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.