Archive for the ‘New Zealand’ Category

Listen to the Music – Change the World

28/04/2014

The Creation of a Song Can Change the World

Doobie Brothers' Tom Johnston at Elvis Costello in Queenstown, New Zealand, April 2014

Doobie Brothers’ Tom Johnston and Elvis Costello in Queenstown, New Zealand, April 2014

I’m here to kindly challenge a comment  Doobie Brothers singer/songwriter Tom Johnston made about his song “Listen to the Music” in an interview with SongFacts. If you’ve not heard the tune, you’re probably mistaken. You have, and just didn’t know it.  It’s been on top radio lists (topped the charts at #11) and has been heard in advertising for major brands and is one of the most uplifting songs written.

Last night we saw the Doobie Brothers in Queenstown New Zealand at the Queenstown Blues and Roots Festival. It was a great experience.  I used to drive many highway miles in my college days from the East Coast to Utah,  listening to their music, so seeing them live for the first time 40 years later was full-circle experience.

The Doobie Brothers’ first hit was written by the band’s lead vocalist Johnston, who also played guitar on the track.  Johnston described the motivation for the song as a call for world peace:
“The chord structure of it made me think of something positive, so the lyrics that came out of that were based on this utopian view of the world.

“The idea was that music would lift man up to a higher plane, and that world leaders, if they were able to sit down on some big grassy knoll where the sun was shining and  just listened to the music – such as the type I was playing – would figure out that everybody had more in common than they had not in common, and it was certainly not worth getting in such a bad state of affairs about.

“Everybody in the world would therefore benefit from this point of view. Just basically that music would make everything better. The world would be a much better place. And of course I’ve since kind of realized it doesn’t work that way.  It was very utopian and very unrealistic. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

I think Johnston might have been a bit premature in that assessment.

Mark Laurent Singer Songwriter

Mark Laurent
Singer Songwriter

Auckland New Zealand recording artist Mark Laurent  writes in a song on track 2 of his album Undergrowth,
Everything we do, matters somewhere,
You let the cat jump out of the bag,
It hits the floor running and never looks back,

I’m gonna pick up this ball point pen, I’m going to change the world,
I play the chord and I play it again, I’m going to change the world,”

This adds fuel to the creative fire and idea, that words and music do indeed change the world and that Johnston’s intent in writing Listen tot the Music,  is actually being realized. To the untrained eye, it might seem hard to see sometimes, but by focusing on what is good in the world, actually we see that humankind is on the brink of colossal change for the better, evolution and at the same time upheaval.  The Hundredth Monkey Effect  is right at our doorstep.  The tipping point, when we’ll really be living fully in a humane, compassionate and just world is happening before our eyes.

The energy is changing throughout the world. Check out Where the Hell is Matt if you’ve not seen it yet, for a powerful video with regular people dancing from all over the world, set to very timely music which was written for the video. THAT sort of thing was simply not possible a few years ago. There is no way the old order can survive such positive vibes.

Pat Simmons and son performing Listen to the Music, Queenstown, NZ

Pat Simmons and son performing Listen to the Music, Queenstown, NZ

Speaking of positive vibes, when the Doobie Brothers played Listen to the Music as their encore, I could just feel a wave of energy. Call it what you want, but “that is powerful medicine”, as spiritual teacher Sun Bear used to say.

Co-lead band member Patrick Simmons also was putting out great vibes on stage.  “He must do inner work of some sort” I thought to myself,  as I saw him play the evening out. He seemed perfectly at home in his own skin playing on stage.  Probably, he’s just as peaceful off stage as he appears on stage, unlike a lot of rock stars, as witnessed by the tabloids, (not that I read them).

As I used to be a wire services photographer, (UPI) I usually take my camera to events, and caught a shot of Simmons sharing the microphone with a young performer. We thought it might have been one of the buskers who had played earlier, who had been  invited up on stage. It seemed to make a good shot, so I took few and sent them off the Doobie Brothers’ website. I got a quick reply and was informed the young performer is Simmons’ son Patrick Jr, who is doing good work on the music scene in his own right in Hawaii.  Maybe we can get him to come down to our Mountain Spirit Secluded Sanctuary here in Hawea/Wanaka to do a workshop sometime.

So, listen to the music everyone, and change the world. And to Tom Johnston…keep writing!

Images: Queenstown shots: R. Richards | Mark Laurent from his webpage
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned as I find some links for these songs.

 

 

 

New Zealand Singer Loving Life on the Road in N. America

08/09/2013

By Lucy Ibbotson
Otago Daily Times

Van Riel On Tour in Bodie California

Van Riel in Bodie California

Lake Hawea, New Zealand singer-songwriter Anna van Riel, between gigs on her sustainable house concert tour across North America, plays with daughter Matilda (2) in Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Two-thirds of the way through her sustainable musical road-trip across Canada and the United States, Lake Hawea, NZ singer-songwriter Anna van Riel says the 15 months spent planning and fundraising for the experience has all been worth it.

”I’m still pinching myself,” Ms van Riel told the Otago Daily Times in an email from Colorado.
”I can’t believe we did it. That we’re here. It’s been so much cooler than I anticipated.”

Accompanied by husband Locky Urquhart and their daughter Matilda (2), Ms van Riel has spent the past two months travelling from British Columbia, through Washington State, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, performing quirky concerts in private homes, farmers markets, trailer parks and other venues.

This week, the trio have been camping at Read the rest of this story at Otago Daily Times…
lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz

Life & Death in the Mountains

16/08/2013

At What Cost?
By R. Richards

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

Vinton-Boot in Chamonix

If you live in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, and have anything to do with climbing, the name Jamie Vinton-Boot pops up all the time. New hard routes, and lots of them. The other day, the news that he had been killed in an avalanche sent shock waves through the climbing community, right after the sad news that NZ climbers Marty Schmidt and his son Denali had been swept away by an avalanche at a high camp on K2 in the Himalaya. 

Vinton-Boot was a new father who leaves his new baby and wife behind. And the loss of Schmidt and his son are a one-two punch which seems hard to fathom. I was chatting with a checkout person in the grocery store about these losses, and part of her summation was, “At least he was doing something he loved to do.”  Being a new father myself, I’m trying to balance my adventure goals, (not that I’m a cutting edge climber by any means) with the risk involved. My risk, (subject hazards) seems worlds apart from the climbers’ mentioned here. Vinton-Boot had decided to do easier routes since becoming a dad, so states the article below.  Easy terrain for him might be my upper limit, so it all depends on what you’re comfortable with.  It’s the objective hazards that give you the chop, no matter how easy the terrain.  Whether it’s a ski descent or a mixed route, easy or hard, there are those hazards, and if it’s your time to go,  you get the chop.

As the list of friends, mentors, and famous climbers who’ve gotten the chop grows, the whole thing, for me, comes down to making damn sure I’m stacking the deck in favor of being around for my son. There’s simply no reason not to be. Sure, I could get hit by a car, (as the checkout girl added in her summation), but looking for trouble is a different matter. 

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown's Remarkables Range, NZ

Vinton-Boot in Queenstown’s Remarkables Range, NZ

When it comes right down to it, we have to really evaluate what roles and games we’re playing in the world of mountaineering. Are internal peaks and challenges of the family journey not enough? Or what about being very present in the mountains without having to be on the edge (See Mindfulness in the Mountains). What is the measure of a man, a climber, a father?  I’m just saying…it’s time for me to continue to re-evaluate my everyday decisions as if I were on the end of a lead rope. I have people I’m belaying in life: my wife, my son. And that’s a handful in itself, I don’t want to drop that belay, at any cost.  As my mentor and former boss, Willie Prittie said to me in Peru when we were guiding there, “It’s just as important to get down the mountain, (with all your limbs and digits intact), as it is to make the summit. On second thought, it’s more important.”

The following is from an op-ed ..More food for thought:
Climber not at fault: friend
By Paul Hersey, Climber and friend of Jamie Vinton-Boot
Otago Daily Times
Warrington mountaineer Paul Hersey has attended the funerals of many of his mountaineering mates but he will continue to climb.

Mr Hersey (45) said Christchurch climber Jamie Vinton-Boot (30) was a close friend and the pair had climbed together extensively in New Zealand. Mr Vinton-Boot was swept off his feet by snow on Monday when traversing and fell 500m to his death into a Remarkables ravine. Mr Hersey and Mr Vinton-Boot created the climbing documentary One Fine Day on a Mountain, which won a special jury award at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival this year.

Mr Hersey said the risks to which Mr Vinton-Boot had exposed himself had been exaggerated and conditions at the Remarkables were reasonable for climbing. The avalanche risk was standard for winter mountaineering and not at high or extreme levels, and the ”snow release” was a ”small, isolated pocket”. ”It’s not an avalanche; more a snow sluff, a small release of snow. It can happen a lot when climbing.”

Mr Vinton-Boot was not anchored up because he was traversing to the route, he said. The more difficult a climb, the safer the climb usually was, because more safety gear was used. ”But on a more moderate climb, or approach, you can’t rope up for those situations because it would take forever and you wouldn’t actually get to the climb. In this case, it was walking across a snow slope.”

Mr Vinton-Boot was a safe climber and the wrong message had been attached to his death. ”He’s a really close mate, one of my best mates, and you stick up for your mates and in this instance, he was taking all the reasonable safety steps … Jamie wasn’t doing anything wrong. It just happened.” Mountaineers seek a challenge, not risk, he said. ”But that’s a consequence of the environment sometimes.”

Christchurch mountaineers Marty and Denali Schmidt, who were killed while climbing K2 in Pakistan last month, were also read the rest of this story..

Marty Schmidt & Son killed on K2

29/07/2013
Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

Denali and Marty Schmidt, Mountain Guides Extraordinaire

A New Zealand father and son’s tent has been found wrecked and vital climbing tools left abandoned, confirming fears they have been swept away and killed in an avalanche on the world’s deadliest mountain. Marty Schmidt, 53, and Denali Schmidt, 25, were hoping to become the first father-and-son team to conquer K2 in Pakistan – but they hadn’t been heard from since Friday.

Others in their climbing party turned back the day before because of the threat of an avalanche and bad weather. A Sherpa went looking for the pair on Sunday and discovered their tent wrecked by an avalanche. Equipment they would have needed to keep moving was found intact nearby.

“The news from the findings of the Sherpa who went up to their camp has us grieving tonight. They’d need their crampons and axe to go either up or down on the mountain,” said Becky Rippel, co-owner of Canada-based mountain guide firm Peak Freaks, Marty Schmidt’s employer.

Late last night, Sequoia Di Angelo, daughter and sister of the climbers, emailed the Herald: “It is with great sorrow that I confirm the tragic deaths of my beloved brother and father, Denali and Marty Schmidt. May their spirits rest in peace and their smiles never be forgotten.”

British climber Adrian Hayes – one of those who turned back – said the Schmidts were well known, highly experienced and very strong mountaineers – Read the rest of this story at New Zealand Herald

Editor’s Note: Although I never met Marty in person, I was acquainted with him, and knew of his great reputation here in New Zealand. My heart goes out to his family in Christchurch, and extended family and friends elsewhere.

Living Life, When Life is Short

14/06/2013
Tom on board his yacht in Bluff, New Zealand

Tom on board his yacht in Bluff, New Zealand

I had the good fortune to meet Tom Shepherd yesterday, here in the little town of Kingston, New Zealand.
Although he won’t admit it, Tom has a remarkable story to tell, which actually isn’t over yet. He’s half way through a “figure-8 circumnavigation” of the North and South Islands of New Zealand – and he’s learning to sail as he goes along. What’s more impressive is he’s approaching his 84th birthday next month, and, he has been diagnosed with cancer. Seven years ago he was given six months to live. Every six months after that, for two years, nothing happened. He finally decided he wasn’t going to sit around to see would happen.  Learn more of his story:

When he sailed in to the docks in Motueka, near Nelson,  people were gathering and walking down the dock to greet him with “You must be Tom Shepherd, the fellow sailing down the coast.”  Word had traveled before his arrival. Since then he’s been interviewed by the Maori Channel here in New Zealand. He was kind enough to grant me the interview (see above), but, half joking, said he was considering going into hiding.

The next leg of his journey would provide an opportunity as a recluse, as he heads from New Zealand’s southern tip into the deep fjords of the the west coast. I want to keep track of this man – who is an inspiration. He’s getting out there and doing something. He’s not posting on Facebook or blogs, he’s just doing it. Tom’s adventure is about being alive as much as it is the uncharted journey on his yacht. It reminds me of the quote by William G.T. Shedd – “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.”

Please see the posShepherd, Tomt interview clip, (below) of how Mr. Shepherd “rubbed off” on a bummed out cab driver in the Christchurch area. It’s been said that one of the tenants of a spiritual person is to serve as a fire that helps kindle the soul of another. Tom Shepherd humble, but the results around him seem to be clear. He’s making this place a better world, just by living.

See this great video piece on Maori TV’s Native Affairs about Tom’s Journey

Sixto Rodriguez – A 40-year Overnight Success.

01/03/2013
Sixto Rodriguez

Sixto Rodriguez

Searching for Suger Man – The Life and Times of Sixto Rodriguez
By R. Richards,
Mountain Spirit Institute Founder
It’s been said that happiness and sorrow are different sides of the same coin, and that presence is the razor’s edge one walks to weather life’s ups and downs in peace. This comes to mind when I think of Sixto Rodriguez‘s life story, told in the Oscar winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man directed by Sweden’s Malik Bendjelloul.

Director and Subjects of Searching for Sugar Man

Director and Subjects of Searching for Sugar Man

For those unfamiliar with this documentary, it’s the story of a folk singer/songwriter with a powerful gift of prose and music who never “made it” in the U.S. when he released two albums in the early ’70’s. When the releases never took off, he just went back to work in his home town of Detroit, doing construction and remodels.  He and his promotional agents couldn’t believe his albums never became popular. (more…)

Write Something, Anything

24/02/2013

By R. Richards, Founder
Mountain Spirit Institute
Dateline: Auckland, New Zealand

Let them eat cake

Let them eat cake

I don’t mean write just anything of course, but get writing. For some of our regular readers, you may have noticed I haven’t been around much these past months. It’s been quite a year, what with selling the family home (a good thing), sifting through and giving away a lot of stuff, running MSI programs, and lastly, moving back here to New Zealand.

We arrived yesterday, complete with our 19-month old toddler, on my birthday. (Thanks for all the good birthday wishes by the way from folks on Facebook.) We had planned on being here months ago, but in toddler-ville, everything seemed to take longer. Not that I’m complaining, because we saw people, go for a ski or a skate, and plan the move properly.

Now that we’re here, it’s time to, among other things, put on the writing hat back on, and keep writing –  something, anything.

I’ve got a lot on my mind, and of course, I want to post an update and synopsis of our latest collaborative program with Lama Willa Miller and Wonderwell Mountain Refuge in the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region of New Hampshire called Nordic Nirvana.  Stay tuned with some other observations and things that have come across my path, including Searching for Sugarman, (It looks like we might actually see Rodriguez in concert here in Auckland in a few weeks), and wherethehellismatt.com plus some of the random observations and news I have covered over the years.

We’re pretty tired, and we’re still geared to NH time, which makes it 4:30AM (and I’m still not in bed), but I thought I’d write something, anything.

NZ Alpine Club’s Nice Cover Shot

10/08/2012

New Zealand Alpine Club‘s Climber magazine, sports John Taficuk climbing the Temple Buttress at Temple Basin on the South Island at Arthur’s Pass.  What do you think?

Mixed (?) climbing on New Zealand’s South Island

Learning to See

23/01/2012

By: R. Richards

The wonder of a palm frond in the morning sun, nz.

I’ve often been thinking how having a child is like teaching an 18-yr Outward Bound course, for the parents. The bus arrives when the baby is born and it may leave when the teen turns 18, but maybe not.  Of course, no one wants to hear the worn our phrase, “you learn through your children” but I’m reminded of the Kogi tribe (see the BBC film Elder Brother’s Warning) in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains who hide their shamans-in-training in a darkened hut, never seeing the light of day until their 18th birthday. Then, after years of preparation, after telling them what the world looks like, they see their world for themselves, for the first time with their own eyes. As the wonder of a baby, with new eyes, but with training, so they can see their world more clearly to do their shamanic work.

Seeing our baby boy look with glee at the morning sunrise, and the light shining through some palm leaves this morning is an eye opener. I felt “more aware” after I survived being tossed around in a van roll-over in 1988. “Everything looked new and pristine”, as Eckhart Tolle put it after his awakening experience.  I felt like lucky to still be on the planet. That default feeling subsided after a few weeks, and now I have to work at being present by doing what I call “remembering my spiritual practice”. For me it’s meditating and listening to Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now.  Reminders can take almost any form as long as it helps

An Eye Catcher - Are you watching though?

bring one back to their center.  In recent talks with newly elected Mountain Spirit Institute board member and mountain guide/instructor Ken Wyle, he’s been relating how writing his book on being buried in an avalanche which killed seven people, is a catharsis. Tolle says that people who are more conscious in their lives have usually had some tragic loss in their life that shook them out of the dream state we call normal life.

Our baby boy, laughing as he looks out the window of our van whizzing down main street in Kingston New Zealand,  is a reminder to me – “What am I missing? I want to see like he sees!”  The good news, it’s wholly possible. I’ve been seeing, more than dreaming during the last ten years.  And it’s obivous when I’m not present. I might go a whole morning or day and realize I’ve not been present until something catches my eye, like a detail of a stem in a vase, or the bustle in supermarket, or of course, a sunset.

Learning to see and live in the moment sure beats the alternative, and I’m not going back. When you beat your head against a wall long enough, you finally decide you’ve had enough of that, and make the choice to stay in peace, no matter what happens. A side benefit of being at peace is your mind isn’t filled with crap, so you are free to see such things as the morning light shining through some palm fronds.

Images: R. Richards, taken this morning

A “Modest” Kiwi Environmental Centre

14/01/2012

Check out the South Coast Environmental Society, and stay tuned for the video, “Welcome to the Food Forest”. There are tons of volunteer opportunities as well.