Well, we tried to revisit it, in colour, and you can see their relationship has changed, as Finn has grown older and someone Asher can relate equally to in many ways...
In other news, we had a really quiet day. Christy went off to learn how to film a documentary at school (it's still holidays) and Finn learned how to make a film here at home, with story board and all. I finally completed the page of describing the bush near Taumaranui for Breathing Space - I've been wanting to write that passage all term, so it was a relief to get it down in words. I'd just left a XXXX in its place for ten weeks! And I added in the bit from Sunday, about the journey and the goal. I liked that and wanted to play with it. I'll see how I feel about it as time goes by!
I wrote this in the end, so it's not - well, completely edited yet - often whole passages like this get totally deleted later...
Once into the bush, despite my general weariness I started to really relax for the first time in a couple of weeks. Clad in a warm bush shirt, woollen beanie on my head, my light pack on my back, I was enjoying the initial climb away from civilisation. The bush was damp from a heavy morning dew, the leaves glistening greenly around us.
I love everything about our bush, particularly the colour. I am forever taken by the many shades of green that blend together to make up the beauty of the bush here in the central North Island. The land is steep; deep gorges formed by years of erosion plunge into icy creeks of crystal water that tumble and rush playfully away from the dark might of the mountains. But despite the ruggedness of the land, the trees thrive, with immense trunks that climb fantastically into the sky, many over a metre wide, with thick, flaking bark, sharp-edged leaves, their branches reaching majestically towards the canopy.
And it's the greens of these trees in this part of the country that won my heart. I love the leathery, glossy dark green leaves of the rata tree, the paler serrated fingers of mid green of the rewarewa, the light yellowy-green of the tawa; the central North Island bush is a myriad of varied shades and they blend together to create a brilliant native forest of contrast, depth and wonder. Most magnificent of all, perhaps, is the mighty and graceful rimu, reaching thirty or forty metres into the sky. Rimu is also one of our most ancient trees, and has a beautiful wood and I pointed out to the boys that it was used for all the woodwork on three or four floors of the Parliamentary Beehive down in Wellington. The boys gazed at the flaking strips of bark, probably straining to imagine the potential of the wood encased within that dubious exterior.
As we cleared a small ridge, I glanced down into the valley on our left. A solid sweep of bush covered every inch of ground for a considerable depth. Dotted across the canopy, reaching higher, and almost defiantly above the bush, were the occasional tall tree ferns, huge filigree umbrellas with diamond marked trunks, and, closer to the fringes of the bush, spiky, bright cabbage trees, with their cheeky heads of pointed leaves at the ends of long, curving trunks like palm trees. The contrast of these with the solidity of the bush and the other taller, small-leaved trees is fascinating and refreshing.
The bush we trekked through is dense as well. We couldn't move through it without following one of the criss-crossing tracks that wend their way from the mountains to the coast. The undergrowth is solid and requires concentration to avoid tripping over thick ferns intertwined with vines and the long trails of roots from epiphytes like the rata.
The middle of the North Island is a hearty hotbed of volcanic activity. Mountains rise steeply right out of ancient crater lakes. We headed up a track that narrowed as we climbed. We had to watch our feet, walking in sludgy, creamy clay that clung to the thick tree roots snaking back and forth across the track. The boys complained about it at first, but as the track became steeper, they had to shut up and work on just staying on their feet. And I tried desperately to control my breathing, but I was puffing early on, and continued to do so all the way up that rise.
Phil was aware when I was struggling, of course, but we'd come to a kind of arrangement, where I try to do the best I can, then he'll push me a little further, then we'll stop and rest. He learned to listen to my breathing, to listen out for the telltale whistle or the little clicky sounds at the end of my out breaths. He is observant and patient and it meant we could tramp right from the start with reasonable success, considering my limitations. We enjoy one another's company immensely, and never have any difficulty making conversation, so our stops are also welcome chances to just talk.
One time a year or so back, we had stopped atop a sunny ridge, me collapsing, wheezing, into a soft mound of toetoe, its cream coloured fronds waving gently above me. Phil had been apologetic.
"Sorry, Nick, I pushed you a bit hard then." He had squatted in front of me, his face full of concern. "You've been doing so well lately, I guess I wasn't really listening to you."
I waved a hand of dismissal. "I'm okay. Just give me a few minutes."
"Sure." Phil had plonked down on a soft bed of ferns alongside me. "Let's just talk."
I took a couple of puffs from my inhaler and leaned back, closing my eyes, letting the warmth of the sun wash over me. "Tell me about your dreams, Phil."
"What the hell?"
"Dreams." I coughed for a moment. "What d'you want from this life?"
Phil had snorted, but settled into a thoughtful silence, broken only by my coughing and the liquid whistles and clacking calls of some sociable tui somewhere above us in the trees.
"Do you mean, where am I headed, what my goals are?"
I opened my eyes and shrugged at him, "Not necessarily. What if the journey is the goal?"
"Whoa! That's getting deep, Nick. You planning on teaching philosophy next?"
"Nope! But I guess I'm just asking how things are going, for you, are you moving in the right direction, that sort of thing."
He fell silent once more, staring out across the valley. I closed my eyes again, trying to regain some control over my breathing, and I felt the silence float around us, wrapping us in a comfortable restfulness. To me, there's something about a silence between people in the bush that's different to any other time. It is okay to be silent here, surrounded by extraordinary trees and birds, bold black tui flitting deep in the trees, tiny, brave fantails wheedling closer to us with every swoop, light and shadow accentuated by the brightness of the midday sun, green bush every way we looked, the greenness climbing tenaciously up the slopes and clinging tenaciously to the peaks of small mountains all around us.
At last, Phil sighed deeply. "You know what, Nick? This is it for me. Being outdoors in this great place, earning a living teaching subjects I love, married to Hayley – I think you're right, this journey is my goal." He'd grinned at me enthusiastically. "Thanks, mate, for helping me to see that." Then he'd sobered a little, "What about you, Nick?"
I'd shaken my head. "Later. I'm feeling a bit better, Phil, let's keep moving." Phil had cheerfully pulled me out of the toetoe bush and we'd set off once more…
A hand tugging at my backpack broke me out of my reminiscences.
"Mr G, you're not listening."
I looked back at the boy behind me. "What?"