Thursday, August 18, 2011


I love the mountains. And a certain range of mountains, the Ruahine, in particular. From the first time I set foot in them back nearly 20 years ago, something inside me knew I was home, that this place on the other side of the world from where I grew up was where I felt most at home. I still recall with vivid clarity a moment coming down from that day walk up Gold Crown ridge with Nigel and John, it was a very hot day and I had much to learn about travel in the mountains being a flatland Wisconsin boy such I was. Carrying enough water was one lesson. As Nigel climbed down ahead into the forest John and I looked down through the tupare and tawhairariki to a stream far below. We could hear it faintly, see the clear green depths of her pools, and the satiny ribbon whiteness of the rapids - and we were thirsty! Even with my thirst I was tingling inside, feeling excited and alive as I had in many years. I knew part of me would never leave these mountains.

A very good friend of mine back home in Wisconsin died this past week, far too soon at the age of 50. Tim Revane never climbed any towering mountains, he never traveled to distant lands, I am not even sure he ever left Wisconsin, he never wrote any books or went to university, he will not have any statues built in his honour, no lofty tributes from on high will grace the news recalling his feats. This will have to do. For in a circular way it was my friendship with Timmer, and the time I spent with him, and others, that brought me to that moment I described above, and gave me the presence to recognize it happening. Timmer most likely would not even acknowledge what I am writing about here, but rather he would smile at me as he opened a beer and lit another cigarette and say, "Dobber, let's go fishing".

Above is a photo of The Barbaric Open - a golf tournament we held every year in the late 80's to early 90's when I moved here to New Zealand. We played on courses from Minneapolis to Milwaukee and we were never invited back to the same one twice. Timmer is the 5th in from the right, in front of him his brother Bob, and behind Bob in the blue cap is Rick Parduhn - whom has tramped here in the Ruahine. One of my oldest friends, Quinn, is seated on the bus, with his brother Mitch in front of him, me holding young Colin Pollesh (who would now be approaching his mid 20's!), on my right in the blue tee shirt is Phils, and to his right in the blue shirt is Gustav, whom has been in the Ruahine many times and now lives in Tasmania. The guy with the arm around the fellow next to Gustav is Todd, the father of young Colin, and now a charter boat captain on Lake Michigan, and closest on the left is Iron Mike, the other brother of Tim and Bob and also one of my oldest friends.

Timmer in the crash helmet with Mitch ready to board his amply supplied golf cart. This was vintage Timmer. In a bus load of characters and personalities he always had a surprise, or a perfect comment on any situation. Then he would just sit back and laugh.

An evening at Selen's in Milwaukee, a sort of going away gathering before I left on this part of my life to join Tara here in New Zealand. She had returned earlier as her visa had expired, and on the day she left we found out she was pregnant out in San Francisco. Interesting times. Out of a lot of my mates one of the most supportive was Tim in his own unique way. He kept my car running, helped me move, kept the whiskey flowing, took me fishing, made sure I had lots of venison - big chunks marinated in orange juice and grilled rare on the Weber. He always planned to come over to fish and hunt and see these mountains I was so fond of. He never did. So it is up to me to take him there with me and I will.
Above: Todd, Phils, Timmer, me, Iron Mike, Bogger, and Tony Maio. Enjoying the best prime rib in Milwaukee and all the trimmings.

A spot of croquet on the afternoon of my 30th birthday. Summer 1990. Iron Mike playing out of the rough while Todd and Timmer eye up the situation, me not really caring much, Roaster - another Ruahine veteran, Bob, and Phils.

Timmer loved to fish and hunt. At a time not long after my birthday I struggled a bit. A relationship ended badly, I quit a job I hated and went back to school. Timmer decided I needed to start fishing again, which I had not in years. He took me out and reignited the flame within me. He taught to me to slowly stalk and hunt fish from shore, to do it with purpose and stillness. Yet is was being outside that meant more to me, the smell of the woods, the sunlight glistening on the lake, this stirring inside of me I had yet to understand. So I eventually returned to the Boundary Waters, a magical place of lakes, woods, rivers, bears, and wolves, and accessible only by canoe. My friend Quinn and I spent 8 amazing days there and relished each second. I owe that to Tim and he recognizing something in me I didn't even see myself. I needed to go fishing.

Sitting by the fire on Mahlberg lake. 3 days paddle from the nearest road end.

A walleye caught from shore. A few more and dinner is served.

The final evening at Bashatong Lake. May the waters on the other side be as still for your paddle my brother, may the walleye be large and hungry, the woods full of deer, and the firewood dry. Keep that fire burning e hoa. See you soon.

"Farewell farewell,
Let the heavens mumble and stutter
Let them acknowledge your leaving us
Mine is the lone gull's cry in the night
Let my grief hide the moon's face
Let alien gods salute thee and
with flashing knives cut open
the dark belly of the sky
I feel rain spit in my face
I bear no malice, let none stain my valedictions
For I am at one with the wind
the clouds heave and the slapping rain
the tattered sky with the wild solitude
of the sea and the streaming earth
which I kneel to kiss............."
Hone Tuwhare - Lament (1)
Deep River Talk - Collected Poems