I went and talked to a tree today and she spoke back to me;

 

Halfway through the journey is not the time to second guess my chosen direction at all those crossroads in my life.

Halfway through the journey is the time to seek out the ancient paths and walk in them.

And whose to say this is halfway anyway?!

 

Living like an immortal – as if I have forever to mend all the carnage from rampaging my way through this life.

Slaying my dragons, cutting lovers off at the knees, mortally wounding and cutting out hearts.

Continue reading I went and talked to a tree today and she spoke back to me.

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After participating in Seek Me Retreats in 2013 and 2014, the following year saw me take a week out of my busy life for a guided retreat at Te Ngakau Waiora in Auckland – a work of Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa, Sisters of Mercy New Zealand.

Their very name carries some of their story.

Ngakau means the heart, seat of affections and feelings;

Wai means water, the memory of things heard;

Ora means life and well-being;

Waiora means the place of life-giving waters.

With their mission to be a peaceful city oasis which facilitates and nurtures relationship with God and provides opportunities for personal renewal in harmony with creation –  it was just what my entire being; mind, body and soul needed.

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Sr Christina Cathro was my guide  – someone I sat with and shared with and cried with for an hour each day then the rest of my time was spent silently contemplating, reading, crying out to God, soaking up the sights and smells of a wet Autumn in Cornwall Park and putting pen to paper.

Following a period of frustration and confusion, deceit and destruction which ended in feeling attacked, judged and condemned – their guilt messages instead of grace; I experienced an outpouring of grace like never before and I soaked it up like one lost in the desert for days.

Prior to the retreat I had sat with a pastor who was trying to give us the tools required to rebuild our shattered relationship.  I said to him that if I didn’t connect with God in a real and tangible way then I was chucking the lot!

But speak to me he did!  The very first moment my bible opened to Hosea 2:14-15, And now, here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to start all over again.  I’m taking her back out into the wilderness where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.  I’ll give her bouquets of roses.  I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.  She’ll respond like she did as a young girl, those days when she was fresh out of Egypt.

The search for love and intimacy from a man had crashed and burned all around, so for God to speak into the very heart of the matter got my attention – he totally wants us body, mind and soul – not just our bums on pews, ears half listening on Sunday mornings!

Feeling loved and accepted I began to contemplate the mess of the situation I had got myself into and all my fears seemed to flood my being and suffocate me then I read Isaiah 43v2-4, Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.  I’ve called your name,  You’re mine.  When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there for you.  When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you’re between a rock and a hard place it won’t be a dead-end.  Because I am God, your personal God.  The Holy of Israel, your saviour.  I paid a huge price for you.

The next day Sr Christina told me to stop beating up on myself and to be gentle and connect with God and then it would all become clear as I sought direction for my life and then she told me to go walk around Cornwall Park and talk to a tree and hear what it has to say!  My journal entry reads:  She wants me to go for a walk and talk to a friggin tree and then listen to what it tells me!!!!  And then a little further on in my journal … Just got back from my walk around Cornwall Park – was gorgeous and interesting watching people.  I didn’t like the first tree I chilled out on and the next one I spent ages with but she didn’t speak to me – she probably knew I thought she was gnarled and ugly on the side of the hill with her big roots all through volcanic rock!!  Was relaxing though.

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The next day I reported in quite proudly that the tree hadn’t spoken to me, feeling like it proved I wasn’t some sort of crack pot but she sent me back to have another listen!

Journal entry 5/5/2015 reads… Woah, my mind is blown – I went back and spent time at the tree – I walked around it, I leant over a branch and rested on it between where the trunk kind of branched off in two.  I sat on knobbly roots in two different places, I prodded sticks into holes by the roots and even dropped a rock down one of the deep holes then I sat up against it leaning my head against the trunk and closed my eyes.  I even apologised for saying she was ugly and gnarled!

The impression I got back was along the lines of wherever I am be the real me.  I was thinking that it was stink for the tree to be stuck in a paddock on the side of a hill amongst volcanic rock and quite exposed to the weather, especially so close to a nice park!  Then I thought about myself stuck on the farm when there were so many versions of myself that I want to be – happily married me, single me, me in a completely new relationship me, me in an orphanage in Malawi me, jumping on a plane and helping with the disaster relief in Nepal me.

Then I got “put down roots where you are, if there are rocks go over them or around them – it doesn’t matter if you’re on the side of a hill or exposed to the weather, work with what you’ve got – don’t wish you were a palm tree on a tropical island or a tall skinny tree or one with better, shinier leaves – be fully me.

I spent ages trying to find some sort of treasure or momento and got the impression it had been around a bit so anything exciting had been found a long time ago.  I picked a twig so I could at least figure out what type of tree it was!  There was sheep poo around it, cigarette butts, a broken CD and a smashed booze bottle so I certainly wasn’t the first person to have hung out there!

Then I looked up and could see straight up to the top of One Tree Hill and straight out to the Sky Tower and other high points in Auckland and Rangitoto and decided it wasn’t in such a bad spot after all!  Then as I headed back to the path I noticed a wooden notice board.  My tree was an Olive Tree  Planted in the 1860’s by Sir John Logan and was originally one of 5000 as he tried to grow them for the oil but most of them ended up being sterile and only about 200 of them remain today so my tree may have been 150 years old!  And it was happy where it was and didn’t wish it had been planted in the Mediterranean!

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Later when I was back in my room I googled and was surprised by all the symbolism and how ancient they are and how they are frequently mentioned in the bible and how they had an amazing purpose – to produce olive oil which is highly prized.

The Hebrew word for Olive means to shine and is related to another word to be brilliant and another Hebrew word for it means to be prominent and brightness.  I also read, “They are ordinary in appearance and size, some might say a little bit ugly and during certain seasons a bit messy!  When it becomes old the trunk acquires a unique pattern of twists and turns and protuberances and knots giving the tree a very interesting appearance.  There are trees in Israel estimated to be 1000 years old that still produce fruit!  Olive wood is very hard and beautifully grained and it was the most valuable tree to the ancient Hebrews.

The entire experience moved me to capture my thoughts in the form of a poem – the first of many I wrote during that week of contemplation.

I spent a large chunk of my week reading the women at the well story found in the book of John.  Jesus broke through ethnic, social and cultural barriers, he always asks us to give to him – he doesn’t want to take from us, he doesn’t force himself on anyone – gives us the option to reject him, and once we’ve tasted living water the old wells leave you more dissatisfied.

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Psalm 61:1-6 – God listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer.

When I’m far away from anywhere, down to my last gasp I call out.

Guide me up High Rock Mountain

You’ve always given me breathing room – a place to get away from it all

A lifetime pass to your safe house – an open invitation as your guest.

You’ve always taken me seriously God – made me welcome among those who know and love you.

That day saw me head off and climb Mount Saint John – that was my “High Rock Mountain” for the day!

On the walk home I bought an Expresso Magnum ice-cream then popped across the road to a booze shop and bought two little mini bottles of whiskey – didn’t really know what that was all about but felt I wouldn’t get unstuck with two minis!  That night I was restless – I texted,  read poems, listened to songs and googled lyrics late into the night.

My journal reads, Maybe I’ll hide my phone – I’m feeling scattered…… whatever that means – I guess the opposite of centred!

The next verse to speak to me was Jeremiah 17:4-10, Cursed is the strong one, who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.

He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie out of touch with the good earth.  He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.

But blessed is the man who trusts me, God – the woman who sticks with God.  They’re like trees replanted in Eden putting down roots near the rivers – never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf.

Serene and calm through droughts bearing fresh fruit through every season.

The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful.  A puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I God search the heart and examine the mind.  I get to the root of things.  I treat them as they really are not as they pretend to me.

The next day I walked around Cornwall Park again taking extra notice of the Ti kouka – the Cabbage Trees.  They were ancient navigational markers and are a symbol of our roots – knowing where we came from and the wild beauty of finding out where we are going.

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E kore e riro, he ti tamore no rarotonga – the Cabbage Tree is never carried away in a gale – which means a person of courage can withstand a storm.

I kept contemplating the women at the well story and Sr Christina kept challenging me and encouraging me to keep writing my poems.

My journal reads, Sister Christina says I’m a poet – a writer and I should nurture that side of myself.  She says I’ve sought direction in my life, have made some tough decisions but I still need to meet Jesus at the well and hear what he has to say to me.”

I kept reading over it and found there is actually two women at the well stories in the bible – one in the Old Testament about Rachel which is also one of the most famous love stories in the bible but the main theme of the story was the consequences of sin – everyone was deceitful or deceived and then the New Testament story about the Samaritan Women with the theme of – we need to sit down and talk about your life – no shame or embarrassment but let’s get honest.

Jesus asks us to give without taking from us – he wants us to put stuff in his hands – our heart, our life, our past issues and our sin.  Everything else except Jesus will leave us thirsty and material and earthly pursuits will never satisfy us.

The most we can hold is enough for one day – we have to go back to him the next.  We like to go back to old wells but when you’ve tasted living water – old wells become more unsatisfying and leave you emptier than before.  She didn’t realise that her deepest need was spiritual.  We want God to fix our practical needs – like relationships and material needs but he says no, we’re going deeper than that – address the deep need not just the symptoms of that deep need in your life.

My last journal entry reads, God’s chosen me – he wants to sit down and have an honest talk to me.  I need to spend time with him daily.  I need to be faithful to the one who called me into his grace and mercy.  Only living water will satisfy – even the watering can I got from Sister Christina at the end of the first session only held enough water for my Iris for one day because it leaked then I forgot to top it up and after a few days it died!

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As I waited for my ride home I spent time watching a Monarch butterfly feeding on nectar and it was a nice symbol to end with – even Sr Christina walked past and thanked God for the sign of the Monarch!

The Monarch butterfly – a symbol of hope, restoration and renewal – maybe I’ve metamorphosed from a caterpillar and its now time to try my wings!

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Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

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I keep getting asked for the addendum to my last post.

But the cuts were too deep and it’s still all too raw.

Instead of bleeding out all over here – I have laid low and licked my wounds – wounds that have proved not to be mortal and the healing has begun.

Here in Aotearoa winter solstice has passed and each passing day we will see more sunlight.

We celebrate Matariki which signals growth.

A time of change.

A time to prepare.

And a time of action.

So everyday I will let each extra ray of sun warm my numb heart.

I will begin to grow again.

I will embrace change.

I will prepare for the future.

I will get ready for action.

I will weather the storm of my second winter of discontent;

And await my long anticipated Indian Summer.

 

Mai i toku ngakau

Rahera

 

 

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As I reflect on my Mount Everest 10 day Mount Te Aroha Challenge I have a strong sense that it is just the beginning and not the grand climax.

A friend posted on Facebook these enlightened words from Nelson Mandela, “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.

I was totally pumped when I met Joy at the Te Aroha Domain with a new goal in mind to achieve one-hour twenty-seven minutes up and under the hour back down.

I couldn’t pull it off – I gave it everything I had but I had maxed out.  The one-hour, forty minutes up was a hard slog and I didn’t beat my personal best going down – I was six minutes slower than my two-hour, forty-three minute round trip the day before.

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But had I failed?

No way!

It is not always about great epiphanies, life altering events or limit pushing challenges.

It’s the small choices we make day in and day out.

Instead of being frustrated that my body didn’t do what my mind wanted, I was encouraged that the last ten days had been such a growth opportunity for me – mind, body and spirit.

Our amazing bodies tolerate so much abuse but when it comes to physical exertion we are quick to mollycoddle ourselves and make excuses why we can’t push that little bit harder or drive our legs that little bit faster or go a little bit further.

So this is not the end – this is a new beginning and I want to keep the momentum going but today I rest.

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei – Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

This Māori saying is about aiming high for what we value most, but also to be persistent and don’t let obstacles stand in our way.

The more tired my body got over these last few days the more I felt I was coming back to life again.

I’m now OK with the ‘unknowing’ – it is no longer strangling me to death like it was.

And how long does a religious detox take anyway?!

I definitely won’t be placing any more people on pedestals to crash down on me – I’ll keep travelling onwards and upwards,  gleaning my pearls from other fellow travellers that have walked the road before me but choose to journey beside me some of the way; encouraging me,challenging me, helping me grow.

So what does the future hold?

For the dairy industry?

For my job?

For my home?

For my marriage?

I guess some things just take a little longer than ten days to figure out!

Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

 

 

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With a nutritious dinner under my belt the night before and an earlyish night, not to mention twisting Riannon’s arm to join me, we set off – determined to push a little harder and with the goal of a two-hour forty-seven minute round trip in my mind.

Before I had gone to sleep the previous night I had thumbed through my copy of Run Fat B!tch Run by Ruth Field, aka The Grit Doctor.  She was the inspiration that got me running a couple of years ago and the Jennian Homes, Mother’s Day 5km Fun Run in New Plymouth was my first event.

I have been reading a lot lately on how we can we hard on ourselves and use a lot of negative self talk and how we should cut ourselves some slack but The Grit Doctor reminded me about the need to channel your inner bitch.

The idea is not that you berate yourself to the point where the only reasonable response is to say ‘I’m so depressed I want to bury myself in a mountain of crisps’.

“It should be more, ‘I’m disgusted by this and I am going to do something about it right now!’

“There is a distinction between the two.  Be bold and assertive in the language you use, not wimpy and victim-esque.  Remember the point is to get you motivated to run, not to binge-eat yourself to death.”

For the descent on day seven and eight I had put a velcro knee support on my fatigued leading leg.

Flicking through and skim reading on page 83 I came across:

“You can do yourself more harm than good-by wearing knee or ankle supports without medical advice.  You are mostly using them as a psychological crutch (for which the The Grit Doctor has no time) and may actually be causing yourself damage in the process.”

So with lots of stern talking to myself I made it to the summit a long way behind Riannon and only five minutes faster than my best time which I was a little disappointed with as I had felt I had pushed a lot harder!

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Once more the mountain had her head in the clouds with a cold wind blowing so we snapped the selfie and headed straight back down after putting on the right knee support.

Ten minutes in it was slipping and I still had pain and with the advice ringing in my ears from The Grit Doctor I stopped, took it off and chucked in the back or Riannon’s pack and we resumed our descent.

A father and daughter that had arrived at the summit shortly after us was soon up behind me and I let them pass and we all trekked down together for a while.

“Have you got a sore knee?” he said.

“They’re a bit fatigued,” I said and told him a little bit about my mission – starting with the ‘hard times for dairy farmers’ bit.

It turned out he was a local dairy farmer  – since 1979 and this was his worst year ever too.

We whinged and moaned together about the payout, new OSH regulations, Environment Waikato processes, complying to new effluent rules and then they wished me all the best and bounded off.

Riannon encouraged me along – gagging to get back and off to school.  Strange child – I never had that problem when I went to school!

On one of the flattest parts of the track where she waited for me to catch up, she got such a shock to see me jogging around the bend that she set off herself – only to fall splat on her face.

I helped her up with instructions that we keep running before it started hurting!

Riannon and I made it down in one hour and eight minutes which I was happy enough with on my stiff knee joints that seem to struggle more with the downhill than the climb.

I was super stoked to achieve the round trip in two-hours and forty-three minutes instead of the desired, two-hours, forty-seven – yay for my inner bitch egging me on!

Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

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Yesterday morning began with aching arms from throwing tyres onto the silage stack to add to the tired body but I knew my biggest obstacle was going to me my mind.

I had woken up telling myself that mission number eight was going to be a struggle – then add to that the over indulgence at our late BBQ dinner the night before, not to mention the chips and chocolate and beer – well my “book of excuses” was rather large.

It was with both eagerness and hesitation that I met up with Joy and we began our footslog .

Seconds into the trek up  I realised that I needed to tell my mind to snap out of it and my body needed to come the party real fast.

A women currently in training for an event but also someone who has walked the journey of a thirty plus kilogramme weight loss and kept it all off for over two years!

Joy waited for me at the top of some stairs, chatting to a gentleman who was making his descent.

“This is her eighth time in a row – she is going to do ten,” she told him and secretly I hoped it excused some of my slowness up the steps!

“Wow,” he replied.  “I knew a guy who climbed it one-hundred times in a year.”

Now that was impressive!

I blew like a Thoroughbred and sweated like a fat Kaimanawa pony steaming my way up the track – I think my lips were going faster than my legs as I picked her brains along the way.

“Tell me your story Joy, how did you do it?”  I had to keep my legs moving just to stay close enough behind to glean nuggets of advice that only one that has walked the path before can impart.

After a particularly steep rocky and rooty incline the track flattened out for a bit – “Go faster on these bits, jog even,” she said – and I thought that was the prime opportunity to turtle along and catch my breath!

Even getting passed by a guy that was doing a double ascent didn’t spur me on to make my single in impressive time but Joy’s encouragement and accept no excuses manner soon had me up getting that selfie in front of the trig station in no time.

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With a cool breeze blowing and no view we didn’t linger over muesli bars but headed straight back down the well-trodden track.

I panted my way down and had to dig deep but the relief to tick off mission number eight was worth it and I was grateful for Joy’s company and pushing me to take three hours out of my day instead of a lot more if I had been left to my own self-limiting beliefs that morning.

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Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

 

 

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Two of my three gorgeous girls joined me on expedition number seven.

I felt great even though dinner with Shevorne the night before consisted of fish’n’chips followed up with Squealing Pig Sauvignon and Strawberry and Champagne Tim Tams out of my Black Box from sample.co.nz.

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The night before Hone and I had taken on the big hill we ate spiral vege pasta with tomato and basil sauce and tuna in spring water with a little feta sprinkled over the top and the smallest little glass of wine and made sure I had an earlyish night, but my style of carb-loading didn’t give me the boost I was hoping for on mission number six so I was pleasantly surprised that yesterday was such an enjoyable Sunday walk, chatting the time away.

Five minutes into our excursion Shevorne was stung on the bum by a bee – standing in the middle of the track with her pants down examining the rapidly swelling red spot I told her that soon that would be the least of her worries once the burn kicked into her legs from the incline!  At Whakapipi Landing as Riannon took umpteen “selfie with a view pics” Shevorne had another sting-site inspection and got busted by a girl running past – glancing up to catch a glimpse of her bare buttocks.

A few more people than mid-week were enjoying the mountain of love and pain, and we shared the summit with a crowd of almost ten people – two of whom had run up in one hour, four minutes and thirty-eight seconds!

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We admired the view with a cool breeze blowing then set off for the trip back down with the recommendation from Shevorne of the Eggs Benedict from The Cottage at the Domain ringing in my ears.

As the domain came into view we could hear all the voices of people and music – a sea of marques and sites at Te Aroha’s – A Day in the Domain.  We imagined they were all our supporters cheering us on the finish line!

And that is where we concluded our Sunday morning jaunt – sitting at an outdoor table, drenched through with sweat, with then eagerly anticipated eggs and a cappuccino and it was as good as she had said!

With cows to be milked and jobs to be done we all departed in different directions with tips on how to manage the next days stiff legs.

The maize arrived during arvo milking and one of the bonuses of our large blended whānau, The Brady Bunch reloaded – seven kids; makes for a good pool of free labour when required.

We managed to hustle up a couple of the boys and their girlfriends and talked Riannon into foregoing a family roast dinner at her Dad’s and soon got all the tyres thrown onto the stack and back home to enjoy a hastily prepared BBQ with a few drinks.

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So it was a nice finish to an exhausting day. Sitting around the table together under our picture that sums up some of our family guidelines we aspire to live by:

In this house…

We do real

We do mistakes

We do I’m sorry

We do fun

We do hugs

We do second chances

We do happy

We do forgiveness

We do really loud

We do family

We do LOVE.

 

 

Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

 

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With weary legs I set off on the daily mission with Hone – letting him lead the way, his fresh legs pushed me that little bit harder the entire way up.

We admired the view at Whakapipi Landing then paced our way up the mountain.  I don’t know if it was because I had someone with ears accompanying me – but I sure grumbled and moaned and complained, something I hadn’t previously done when it had been just the trees and I!

It was like State Highway 27 up there – all the weekend warriors taking a break from their normal gym routines and morning runs to pit themselves against the giant hill.

Arriving at the 952 meter high point in the Kaimai Range faster than my previous personal best made the brisker pace all worthwhile – one hour forty minutes, sixteen minutes faster!

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The view was not great, just the odd glimpse of the sea as they clouds swirled by.

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An experienced looking mountain-goat of a man had steamed past us in the final twenty minutes of our ascent and was sitting on the summit eating his lunch with an agile looking she-goat.

“What sorta times do you guys do?” I asked as they were preparing to depart for their downhill excursion.

“I got up here in one hour and fourteen minutes,” he said.  “And I made it in an hour and half today,” she shared.

They began their descent with our words of admiration ringing in their ears.

With thoughts of my new personal best sitting at one-hour forty I determined then and there that when my weight was sitting in the sixty kilogramme range instead of pushing nineties then I had a good chance of being a pretty good she-goat too, although a little Piwakawaka flitting my way up was a better picture in my head than an old mountain goat!

It got me thinking about goal setting.  Hone and I used to take time out every year to set goals – writing things down under categories like financial, marriage, family, spiritual, social and physical.

We stopped doing it somewhere along the way.

I look back with fond memories to the couple of days in the first few days of 2015 where I took myself away and hung out at Nikau Caves and worked my way through a Live Your Legend goal setting and action workbook.

The entire experience was profound and although the year saw me experience the highest highs and lowest of lows of my life so far, it concluded with me having achieved a lot that was conceived on those early January days.

This years goal setting and action workbook is still sitting on my desk – a pile of photocopied pages just waiting to be pondered over and written on and what better time to do it when my life’s path has arrived at another great crossroad.

I want to live my life intentionally and with purpose – proactive instead of just reacting to all the things that happen around me.

The more weary I have become – six days in on my Mount Everest ten-day Mount Te Aroha Challenge the more I feel like I am coming back to life again – rather than just letting circumstances dictate my direction and dying a little more each day I want to live each day to its fullest.

I read this the other day:

Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality.  Upgrade your conviction to match you destiny.

My goal at this present time is to achieve ten consecutive treks up Mount Te Aroha – bring on day seven!

Mai i toku ngakau,

Rahera

 

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