You’ve never been to this mountain before
laughs the cold wind
Last spring eleven artists went up to the mountains. We slept in two old houses in Kahurangi National Park, dwarfed by snowpeaks, in the Cobb valley.
we come bearing chocolate
we fossick the wreckage
we burn old logs all night laughing
telling stories of the mountain men
wondering what to paint in the sunlight
to say we breathed
on this island
As a child, my first poems came from nature. Sitting by the lake while my uncle fished, or walking through a canyon meadow on a summer camp trip, I arranged words in my head to pass time.
The journey to the Cobb for me was a return. My body was in pain, so I lay it on the valley floor by the river. Expanding my walls to merge into this high place: lying upon earth, watching and plunging in the freezing clear waters, letting words spill onto the page.
Before we are born
it is so quiet and still
the air is thinner and
clear as the
Friends sitting on rocky banks
laughing one plunges in naked
others kiss, the river sings
& here all is forgiven
the icy wind
whoever said what they said
when they said it whatever that
I am often so serious. Plenty of things in the world that one could worry about. I am very prone to considering those things my personal responsibility.
The weekend that we went to the Cobb came just after deadly 1080 poison got dumped out of helicopters over 18,000 hectares of the forests of my community, Golden Bay. Poison in the rivers, poison on the ground for anything to eat. I had worked very hard as an activist, alongside committed friends, to keep that poison operation from happening, banging heads on bureaucratic brick walls.
It’s quite something to feel you are responsible for an ecosystem and devote yourself to protecting it. It’s quite something to lose such a battle. A forced surrender, a wordlessness, a vigil for the waters, a humble bowing to all that is. It was good then to return to the arms of the mountains.
mountain sun on peaks at the end of the day:
this life is
clear water cupped in
the basket of our own fingers
to flow back into
Months later, we artists coalesced our many inspirations into a collaborative exhibition.
I handmade little books, brown paper and glue and poems and pictures. A meditation, like the construction paper projects I loved to do as a kid.
I love this quote from an Andrea Gibson poem, I've rubbed it soft like a stone in my mind's hands:
We have got to create
It is the only thing more powerful than destruction
Somehow, these hands tying these knots, fixing words in place for the power of the mountains to touch someone else's mind in quiet moments, is healing me. In this broken world, in this broken body, my refusal to let go of beauty is an act of resistance.
Leave your story
by this riverbank
The snowpeak remembers
the shape of your song from before you got it all
tangled in branches
Other artists in the exhibition also wrapped my words into their creations.
Nicola wove them into her baskets:
Ngarie, while I was writing on the valley floor, was on top of the peaks in a tutu, because of course she was. She merged the poems into her prints, joining our solo journeys:
At the opening of our exhibition, Aralyn, sculptor and painter, sang from somewhere deep. She became the wordless voice of the river as I read my words aloud, with a big colourful crowd of our community before us, surrounded by all our friends' magnificent artworks illuminated. Singing in a forest of art. One of those holy moments that is a poem in itself. A reminder of how we all weave pieces of each other’s puzzles…
the trees say
keep standing, keep loving,
the river says:
it’s the stones
that make me sing
(All the words in this entry are from my poetry/art book Bits of Cobb, pictured above – if you would like one contact me, NZ$30 covers the materials and assembly.)