Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Old Log

Jeff by the old tawhairaunui log.

"Tree Let Your arm's fall:Your sap shall not rise again
to the moons pull.
No more incline a deferential head
to the wind's talk, or stir
to the tickle of coursing rain".....From No Ordinary Sun by Hone Tuwhare

                 Charlie having a sleep on top of the old log. Natures perfect sun warmed mattress.

I have walked down the Maropea river, and back up it, many times now. At least once a year over the past 20 years and sometimes several. A good friend of mine once pondered the question of visiting and revisiting a wild place as either a lack of imagination or curiousity about other places as opposed to it rather indicating a love of place and building a gradual relationship with it so in a sense it becomes "home". I prefer the latter.

I came to the Ruahine a bit longer in the tooth than I would have preferred, or maybe it was simply perfect timing. Had I been a 15 year old kid I think the desire to stretch my legs in other places would have been strong pushing towards bigger and more challenging mountains and places. And I have hoisted my pack in other ranges and mountains in Aotearoa to be sure...it is simply the Ruahine stole my heart and for my life they fit perfectly.

Hericlitus was really very astute in observing we can never set foot in the same river twice. Every time I come down the Maropea there are subtle, and sometimes not so subtle changes to the river. It is never the same though there are old familiar land marks, pools, straights and rapids that remain consistent. Like road markers I can gauge exactly where I am and how far I have to go. A huge bus size boulder come to rest in some ancient flood remains at the end of the biggest rapid between Top Maropea and Maropea Forks. I rub my hand across the grainy surface as I pass by. And what has become my favourite place on the river, an old tawhairaunui log. It's surface worn smooth as glass by weather and time. About 2 hours from the hut a perfect place to stop for a rest. Shed the packs, get out the billy, have some lunch and enjoy the work done to arrive with a bit more to go. On a really fine sunny you can set on it or against it and absorb the sun's warmth from it as if it was a living breathing animal. Of course if it is windy,rainy, or even snowing I just carry on by with a wistful backward glance...

                    John prepares a sandwich on a beautiful Ruahine late morning. A perfect table.

                               Even time for a bit of a kip before resuming the trip down river.

When I am on my own and I stop here the memories of the people I have been here with become alive and vivid. John and I rest here without a word as it has become just a natural stop along the way. When I am with someone new I always lag behind a bit and watch. It is almost as if this old log just pulls you in to it force. The pace slows and always a smile when they see me undo my pack straps. Not just a smile for the rest and snacks to come, but also the beauty of the place we are in. The song of the river gentle, the water sparkling and clear. In the big scheme of things a rather insignificant old dead tree on a river, but in these tiny moments and being the only ones in the entire world to BE here and see it all it cannot help but make one smile the heart to sing.

 Taylor on the other side of the old log looking down river. On this day he passed just by it and we settled on the bank instead. I should have known...less than hour later he went missing...

I have been here with both my sons. I have been here, or past here depending on the weather with good friends, John, Nigel, Jeff, Gustav. Rick, Steve, and my brother in law Scotty. Just a log on a river, but when a place becomes familiar, becomes a "home", it is an old tawhairauni log that takes on life, form, and substance. It greets us as an old friend. I miss my friend.....

Perhaps my favourite moment by the old log. The trip after I had lost Taylor I came down river alone. The river sparkled and the day was warm and lovely. Yet I struggled with my bearings, a feeling a discombobulation that stayed stuck in my head. I stopped at the old log and had a bagel and boiled the billy. A pair of whio flew by and landed at the end of the small pool right by me. This is them...My head cleared. I was home again....