Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reflections of Autumn

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

Maropea Forks


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.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tilting at Windmills

Today our recently elected National government announced it's plans to begin to dismantle the Resource Management Act. Developed in the 1970's and 80's with growing world wide recognition of environmental awareness, and put forth as legislation by the Labour government in 1989, it was underpinned on the concepts of sustainable management and the integrated management of resources, in other words the balance between protection of the environment and development. Interesting in an historical perspective that the Labour government was outed in 1990, yet in 1991 the National government, with many alterations, passed the RMA into being. Today, the same National government seeks to dismantle it. Developers and business groups are welcoming the changes with open arms, power companies no doubt frothing at the mouth at the prospect of all those rivers and mountain ranges to be exploited, and farmers are hailing it as "a good start". Interesting to me is that these groups claim the legislation is so restrictive and time consuming in involving local councils, and god help us, citizen input from the local communities, that "projects" become bogged down in the "red tape". Yet out of an average of 50,000 applied for environmental consents each year 74% of those submissions WITHOUT public comment are processed on time, and 56% WITH public participation are also done on time, which is a 1 to 4 month time frame. How big of a problem is that really?

In these economically troubled times our government, duly elected, sees it best to stimulate the
need for development and growth by sacrificing the need to protect and look after the environment for future generations. Sustainability is now open to becoming a flood gate for making money and no doubt many are rubbing their greedy hands in glee.

Which brings me to an update on the wind farm project of which so many of you supported my opposition to going ahead with. While there has been a stir created, and ripples made on large pond, I am afraid at the end of the day it is all tilting at windmills. The National government has "called in" the Turitea project, effectively removing decision making away from the local councils and deeming it a "project of national significance". Mighty River has reduced the number of projected turbines by 9 out of 100 plus, and has put forth a very self serving campaign as to their intentions and caring for our communities. Meridian Energy, in on the Puketoi and Waitahora schemes today announced a 6% price rise, their second in 6 months, in spite of making a 128 million dollar profit last year. Needed for new power generation investment they say. Just who will be paying for these wind farms, and who will be taking the profits paid for by the users I might write? In any case those projects are also in danger of being "called in", though I have read of being notified of a public meeting sometime this month. Let me be clear, it is not wind power I am against, it is rather sustaining the unsustainable I object to, simply revenue generators and future tax credit symbols for the power companies who then rob us blind.

There has been much public interest in this issue, strong feeling on both sides. I have had clients refuse to work with me for my opposition to these wind farms. So be it. I have to write what I believe, I have to be a voice for wild places. A common phrase I keep hearing in the business
world is "I am not here to make friends, I am here to make money", well I write "I am not here to make money, but to help save the earth, and it just happens I have made some friends".

There is also a lingering sense of disconnection that hovers around me. This inherent disconnection we as the human race are seemingly developing to Nature, to one another. The fact that the solutions to our economic problems always seem to be in attacking Nature, in creating more and more of what has gotten us here in the first place. A few days ago I read a post written by my friend Maithri. Maithri's place is well worth visiting for the work he does and the message he puts forth, http://soaringimpulse.blogspot.com/ , but his particular post tells, and shows a little story of a classically trained musician playing a Stradivarius violin in a New York subway for 45 minutes. Over a thousand people walked by him as this stunning music pours forth. Seven people stop to listen, seven! It made me think of the importance of music in my life, in our lives, the sheer beauty of it, yet how disconnected we become to that in our busy lives. I wonder how many of those people were "connected" to music through ipod ear plugs? Or late for that important meeting, or not stopping as it is not the sort of music we are "into"? How many street musicians have I wandered by without a second thought to the music? Music surrounds us from morning till night, yet how often do we actually Listen?

It made me recall the above evening with my friend Adam, and Tara's brother Davey. Adam, a classically trained violinist with a passion for the Irish fiddle, and Davey a classically trained guitarist never having played Irish music ever before. Not long before I had lent him a few blue grass albums as he loved the picking and fast structure of the music. So these two together, running through a few basics Adam showed Davey, and then jamming for almost two hours of simply stunning music, only Tara and I for an audience. I wonder had I walked by them on the street, playing with the same looks of joy and fun on their faces as they played with that night, pausing only for an occasional sip of beer and to laugh, then carry on. Would I have felt the same? Would I have connected to beautiful music away from my own comfort zone?

I had the pleasure recently of seeing a man named Mike Chunn give a talk to a work gathering I was involved in up in Auckland. Mike was a member of an old Kiwi band called Split Enz, perhaps one of the most successful New Zealand bands of all time - Six Months in a Leaky Boat, History Never Repeats, they were known to me even in the states back in those days of my youth. Mike now is grown up, kids of his own, an accomplished muso. From time to time he found himself giving talks to groups of kids at schools and at one stage Mike encountered a group of 8 year olds. He asked them, "how many of you here think they could write a song?". All the children immediately put up there hands, and wanted to start NOW. A few weeks later Mike found himself in front of a group of 14 year old kids, and asked the same question. Reluctantly, two put their hands up. Which caused Mike to stop and ponder, what in gods name are we doing to our children between 8 and 14? Or at least listening to him talk, that is how I understood the question. Think about our own lives as Responsible Adults! What are we doing to the Music! It is our most purest, and most accessible form of communication, yet we seem to cut ourselves off from the very form that can bring us closer together. If not as strangers, then as lovers, partners, fathers, mothers, siblings, parents, friends. Turn it up!

Mike decided to Do Something. He started a nation wide song writing contest for teen age children. The results he produced, and played for us, brought most of us to tears. Teen age boys writing songs to their fathers, teen age girls to their mothers, to their grand parents, to their peers, and playing and recording in front of those very people. It was, is amazing. It fills me with hope and light. It is music communicating where all else has failed. God knows I did that for years. But at least I was trying, and these kids with their amazing lyrics and music unleashed upon the people to which it should matter the most was almost unbearable. An amazing Gift Mike Chunn has given those people and the world.

Mike's web site is at : http://www.playitstrange.co.nz/ Please check it out, and just support it, acknowledge it, and most of all, go Listen to some Tunes and Turn it Up Real Loud!!!!