Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whakamoemiti (Thanksgiving)

The above photo is a little blurry, a little out of focus. It was taken a few years ago when my friend Jeff was visiting from the states, and along with John, we headed into the Ruahine for a few days of mountain wandering. On this day we left our gear at the hut and climbed up to the tops. Always a pleasure to walk through the layers of the forest, leaving the river muttering below and climbing into the tussock and then the clouds. Only for me, on this day, it was not a pleasure. My hip hurt dreadfully, I could literally feel and hear bone grinding upon bone, and during the climb up all I wanted was to be done with it. On the way down I told Jeff and John to walk ahead as I was holding them back, that I would make my own way down. It was the first time I realized the true extent of my problem, and the anger I felt at my body disintegrating at this moment here with a treasured friend, friends, was palpable. The truth of what the real meaning of this all meant to my even being in these places filled me with dread and fear. It was not my best moment in the mountains.

Then, slowly struggling down the steep spur, I heard a sound I could not place. I thought at first it was a bird call I had not heard before, but as I got further down I realized it was the music of a harmonica. Only two people I know carry harmonicas in the mountains, my friend Jeff, and me, and Jeff gave me mine. I stopped above him and just listened, to the forest, to the music, and I just watched him amongst these mountains, so comfortable and so at home on this mossy knoll high in the forest. My friend had waited for me to make sure I was okay. In possibly the lonliest moment in my life, a good friend sat below me patiently waiting for ME. First hearing, and then seeing, his presence sent a rush of warmth through my entire being. So the photo is a bit out of focus as my vision was a bit out of focus, washed by tears of realization that I have such people, such places in my life. That somehow I would rise up and meet the challenges ahead. That these mountains will never leave me. I am part of them. I am thankful for that.

Mountain tipua (Guardian Spirit)

The silhouettes of the tawhairauriki against the setting sky I have always felt connected to and deeply moved by. As if they are the true soul or tipua of the mountains themselves, wise teachers whom we can choose to learn from or not. Both defiant and beseeching to the heavens above. As if they are saying " We will deal with the northwest gales, the damp and cold, the snow and sleet, the thin mountain soil into which we spread our roots, that is our lot. But you self important human abusers of the Papatuanuku, you we cannot bear because you do not come in Peace, and so I thrust my fingers and limbs to the sky in defiance and warning you to stop. You are only here for a brief moment, and refuse to learn what the mountains Teach and you do not Listen. Our friendship has been refused. No mines, no dams, no roads, no poisoning of our pure waters. Leave us alone".
I am Thankful for the Mountain Lessons as well.

I am Thankful for the many beautiful pieces to my life. My family and friends far and near, my beautiful wife whom I watch unfold into a more amazing woman each day, my sons, Taylor and Charlie offering each moment the ups and downs of parenthoood as they both also unfold into themselves.
I am thankful for the people whom visit here, your presence and encouragement are a constant source of inspiration.
In this moment though right here right now, I am most Thankful to the mountains. For finding me, for saving me, for teaching me how to Listen. For giving the strength and fortitude to find my way back to something I nearly lost. It has been a very good year.
Happy Whakamoemiti!


Donald said...

>washed by tears of realization that I have such people, such places in my life.

... and that's how it is somedays eh Robb!

Profound, beautiful and humbling.



Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
Thank you my friend. Funny that for me Thanksgiving has become far more emotional and meaningful since leaving the states. Though Thanksgiving is an American creation and tradition, its value can certainly be applied anywhere in the world. We should all stop at times and reflect on what do have around us to be thankful for having. Particularly for me this year, in having my hip replaced and then returning to the mountains. When I reflect upon some of the pain, both mental and physical, it makes the joy now shine even brighter. Happy Thanksgiving Donald!

kylie said...

happy thanksgiving, robb, to you and your family

this is a beautiful post

Anonymous said...

I echo your gratitude. I played basketball today with the 6th graders and one of them asked, "Mr. Syme, why are you smiling so much?"

I couldn't move much at all last year.

But what gets me about your posts is the way you express gratitude for the wild places you wander. They do have a saving quality...they do teach us...they must be preserved not as tourist attractions or investment opportunities but as temples, spiritual places of human transformation.

I can't over state this.

I'm glad you are out there, and out there in the wilds...it does my heart right...

Allan Stellar said...

Happy Thanksgiving Comrade!

Lynda Lehmann said...

A very good year, indeed, for you Robb!

KB said...

Listening to the mountain lessons... a concept that I embrace with all my heart. I am, like you, forever thankful for having my eyes opened by the mountains so I no longer walk blindly through my world but walk with the company of the animals, trees, boulders, and wind.

I am so happy that you've found your way back to the mountains mostly without pain. Sometimes it takes great courage to take the steps needed to get strong again. You found that courage deep within yourself and now you are reaping the rewards.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. Despite how hard and painful life can be sometimes, we have so much to be thankful for.

Kia Kaha,

Stella said...

I love love love this post! I love the harmonica. I love good friends. I'm grateful for all of them. Thank you!

Joe McCarthy said...

An inspiring story of friendship, family, nature and gratitude.

It's been a long time since I've heard Jeff play the harmonica, but the image triggers fond - and perhaps a bit blurry - memories.

I, too, had an inspiring experience of a good friend appearing - in my case, via a phone call just last week - at the depth of my despair, offering just what I needed to renew my faith in myself ... and life. And I, too, am grateful for such friends.

Your photo and description of the mountain tipua (guardian spirit) remind me of a David Whyte poem, The Faces at Braga. I can't isolate any one excerpt to capture the perceived connection adequately, so I'll just recommend the whole thing (via the link above).

Thanks for modeling thanksgiving so effectively!

troutbirder said...

Well said Robb. Well said. :)

Bill Gerlach said...


What a way to start out Thanksgiving week. While there are so many people and things in each of our lives to be thankful for, your post makes me wonder how often we are giving thanks to The World itself -- for just being, for sustaining us in every single way, for making our existence even possible.

I love this part of the post:

"But you self important human abusers of the Papatuanuku, you we cannot bear because you do not come in Peace, and so I thrust my fingers and limbs to the sky in defiance and warning you to stop. You are only here for a brief moment, and refuse to learn what the mountains Teach and you do not Listen. Our friendship has been refused. No mines, no dams, no roads, no poisoning of our pure waters. Leave us alone."

In some way, I do think that Nature is talking back to us. But how many are actually still enough to listen, comprehend and embrace the message that is being spoken...

Be well. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
Thank you and hope you guys have a lovely day as well.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Ryan,
At a time of year I always start to feel the heavy black weight of melancholia set upon me, to visualize you playing hoops truly brings a smile to my face as well. I fully understand the not moving bit which we have commiserated together many times, and I wish for you many hoops games, many mountain and desert adventures. Your sharing that is important to all of us. I know I have written this before but the fact men like you, and Adam, are there trying to guide our most vulnerable children, and how you both do it, is a gift from the gods. The love you have for those wild places, the connections you feel and honour, also shows in the love you have for those children. I know they see it as well.
So may your Thanksgiving be a precious one, full of Aroha. I am thinking of the mountains brother.
Kia kaha.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Allan,
Cheers mate! Happy tramping.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Lynda,
Cheers, and I hope yours was as well! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
I appreciate your visit more than you know. I know the trials you are under going with K do not leave much time for this world. So thank you,and please know my thoughts are with you.
We are kindred with the mountains indeed,and know what living with pain,and maybe more so accepting pain to be there is all about. Tough lessons but valuable ones. I just wish I could figure out why so often this time of year I just feel like sitting down and crying out here.
But even in the darkest momentswe can find some small glimmer of being thankful,of being hopeful. Like the mountain breeze upon us.
May Thanksgiving truly find thankful moments for you,and your family. Kia kaha KB my kindred friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora D'Arcy,
I love the harmonica as well. I carry it in the mountains so when I play it, aside from the birds and possums, no one has to cover their ears! Have a lovely Thanksgiving my friend.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Joe e hoa,
Sometimes it is those seemingly insignificant, but timely actions, a phone call, a friend waiting, a song, that prove to be so vitally significant to our lives. Whatever the issues were impacting you please accept my heart felt thoughts and wishes as well. Rediscovering the support, belief, and aroha, we have around us, no matter the problem, no matter the mistakes, and being lifted up again is certainly something to be thankful for.
Joe e hoa, that is a beautiful poem - one which matches succintly my own inner turmoil so often, but particularly this time of year. To end it with hope brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for this little treasure.
Please have a beautiful Thanksgiving. Kia kaha!

lph said...

Great story Robb! It is not hard at all to visualize the Roaster lying in the middle of the woods playing on a harmonica.

Have a great Thanksgiving friend!


Tracey Axnick said...

What a lovely post.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday... it underscores all the simple, beautiful things in life we often take for granted (like nature's beauty, music, our family, our treasured friends etc. etc.)
I'm glad you had the moment you did in the forest with your friend... moments like that are precious and lovely.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to you and the family... we'll be celebrating this Thursday here. :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
Thank you and have a fantastic Minnesota Thanksgiving.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bill,
We are experiencing here in New Zealand a coal mining explosion which has 29 men missing, more than likely dead. A tragedy no question for them, their families and friends. My thoughts go out to them. But as I watch the politicians scurry there to get a word in, and act as if they care more than anyone else,and the plaudits poured to these guys we did not know as brave stalwart men, when in actuality they were doing a very dangerous highly paid job, one which has claimed many lives in that same area, and all over the earth. The deeper we need to go in to the very bowels of the earth to sustain this unsustainable system, the more value we continue to put on shiny metals and baubles, instead of the earth, each other, our time, the more people we die as we kill the earth Herself. I guess I do not have answers except to change myself, and try to teach my sons a better way.
So I am thankful to the mountains,to the earth,for teaching me to Listen. Slowly it helps me become a more reasonable out here.
I hope you have a lovely and nature filled Thanksgiving. Kia kaha.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Larry,
Roaster has become a relatively accomplished player, far better than myself. He is very at home in wild places, and it was so cool to spend time in the mountains of Aotearoa with such an old and treasured friend. We had a wonderful 5 days in the mountains. Down on the river one morning he landed a beautiful 4-5 lb. rainbow, which was in the fry pan within a few minutes and a mouth watering breakfast. C'mon over and give it a try!
My best wishes to you for a great Thanksgiving. Go Pack!

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Tracey,
Thanksgiving was always my favourite holiday as a youth, (if you go back in my archive a few years you can find some old family photos and thoughts on a Thanksgiving post). I guess that is why I struggle this time of year being so far away from my original home, when the memories of those wonderful people swirl around me.
Thanksgiving has become the way I mark the passing year. And certainly, no matter the trials and tribulations of our own lives, or the upheaval around the world with economics, politics, wars, and natural disasters, that we cannot just stop for a brief moment and give thanks for that which we do have.
Thanksgiving here is actually on Friday -your Thursday- so I will raise a toast with you and your lovely family in my thoughts. Kia kaha.

Marja said...

"I realized it was the music of a harmonica" What a touching moment you described. I bet it is engraved in your mind. A post full of grace and full of spirit and love. Very inspiring. Arohanui marja

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Wow my friend! I think of Thanksgiving and the battering you and the people of Christchurch have been through, and then these 29 miners dying deep in a coalmine this week. Sometimes it is hard to even find anything to be Thankful for, but this is a very volatile land we live upon, and these moments tell us that and make us realize how much we have to be Thankful for even having. Be safe, be well, and enjoy your time away. Stay in touch! Kia kaha.