Wednesday, June 15, 2011


It has been a month or so since Taylor went missing, and got found in the Ruahine. This past month has found me vacillating between extreme highs and very melancholic lows. Highs in that, in moments, I feel so completely alive, and so understanding of what is important in my world and the things I do, a deep love I can barely contain for Taylor, Tara, Charlie, and the people I love, (and why should I contain it?), a desire and understanding of Wild Places and what they mean to me and the truth of what operating in such places means. I feel an awareness of sight, sound, vibrant colours and tones I have not seen before come into view. I find reasons to be physically close to my sons, when I touch my wife and look at her beauty I want to cry. These are good things.

Then a terrible grief and melancholic sadness rolls over me like the mist and cloud on a high exposed Ruahine ridge. I cannot get out of the way. The overwhelming sense of helplessness and loss I experienced that night at Maropea Forks, the hut illuminated only by a lonely candle in the window knowing my beautiful son was out there, lost, possibly hurt or worse just consumed my soul, burning and twisting it into to tiny knots I am still slowly untying. I fully learned and felt what it was like to have a child taken away, then by the Grace of Nature, have that child returned to me. Then I read of the young 17 year old who took his own life on the weekend, sent to his room by his parents after being expelled from his high school ball for being under the influence. Inside me I feel the grief and desolate emptiness they are living, I understand it very well. Just as I understand the same pain of the 13 children in Kawerau whom have killed themselves in the last 18 months. I feel still, the hopelessness of my friend Kevin, whom killed himself at age 15 and in a few days time would have been celebrating his 51st birthday. I will never stop missing him. I wonder why I had the gift of being able to still gaze upon my son alive given to me, am I even deserving of it?

Taylor has not had any life changing epiphany, though he does seem a bit more settled, today even landing a job in an economy where 35% of his age group is unemployed. I still worry for him, but I know out here there is really as little in the mountains once he steps out of my range that I can do for him. And I suspect the lessons out here for him fade as fast as they come into view for me. These are now his choices. He is coming into whom he will be and I am winding down into who I have become, the eternal struggle between sons and fathers. Some of the melancholy comes from that as well.

As for me, I think that sooner than later I need to return to Maropea Forks in particular, either alone or with Tara. I need to be in that area, to sit on that porch I love so much and just be part of it all. Now that I have been there at the very best of times, and the very worst of times, it simply has deepened my connection, and my aroha, for these wild places. The Lessons keep coming.

Kia kaha!




Anonymous said...

keep the lessons coming...

lph said...

Nice reflection Robb! Strong medicine are those mountains...and kinship!

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

Robb...You gotta move on. My whole life has been full of pain, hardship, suffering and lots of joys and highs. Listen to an older man that has had a dram or two tonight.

Don't keep turning the pages back, Your future, your destiny, your family is here now. Not last week or a month ago. Remember what I have told you before. The great mountaineers or people of the mountains say, " You should prefer dreams to memories." I am of course guilty of reflection, but we have to live in today, planning for tomorrow.

Dream for your family, dream for the beautiful Tara, and dream where you want to be next week, next year, next decade.

Taylor is alive. celebrate that. Move on from the Ruahines. There are other ranges. There are other songs, other music.

My Taylor, Brian Taylor was crushed to death on 22 March this year when the CTV building collapsed in the Ch Ch earthquake. He taught me to run, he taught me to win, he taught me mathematics, and most importantly, he taught me to love music and laugh. Belly laugh. He was my athletics coach for 8 years.

Taylor has been through the most important passage of rights a boy can have when he moved to manhood. Kia Kaha Taylor.

When I get a little depressed. I think of that great human being, Dag Hammerskojld (sp) who wrote:

Your duty, your destiny is here now.

And add to that,

"What you loved and what your strove for
What you dreamed and what you lived through
G sharp and A flat, E flat and G sharp
Are they distinguisable to the ear?"

Robb, move on to another range of mountains.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora LC,
I'm trying...

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Larry,
Well, I feel that is where my lessons seem to emerge. I stgarted learning that in the Boundary Waters and woods of Wisconsin, never quite putting my finger on what it was till the Ruahine. Big lesson with a child.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
I hear ya, and I respect your words and views greatly.
But I also have to take to heart the words of Kahil Gibran in getting to grips with how I feel, and what is shaping me.

"When you are joyous look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight
Some of you say Joy is greater than Sorrow, and others say Sorrow is the greater
But I say unto you, they are inseperable"

I guess this experience is still pretty raw for me, and then these incidents of youth suicide and hopelessness amongst so many young people highlighted a deep sadness within me. That is different than merely feeling sorry for myself.

As to the Ruahine, they are my mountains Bob, I came to them late, and had I been a young man with two good hips and a wanderlust like yourself or Woody Guthrie, I would have found other mountains. These will do and the call remains strong.

We are celebrating this Saturday Tara's completion of her undergrad degree and a brief rest before she continues. Before we continue. I shall raise a wee dram to you as well, to your friendship, and your challenges, your thoughts, and your continued inspiration. Kia kaha e hoa.

Mary said...

Robb, the Kahlil Gibran quote from your comment to Bob is just incredibly spot-on. To weep for that which gives you joy, and to feel joy within a terrible sorrow is what it means to be alive, I think. The two are, indeed, inseparable.

Which is why your experience just moves me so deeply, because it's an experience so disturbing and devastating, but in the end, sort of divine, in a way. As you and Taylor went through that horrible night, and then came together again, the change that it has created in both of you is perhaps a very essential part of your life's journey. I can't help but believe that this wild place, although being neither kind nor unkind in its most intrinsic sense, has given you both a gift - the gift of somehow renewing your relationship with one another, and also renewing your own personal relationship with yourselves.

I hope this is making some sort of sense, because I'm having difficulty expressing what I feel about this. I do understand the untying of knots within yourself, and the feeling of loving so deeply that it causes sorrow and almost a longing - even though what you are longing for is right there in front of you. This is perhaps the sorrow within the joy.

In any case, I "get" this. I know it. I hope that somehow this small fact gives you comfort. And also, just know that the feelings that overwhelm you exist because you are completely tuned into life and nature and truth and beauty all at once - all of which contain both the ferocious and the sublime.

Parenthetically, I love that the Whio sent you - and Taylor - their message of hope. They are like small, wise angels, I think. :)

Much, much aroha, my friend. I think of you.


KB said...

The lessons do keep coming, even as we reach that part of life where we have become who we are...

I don't know if you read my blog way back when I wrote about my dog being shot dead right at my feet while hiking and then having the gun be pointed at me for the next 30 minutes. My husband and I have never been able to have children, and our dogs have filled that void in our lives. So, having our dog shot and then being threatened as I tried to keep him alive was a horror beyond my imagination. It will be 23 years ago this July that our sweet and innocent dog was murdered, and I still cry about it. I still doubt new people, wondering if they are, at the core, good or evil, for I've seen true evil.

It might seem like an overreaction but I was diagnosed with PTSD right after the incident. It took months before I felt even remotely normal again.

So, I understand your highs and lows in the past month. I think that event in my life made me feel similar highs and lows, and I still do. I cherish each happy moment in the wilderness but I feel terrible sadness for the losses that feel like they lurk around the next curve.

I thank the Ruahines for returning Taylor unharmed, and I hope that you and Tara can return to that spot, to make it a good place for you again.

Kia kaha,

troutbirder said...

The BWCA, the flyfishing trips to Montana, the hunting, the camping trips it all part of who I am. Learning self reliance AND teamwork. One son is gone. The other is building his own life and family. We carry on. So will you...

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Mary,
You understand perfectly what I am getting at, and that makes me smile with warmth in my soul.
The synchronicity with the words of Kahil Gibran was interesting to me as well. I had been reading a bio of Woody Guthrie, and at a young age he was influenced by his writings, and then in my car a Van tune came on in which he mentions Kahil Gibran by name, then as I was searching within me a response to Bob's comment, another friend emailed those very words. Like the Whio calling to me in the early dawn outside the hut, I choose to accept these moments as significant and worthy, both in joy and melancholy. Kia ora Mary e hoa, and much aroha to you and yours.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
I do recall you writing of that, and remember being horrified at such an incident. That is something that will be forever seared upon your soul. I don't know how we move on from such events, and for me to write "get over it", or "hardern up" seems a very western (and trite) reaction to grief and death. I remember well in the darkest lowest moments of that night the feeling in my heart and the pit of stomach, and think I am never ever NOT going to feel this pain again, that it will always be with me. So to have Taylor returned still overwhelms me.
I have so many memories of my times at Maropea Forks, mostly happy, a few solo melancholy times, and now this one with Taylor. A rich tapestry of emotions and moments in a wonderful place. That is one of the benefits of having our special wilderness places to returun to again and again. They are never the same, and neither are we. I look forward to returning there soon. Kia kaha e hoa, and give those furry friends my best regards.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
I had a small taste of the grief of losing a child, the thought of living with that the rest of my days is still overwhelming, but I take your point, that somehow I wold have learned to live within that shadow, as I do with others. My thoughts go to your sons, your memories, and the places you have been, and will still see. Kia kaha.

Donald said...

Hi Robb

It seems you've entered a new passage in your life - one I know simply as ".... transformation".

One of the attributes of same is the growing awareness you're writing of. An awareness of self.

I think when this state arrives on our horizons we are tempted to not engage with it, but I think it's a gift, albeit an occasionally scary one.

So walk carefully along the "high exposed ridge" my friend. The sun will shine and disperse the wind and mist, and you'll be back where you started!

This seems the essence of the journey you've described so well



Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
I am not sure that if my lovely and beautiful wife had not challenged and demanded of me that I confront the basis of our own relationship, and open myself up to better possibilities, and also the fear that it might be we, she, or I, are better off on a different path, that I would have recognized that moment of "transformation" you write of happening to me. Interesting how so much that happens in our lives interacts with other events.
The mountains, and in my case the Ruahine have always moved me deeply, connected to some part of my soul I am only starting to understand, as, again, you write. And what I am exploring is the depth of that connection, the validity of it, it's realness, or am I just full of shit? It is easy to be in the mountains when it is good, all our ducks in a row as it were, and perhaps put up with a bit of adversity in bad weather, or a full hut, or getting a cold... and think we are doing it hard. Different again when someone we love is lost, hurt, injured, or dead, and we realize how alone we are 8, 10, 12, or more hours from a road end, and, or, contact with the world. Yet the very reasons I love such places, and such times when I am there, is the remoteness, the solitude, the disconnect from so much over stimulation out here. So, do I rest my weary thoughts, and those of loved ones out here whom always worry when I travel alone, or with my sons, by carrying cell phones, radios, gps transponders and locators, ect...? And does that not remove some of the beauty and pleasure of why I am there at all? I hope one day we night have the opportunity to sit on that very porch at Maropea Forks and thrash these things out :). Kia kaha e hoa.

Beth said...

Robb, I don't have children so I won't pretend to understand what you're feeling, but I do know the nature of love, and the nature of growing older. These comments have been interesting; we all have to follow what feels true to us. I'm one who believes simultaneously that "the unexamined life is not worth living" and that it's very important to be in the moment, each moment, as much as we can. When there's something calling to us to be examined, that takes courage and patience, and it also takes wisdom to know when the lesson has been learned, the insights gained, and to move on -- knowing we may need to circle back again later. Only you can figure out your own timing! As we get older, I think we have a greater capacity to be present to the moment and to those we love, while also thinking deeply about personal issues and transformation -- in fact, we have to do that because we have responsibilities. Good luck, my friend, I know you will be fine.

Donald said...

Hi Robb

Me again.

Let me elaborate:

I talked of our transformations - a period in life where great change happens.

It's not uncommon and there are many triggers.

The first thing I noted is that when the beginnings of my own got underway I was, [I was told later], very confused. At the time I felt desperate and lost, and sleep was elusive.

I gave in to the process almost intuitively, and then I started asking people for help.

From that moment on the teachers started arriving! They never came from where I expected.

I took refuge often in our winter mountains nearby. One day after crossing an easy pass in 18 inches of new snow [in the clearing after the front went by that dropped it], on the descent to a remote hut [on a 4wd track I might add], that same intuition told me I should not be there despite the ridiculously easy ground.

My inner friend earned my trust years ago in far wilder places, so I turned around and trudged back over the pass and went home, with the following thoughts:

"Our NZ mountains and weather are too wild to be used as the venue to sort out our heads - we have have all that in balance before going!"

I think that you also had a close call with Taylor, that could be viewed in many similar ways, and that like myself you survived it [as did he].

So... with the above avenue discounted somewhat, again intuitively I wrote even more, and looking back the thoughts were intense. Most I published to a safe person, a teacher as above - my Family Court lawyer. One of her many wisdoms was to point out to me that in the writing of my missives [which she'd requested as part of the gathering of information and trends - but I took it further], was that such writings were self affirming.

As a foot note we've been great friends now for many years, so that was an unexpected gift!

... It seems that by publishing your Posts you too are using a strong and valid technique to process the new learnings.

And of course we can all write and not publish.

But what rich and loving responses you're attracting. In short many gifts, the perspectives of which can be noted, then acted on or simply filed for later reflection. I use the word "attraction" with deliberation - you have earned the richness, by your own integrity and courage in facing changes.

It may already be happening, but a sign of the lessons having been learnt [not so much thinking of yourself and Taylor's experience here], is that they reappear - almost as a mild test to see if we've truly absorbed all, and when they do they're often accompanied by humour, irony and serendipity. In short "fun".

I think this can only happen when we let go of ego, as this enables us to become more aware - aware of our own awareness even!

When I commented on us ending up back where we started, I was thinking of this old saying, apparently Chinese: "Before enlightenment wash dishes, after enlightenment wash dishes"

Of course I could write long on what enlightenment may be, but in short I suspect that anyone claiming to have reached it, has not done so. And those that have probably become too busy to bother!

Lastly you've given me a some thoughts on my next blog, so I'll continue there in a day or two.



Ruahines said...

Kia ora Beth,
Your words are always appreciated here Beth, and as you write, in no way does being a parent or not, lessen our understanding of love, or grief. What has truly surprised me in all this is the depth of love I have discovered for my son.
I wrote on a comment on another friend's blog today, who had written a post so synchronistic and connected to mine that I was stunned, that so often I write words trying to get to grips with what I am feeling or going through. But not till reading the words of others, particularly people whom I have connected with via this medium, do things begin to make sense, clarify like the cloud lifting on a ridge I have not been on before. And if the route ahead is not fully certain, at least the way ahead comes into view. It is really an exceptional way to share and grow, and I do not fear "exposing' myself as much I would rather learn more about all this. Kia kaha e hoa.

Stella said...

Dear Robb,

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

I think maybe it's a connection to Mother Earth and all that is growing on her and living because of her. I had friends who were sure that they have had past lives, and I was wondering what I believed because I've always had dreams and images and memories of being in the Holocaust. I had another dear friend tell me that it is just the connectedness that we all have, that crosses boundaries of time and space. I've wondered about that. ABout our connectedness. About the way that the horrors in Japan and the Middle East and Africa and even down my street all play a part in the way my life and feelings ebb and flow. I've been down and up a lot lately too. I've been questioning the point of it all and have found no point in God or an afterlife or a grand purpose. I have, instead, found a point in connecting and being with others and allowing myself not to fight the loneliness and questions that come. It has made me think twice about brining a baby into this world that is giving me such a hard time and that's sort of where I am at at the moment--but also, like you said, present moments of joy and love too. That's the fragility and poignance of life, I suppose.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
Again, as I wrote above, so often the benefits of posting here, are how much more thought and understanding that is revealed to me through the observations and words of others. A benefit I never considered when I started here a few years back. So this has become a place for me to not only share thoughts and photos of my interactions with the Ruahine, but also begin to work things out in my own development as a man, husband, father, friend, and earth dweller.
I fully understand your "having the ducks in a row", or at least I am aware of it. There are times too when I feel someone tapping me on the shoulder as it were in the mountains, reminding me to be very careful on a steep climb or descent, or watch the clouds building up, to not cross a river at a particular place, ect. I am far better at accepting NOT moving these days than I was a few years ago, and if I am a day late so be it. "Being aware of my own awareness" - I like that. Looking back now at my recent experience with Taylor, I have myself on tape watching him walk away down river, while I lagged behind filming the whio and enjoying the perfect day. And I said he is not LOOKING around but rather just looking down at the river. That was my guy tapping my shoulder, and had I been completely aware I would have caught that message coming in and simply stopped Taylor while he was still in view. Just an opportunity I missed, but one I can learn from for the future.
I do feel things happening to me, or from inside me someplace. I just seem to get closer to it in the mountains. A footnote by the way. Taylor has been much more settled in the last month, a bit more focused and gentle. It has been good. He has gotten a job, and looking for others, and he is moving into a flat with a few of his mates, which requires responsibility. I can't put it all to the mountains, but I have to think some of it comes from whatever thoughts were rolling through his head as he lie on the dark and freezing cold Maropea river bank. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Stella,
I guess that is why I am becoming more and more aware of the beauty, and sadness, in each moment. That just as quickly as it is in front of us it is also behind us. Yet for that one brief flash of a breath it is part of us, and we are part of it. Then it becomes simply a memory. Which depending on who we are is either a god thing or bad thing.
To be honest I get a bit troubled by this sort of new age, white and privileged concept of "living now, in the moment, that heaven is here on earth if we would only see". Well I am sorry, but if this my heaven, then why do many live in hell in the very same moments I am supposed be happily swaying in the breeze of nirvana? When so many each day wake up and simply hope to be alive by the end of it, to find clean water and some food, to watch their children die of easily cureable disease, or bombed and maimed in another futile man made struggle about resources, politics, or religion. That just sucks.
I do find beauty in moments, in my sons laughter or a smile, a touch from my beautiful wife, a message from a friend like you, spending time in the mountains, music, photos, and even dreams. Having Taylor taken away from me, then handed back, reminds of all that and has impacted so deeply. Something is happening to me, I am not quite sure what, nor afraid of it happening. As Hunter S. Thompson wrote, "We would be fools not to ride this strange torpedo out to the end". - though he chose his own end to be fair, but that is whole new chapter to the discussion so I will leave it there. Might we still you this year e hoa? Tara and I send our aroha and hugs - we really dig you! Kia kaha e hoa.

Paterika Hengreaves said...

Kia ora Robb

Ty for commenting on my blog. Sorry for being away so long. Happy that your son found his way safely back home after his hike in the ranges.

There are so many things I would like to say about myself to friends and family in other parts of the world but sadly cyber has its limitations for there are things better said looking persons in the eyes in real time, and I'm working on that.

Take care

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Paterika,
Always good to read from you, especially after a bit of an absence, on both our parts. Glad to write Taylor seems a lot more focused since our experience, or at least looks around him a bit more.
I like the way your last paragraph reads e hoa! Kia kaha Paterika.

Ojibwe Confessions said...

Hello Rob. Man that must have been the scariest thing. I am very glad for you. Life changing for Taylor or not, it must be something that he will not forget, or you. I am so happy that it did work out. But for those 20 hours. The not knowing. Take care.
You know I admire the connections you have with the Earth. You are connected. Not too many people have that anymore.