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Breathing Space

Another holiday pic! Remember, ages ago I photographed Asher and Finn at Virginia Lake in Wanganui with my SLR camera (real film in those days!) and I got this shot?
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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...
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

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?"


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)
Great pictures, you can definitely tell that the boys have grown.

I like the passage. The description of the bush makes me want to visit! I can almost see the different greens!
Jul. 10th, 2007 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Cari.

You know, you've been very kind, keeping me sane and bothering so thoughtfully to keep up with me so often while you're so busy working. Tomorrow I am going to send you a present - and I finally finished that WWJFD wristband that I started last holidays so I'll send that too - it was a really hilarious experiment in workind how to weave beads into a friendship bracelet!!! *g*
Jul. 11th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
Aw, it's no problem, I love reading your posts, it's always nice to know what's going on in your life.

You don't have to send a present! That's so nice of you!! I'll be watching the mail. Thanks so much, you're such a great friend!
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
I'm still here ! Had a Full House weekend due to Jo's birthday on Sunday. It was sunny and warm so we could sit out and eat....a real treat with the way the weather is this year.

So glad you have put this passage into words...I know you had it buzzing in your head for a while....and it was worth the wait !

Nice photos of Asher and Finn, they will break a few female hearts one day !
Jul. 11th, 2007 09:24 am (UTC)
Yay for you still here!!! *waves* Happy Birthday to Jo

-I know you had it buzzing in your head for a while....and it was worth the wait !
Thanks. Yeah, it sure was buzzing around. I just needed time to relax and get it out of me!

-Nice photos of Asher and Finn, they will break a few female hearts one day !
Hee! I hope they are always gentlemen... or whatever is cool these days as long as they behave.
Jul. 11th, 2007 06:59 am (UTC)
I remember the original picture of the boys... they have grown up a lot..

Thank you for sharing your writing, I nearly asked you to share your descriptions of the bush in your last post but I wasn't sure if you'd be happy to... so thank you! I particularly like the two parargraphs in the middle, the ones starting As we cleared a small ridge, I glanced down.. and The bush we trekked through is dense as well, they are very evocative, bringing back strong memories for me! BTW where exactly are they climbing?

Thinking about NZ plants and terrain is amazing, the bush there is so much denser than here, large deciduous trees mean that you don't get the same density of undergrowth and there is a spaciousness even in well established woods. I love the Central North Island... suddenly a quick trip to Rotorua or Taupo sounds ever so attractive - but I can't just jump in the car and be there in a few short hours..

Still I am off to the Lake District next week for a few days so at least I will get hills and lakes, even if I miss out on bush and volcanic activity! Can you believe I actually long to smell that sulphurous air?!!
Jul. 11th, 2007 09:27 am (UTC)
-I nearly asked you to share your descriptions of the bush in your last post but I wasn't sure if you'd be happy to.
Hee! Yeah, I was suddenly moved to share, I guess it's the culmination of the road trip in some ways! And you all shared that with me! Thanks for reading!

The bush sure is dense here. They are climbing near Taumaranui, so central NI, south-west of Taupo.

The Lake District? Oooh, I saw that series! Be careful LOL! That will be worth some more of your wonderful photos!
Jul. 11th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
The Lake District will be great, it has some beautiful scenery... just so long as it isn't as wet as it was when we went last time!!! Four solid days of rain (and one drenched in glorious sunshine) and a 45 minute walk into town - I don't think I've ever been so wet!!! So I'm hoping that weather has got all the rain out of its system... but I doubt it somehow!!
Jul. 11th, 2007 10:22 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, I think I remember your wet days there last time!

Still, it has rained here all holidays apart from last Sunday. It has been cold too, and wild southerlies, and it's raining now, rain and rain and more rain. It's so wet, I haven't had time to repair my windscreen wiper yet. So I had to take the other car!!
Jul. 11th, 2007 10:16 am (UTC)
Nice pic of the boys. I remember you posting the first one and I liked it then and I still like it now.

You conjure up in my mind a very clear image of the bush so evocative of all that is New Zealand. Well, not all, I mean, that part that goes towards the whole... :)
Jul. 11th, 2007 10:29 am (UTC)
-I remember you posting the first one and I liked it then and I still like it now.
Hee, thanks! It was with a zoom lens, so I was really pleased it came out so well back then.

Thanks for your feedback. The bush is such an intrinsic part of NZ life, I think, to most people. And it's such a powerful bush to me, dense and green and full of amazing bird life, - and so safe. No snakes, no bad bugs, no mountain lions or bears, no poisonous spiders, porcupines, skunks, scorpions... and not many people either LOL!
I love the way you can be almost in the dark deep in the bush, then emerge on a ridge into brilliant sunshine. I love the way a fern can spread above you like an umbrella, I love the bright silver underneath the leaves of the silver fern or the papery white underside of the rangiora, I love the hairy curls of the ponga fronds, and I've even eaten a smooth one boiled up *g* You know what it's like, you go north and find the same vibrant pleasures in the land, just your land, not mine, huh.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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