searching for gold

searching for gold

His weathered hands place the well-used cards carefully in front of him. Collin is playing solitaire in the dining room of a hostel in Greymouth, New Zealand. He’s in town because of a painting job. He usually lives in the bush, searching for gold, but that’s hard work – it’s
easier to paint houses in town. Living in a building feels foreign to him. In the bush Collin makes his own settlement for a couple of weeks: he sets up a big tarp, pitches his tent in the corner, builds a fire and digs a deep hole for his deposits. He likes to be comfortable
so he binds branches together to make a chair. Sometimes he even brings a toilet seat from town – if he’s in luxury mode, that is. Storms and rain are very common in the region. The sounds of the wind and rain in the night can make you feel like you’re on a battlefield,
he says. So he checks the surrounding trees thoroughly before setting up his camp: ‘You don’t sleep well if you think a tree could fall on you.’ The bush makes sure you live slowly; if you go too fast, it becomes dangerous and you can fall. At the crack of dawn he gets up,
takes his gold miners’ gear and sets to work. There’s enough to find. Last week Collin received a present and father day’s card from his daughter: the first he has ever received. His daughter is 34, but he lost touch with her when she was six. He and her mother were fighting over custody when they split up and he lost hope of ever finding her again. His friends searched for her, but couldn’t track her down. Then last year he met
a man who worked at a hospice. They talked about his daughter and the man asked Collin to write down everything he knew about her. After two months he found her in living in Australia. They haven’t seen each other yet, but contact has been restored. ‘She still loves me and remembers me, after all these years.’ He has tears in his eyes. ‘All the time I was searching for gold, but the real gold I wanted to find was my daughter.’ With glistening eyes he thanks me for helping him remember this moment, and offers me some of his burnt chicken soup. His thank you touches me. While I walk to the kitchen for soup, he says: ‘I’m not used to stoves.’

”I’m sitting by the fire reading my fathers day card from my daughter who I haven’t seen in 28 years.”
Seized by Collin on September 14, 2014 in Greymouth.

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