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


Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

I enjoyed reading that Robb, and being part of your paddles, fishing, golfing and tekking down memory lane. In the end the mountains get you, as alluded to by Glover in his epic poem, Arawata Bill.

Ruahines said...

Cheers Bob. I guess what I was trying to write is that we all send Ripples through this world. Timmer sent a through few mine. He was a good guy and I will miss him, as I have for years anyway. Only now he is gone for good, and our dreams become memories. I will take him into the hills he never got to see and toast him with my wel used and worn tin cup.

Ruahines said...

Bob, by the way, I reckon Arawata Bill and my Tim would have understood each other perfectly. Indeed.

kylie said...

at a time like this i would normally try to avoid cliches but in this case i have only four words

i am so sorry


troutbirder said...

What a touching post. Friends of our you hold special places in who we are. A special place for me is the BWCAW. It was there that my two sons learned to be men. Perhaps my eldest son has already met your friend Timmer paddling across on Malberg lake. The poem speaks to me of my loss....

ghreeblestaff said...

Dang, brother. So sorry.
These days, as questions mount and answers dwindle almost as quickly as the days and years pass in my own little living days, the answers I can see clearly dwindle.
I try not to over think the deep worries, like what is it like on the other side, and how much do they feel toward us on this shore.
Nevertheless, I seem to feel those concerns in spite of the release of thought.
In that spirit, Robb, I feel what you have written and what you have written about.
Mitakuye oyasin,
I hope any Tangihanga you hold for your dear friend is imbued with deep good.
Walk well and softly, man.

Marja said...

You have lost something and have found something. That's live and I know all about living with your heart in two places but I am glad I came here. I loved to read about your friends and am amazed that so many of them have come over to share the ruahines with you.I love the beautiful poem

lph said...

Nice tribute Robb! I heard you speak of Timmer often. Don't believe I ever met him. Sorry for your loss!

Take care,

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Kylie,
Thank you. It is times like this being away from my original place is hardest.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
The thought of a mist filled early morning in the Boundary Waters on a on a quiet, still lake with the loons calling and the spirits of such people about fills me with warmth.
I find that poem impacts me deeply as well. Hone Tuwhare was a very well known poet here in Aotearoa, and like all great New Zealand poetry there is always that sense of the wilderness, the earth, and the connections between them and beyond. You can taste it. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Adam,
I guess in this instance what troubled me most was my distance from a place and some people I should have been around properly, but this though this world gets smaller everyday it still stays the same size.
I lit a fire and filled my tin cup with amber liquid, and tried to imagine my mate was swirling around. A Quiet send off, and a lonely one for me.
Still, the blue skies shine today and in the distance the satiny white peaks of the Ruahine shine and beckon. Maybe Timmer was here.
Keep that place for me around the campfire brother. Kia kaha e hoa.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
Hone Tuwhare is my favourite Kiwi poet, along with Denis Glover. It was kind of cool to go through those old photos and realize I have had a few good mates whom have made the trip over to share a place I love. And thank you for your words about having your heart in two places. That is exactly right, and I know you understand that.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Larry,
You have met Iron Mike, Tim's brother, a few times I am very sure. You would have enjoyed a day fishing with Timmer, and a few post angling beers as well :) -hope all is well e hoa.

Donald said...

Hi Robb

>he recognizing something in me I didn't even see myself. I needed to go fishing.

I have a person like Timmer in my life, and he saw something in me in one of tougher times, and took me mountain biking, and we had a beer or two as well.

I'm not sure they know they're "old souls", but when the chips are down for their mates they're "there" with simple words, unspoken love and solid advice.

Loosing them is hard, and may I honour the ones in my life the way you've honoured Timmer.



Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
Cheers e hoa. The good ones never do really leave us though do they.
Kia kaha.

KB said...

I'm sorry you lost your friend, all too young with too many years still waiting for him. But, I'm glad that he brought you to the mountains in a round-about-way.

My mother died at 52. At the time, everyone around me lamented how young she was. As a very young adult myself at the time, I didn't see 52 as very young. Now, as I inexorably march toward that age, I understand. I won't be even close to finished with this life in the few years before I reach my mother's lifespan.

My deepest condolences for the sad loss of your friend.

Ojibwe Confessions said...

That is so cool. A walk with your friend. It's a hard thing to lose someone. Good times are something that should be in our memories.

Robin Easton said...

Dear Wild Brother, Oh man, I came back today to do some more reading. Well...actually to feed my soul. And I just can't over this post. The love, and depth of caring you put into your friend here is transcendent. I'd already read this post once, but was drawn in again.

By "transcendent" I mean that I cannot read this without going into some kind of altered state. It's as if I knew your friend. You convey such love and knowledge of your friend, that it's as if he was also my friend. That is some hell of a tribute, some hell of a writing. Like I told you last time I read this, I feel him all around you. I just feel his spirit.

What a friend you are to those you love. Your soul runs in deep rich waters. It's why life has been the way has been for you, you feel things so deeply. I was also so touched by your comment on my facebook wall, that I could not even find words to respond. Yet I have thought everyday on what you wrote. I even shared it with Stephen. He teared up. I am so glad we are connected, that you are my good friend. One day we will have to meet. Stephen said, "I feel like we already know him." I know what he means. Thank you for all you have (and do give) just in being you. Aroha my Wild Brother. You instill great life.

PS: I forgot to tell you that your 10 year dream has now become OUR ten year dream. You and Tara doing that, and you sharing it with me, all of a sudden made it seem real, made it seem possible. We had never contemplated a "ten year" dream. You have given me a HUGE gift. We talk about you guys and your dream, almost daily. Aroha, always, Wild Brother.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Robin,
I am only discovering I have worth as a person, and therefore I can dream. It has been a long battle, but to look beyond the mere moment is something new for me, and to connect that to a result that may benefit my life is mind blowing. I wish that for you as well e hoa.
I was blown away by Stephen's post on your blog. The way he took the initiative and reached out to go beyond the smile of that beuatiful girl and reach her father was amazing. We only get one chance when those doors open. These are things I am learning through being in the wilderness, through having someone like Tara constantly challenging me, and to have friends like you, and Stephen, who simply lead by example. Mauri Ora! And much Aroha to you both.