Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas, compassion and camping

The last few weeks for myself, leading up to this festive season, has been pretty interesting: an infection in a tooth spread into my jaw, and the thought stopping pain became a challenge. But all the way through I just thought of two things: that it'd improve and that some people live with severe pain for years in their lives! It all gets quite humbling in fact especially when I ponder that not long ago folk died of this sort of thing.

I found an effective way to deal with the pain was to keep busy so I've again been mindlessly scanning my old library of colour slides. This was essentially revisiting the past so it became a game to think of some of the nice places I've been privileged to camp at around the Christmas period.

A Christmas mountainerring bivy - Cook River in South Westland...

Getting to this amazing camping spot was not easy and I was so exhausted at one stage I discovered this was a nice way to relax...

While the rocks provided shelter for our puny 4 person tent, the rain was so bad it pooled almost into the tent [that's an early version of yours truly btw]...

So we did some excavations...

We were camping high for an attempt on the long, but technically easy west ridge of La Perouse - the route made famous by the incredible rescue and carry of Ruth Adams in 1948. [see Bob McKerrow's blog for history of La Perouse]. But opposite our campsite this was the astounding view of the Balfour Face of Mt Tasman...

When the weather cleared we then had just enough food left for one attempt on La Perouse, but for various reasons we ran out of puff. I don't recall exactly why apart from myself having a sore back - something that had developed in similar circumstances once before and debilitated me on a much easier climb. I think the others who left me picnicking, for a hour or three on a nice airy rock were also worried at the degree of our remoteness and how our resources were wearing thin.

So knowing the mountains will still be there we retreated mindful of hungry tums. That's La Perouse hidden in romantic clouds...
I mentioned it was a four person tent, but from memory we were five young souls, and so Michael closest in friendship to myself, elected to sleep alone up the hill further in a dry spot under a rock.

When "departure" morning dawned and it was obvious it was "now or never" to leave, someone went up to his dry little spot and advised him we thought it wise to head home. But he did not want to come! It fell on myself to convince him otherwise - on climbing up the hill I found him in a severe state of depression, and lacking finesse, eventually and lovingly literally emptied him out of his sleeping bag. Of course going out in the most demanding terrain on offer in New Zealand, we had many thoughts as to how easy it'd be for him to fall into the river, or down the side of the gorge. However we now know exercise is antidote for depression [up to a point]!

On our return to our homes we made sure he sought help, but very sadly within an autumn and a winter he'd passed on after a days' powder skiing. This was maybe my first encounter with, 1] depression, 2] compassion; for the ensuing experiences, which of course included his family, tested all of us with many a journey of our feelings and emotions. For myself though this was just the first insight into compassion and I found it not easy to grasp on the first encounter

That journey for me has never ended though, and it's been an "inner" one for a long time and included many teachers, and I'd not have it any other way! Especially over the last several years I've seen perspective altering examples of it. So the understanding of the importance to all of us grows on me!

I ponder often that there maybe a progression for some like myself: we [hopefully] grow up with love, then realise that it's got a flavour of "unconditional", especially from our parents [hopefully again!]. And that maybe the understanding of what is needed to help us all on our journeys is an understanding of compassion built on these solid foundations.

So while I've been tied down a bit resisting feeling sorry for myself [having to chew chocolate on one side only!], Christmas once more found me in a dry safe place with good company and food...
But I cannot escape an experience of my youth that revisits every Christmas day: Occasionally my father used to take me to midnight Mass, and on one such occasion I recall sitting behind a family I knew to be recent refugees from Hungray. Quietly and with dignity they sobbed and cried their way through the ceremony, and today the experience still haunts me every Christmas Day! The memory makes me tearful, still what is the point of this - crying will not help us develop compassion!

My son had his birthday a few days before Christmas, and that was one thing, but his present to me on Christmas day was one I found to be rather profound - one I'll treasure and never forget [it's message too], especially from a 17 yr. old...

The Dalai Lama grew up in big and wild mountains also, and maybe we need to value in different ways the fact that our country New Zealand is chock-a-block comprised of big mountains, very remote wilderness, and wonderful people, and that using these resources we can make the next year looming better in all regards...

Wishing you, by this shot symbolising warmth, a happy end to 2009 too!

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Blogger Marg said...

I Like the sentiments in this post. they make a good challenge for the new year. I'm wondering how much you could transform your daily existence if you decided that if you only had one priority for the year - to act towards yourself and others with compassion? If you benchmarked all your thoughts and actions with that notion - it could be amazing.

At this minute Im feeling compassion for your toothache. I had something similar a few years ago and it was excruciating and left me penniless.

December 31, 2009 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Ruahines said...

Kia ora Donald,
Happy New Year. Hope you had a wonderful time. Great post, love the photos and moreso the honesty and realizations of and beyond the physical journey.
I am sure it will be an interesting year for New Zealand, this is the DO year for National - and that really scares me. Good to know there are kindred souls out there. And what an amazing gift from your son - man that makes ME feel good! Kia kaha.

January 2, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

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