusiasm and a certain wilderness magazine article, he also has been inspired to visit your lovely part of the world for the first time.

our plans are to head for purity hut and make for mangaweka trig for at least a look-see but more in the hopes of camping up somewhere on the summit or at least away from any huts, weather permitting, then perhaps south to kelly knight hut and out. if the forecast looks grim we will avoid the ruahines and head to tongariro national park instead and hit a few of the lower huts for the sake of safety/remaining alive etc.

i was wondering if you could advise on where is the best place to get up-to-the-moment ruahine weather forecasts? we want to keep a careful eye on the weather and most especially what it will be doing around the weekend we plan to head in (aug. 14th-16th). is there somewhere local i can contact?

also, where is the nearest doc information office? if it's close enough we'll pop in to see them before making our decision.

thanks again!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Sarah,
I am answering your comment ahead of a few others, as I want to get this right in my head. I have only returned from the Ruahine a few hours ago. It was an excellent trip, which I shall set down in more detail at some point soon, but it was also completely and utterly dictated by the weather. One of the routes I had originally considered was your Purity one, with us heading to Pourangaki, or Waterfall, and having Kelly Knight as an escape route. Much of this was predicated on getting dropped off and picked up somewhere else. As it turned we had 5 days of shite weather, and had to completely readjust our open top desires to river travel. The tops were snow blown, icy, and gale force winds, the rivers flooded and angry. Our experience and decision making held us in good stead on this trip, but the tops were no place to be these past five days, nor the rivers really, but we carried on.
Two weeks from now the weather may be fine, who knows? But planning a camp up top before October I would need a very fine day and forecast indeed. Your Purity route would be fine to take a look, make a call on the tops, and if you have good experienced route finders can always retreat to the hut if it looks dicey, or the weather closes in, but you can never take anything for granted in the winter, even late, in any mountains.
There are no generally "good" weather forecasters for the Ruahines, the mountain forecast is pretty ordinary really. The best place to check out is and look at the pressure and wind systems in great detail.
Best of wishes to you Sarah, and your keen desire to get into the Ruahine. Don't be dissuaded, they are beautiful and rugged but I have just come from 5 days of her moody winter treatment. Plan well, take good gear and plenty of food, and always be ready to admit this is not the day. Stay in touch.
Kia kaha,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pam,
It is good to be back in the bosom of family after a trip to the mountains - though they are never far from my mind. I guess our families and relationships can be like the mountains, sometimes we get nice days, sometimes stormy, and every once in awhile we come across the perfect moments.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
Thank you, and those words proved very apt. Tops I have been on many many times suddenly in white out and gale like conditions causing some serious evaluation of the situation. And we turned back. Rivers which most often are crystal clear meandering rivers gathering up in blue green pools were now brown dirty torrents. It is all about recognition, capability, and having the humbleness to withdrawl and adapt. The stormy days have much to teach and seem to bring out the wildness even more.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Gustav,
Well brother, we did indeed sip a few wee drams under the stars. It was just we never saw them, and aside from one brief period of sunshine it either rained or snowed pretty much the whole 5 days. Sometimes it is just good to know the stars are up there.

sarah said...

thanks again Robb! looking forward to reading of your most recent experiences.

your advice is, as always, invaluable. i'll be passing along all details you've outlined to the rest of my tramping party for careful discussion. will keep you posted on how we fare and what we ultimately decide but fingers crossed that the weather and mountains smile upon our efforts to commune with them

best, sarah

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Sarah,
No worries at all, thanks for tuning in. I still think a good option is to go in on the other side of the Hikurangi to the tops from Kawhatau base. That way you have the option of going all the way to McKinnon hut, or camp by the tarns on the poled route. Or if the weather is bad it is easy enough to divert up top the Crow hut route and drop to it, a lovely spot on the river, and you do not have to cross the river to get to it. A great two to three day loop trip really. Let me know how you get on.