Dream Catching in New Zealand

When we moved to New Zealand last month, I fully expected that unique and extraordinary experiences would be coming my way. After all, not only is this island nation’s stunning, almost mystical natural beauty touted worldwide, (but even more so), it’s welcoming people are well-known to offer a friendly hand, advice, and many an entertaining yarn.

So, it really should have come as no surprise to me at all that in my efforts to discover more about our new home, I came to know of quite a uniquely talanted Kiwi young man, in rather extraordinary circumstances. Come with me as I share this dream, caught…

Taking a much needed break from our very stressful and harried rental home search here in Wellington, we had a drive along the gorgeous southern beaches on a shimmering afternoon. Close to Breakers Bay, we pulled into a carpark, and started our hike down to the beach.

Off to the roadside, slightly in the bush, I came upon a wonderful wooden carving, standing over five feet tall. There was no signage or really anything at all nearby to identify this gorgeous art piece, at least none that I noted. Dangling at it’s centre, swaying lightly in the breeze, were several shells hanging at various heights.

This carving called to my mind a Native American “dream catcher”, something I am very familiar with, having grown up in the US. I’ve actually traveled with our children in the desert Southwest, from where this particular craft originates. Many moons past, our kids had created their own “dream catchers”, of yarn and beads, and our son even sports a tattoo of a catcher of dreams at the low spot at the back of his neck…a fantastic position to snatch a passing dream or two as they whisper past.

I took a few photos, and we went on down to the beach.

Later, after our weeks of home searching, move, and settling into a house, I found my pictures of what I’m now calling a “Kiwi-style Dream Catcher”, so posted them to my various social media accounts, and to a local Wellington community group Facebook page. Almost immidiately, others were drawn to the mysteriously twisted, deep ochre structure in my photo, and I quickly had many nice comments posted and an astounding number of “hearts” and “likes”.

That afternoon, I noticed a request pop up on my Messenger account, a “Barb Robinson” wanted to connect. I clicked on the notification, and read the following…

“Hi Sheri. I just noticed the carving you put up. My late son had one identical. Wondering where this one is please? He got his from the river at Mokau where he lost his life soon after in a forestry accident. Never thought l would see another like it…”

The message was accompanied by a photo of a rough wooden piece, almost the same in shape and size as the one I had photographed.

I quickly replied to this message by sending my condolences on the loss of her son, and explained where we had stumbled upon the carving. Barb responded with more about where she lives, (Nelson), and then began to share her son’s story with me.

I cannot begin to fathom the loss of a child, but I also find it remarkable and so wonderful that she keeps her son so present. Paul was tragically killed on the job some ten years now past, around the time I first visited these shores. He was doing what he loved, which was forestry work in the great New Zealand outdoors. He not only worked the timbers, he played them as well, as Barb so readily showed me in sharing her many precious photos of Paul’s terrific wood carvings.

Which leads me back to the original photo, of the Kiwi Dream Catcher. Paul had an idea for his found piece of Matai wood, which he had dubbed, “The Circle of Life”. He had shared with his mother his plans to carve the family’s faces on to it’s surface. Sadly, he was taken before he could start the project.

It is in this spirit that I share here some of Barb’s family photos of Paul and his fantastic wood carvings. I never imagined when I took my random photos…on an afternoon exploring our new home with my husband and our own son… that I would come to meet this humble yet proud mother, and her talented son, taken too soon.

It is my honour….in itself, a truly unique and extraordinary New Zealand experience. It is also, in a small way, Paul’s Circle of Life.

Paul Edwin Orin Robinson, 1972-2008

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