Walking With My Plank
In the company of a plank, meant to provide a way across the gulch so that I could wander the cobble beaches, I returned to Tinderbox on what was supposed to be a low tide.
It wasn’t. That tide had firm tenure on the rocky platforms. It was in fact so high the shore was sometimes unrecognisable and I could not even find the sea cave. I did reach a cobbled beach and later, from the top of Pierson’s Point, I walked through bush to the cliff tops, seeking a path down to another cobbled shoreline but my bushbashing was entirely unsuccessful.
Actually, it transpired that I was 365 days late for that low tide. I had consulted the 2015 tide table by mistake. Still, it’s not every day you walk out with a plank. Strange to say, it’s quite companionable and will lie down on slippery seaweed if you need it to.
‘Everything that arises is an invitation…’*
When I learned that Susan Murphy was leading a retreat on kunanyi I thought that I would take this invitation to escape my cocoon of fatigue (jetlag & flu) and find my way back into a practice that includes the fine honing of awareness and attunement to the natural world.
I had been on the river for a few days in a row, servicing winches, cleaning the bilge, sorting out engine problems and flat batteries. Still, we’d managed a little break in all of this and had packed a picnic and gone up river in Samos, enjoying the quietude of sunshine on water in Shag Bay and exploring hidden beaches on the other side of the river, just north of Cornelian Bay.
Then I became mountain focussed, walking to the retreat along forest trails, through leaf litter and peels of eucalypt tangled on the mossy slopes.
For three days I absorbed the soundscape of the mountain. The kurrawongs are building nests; their conversation carried across the canopy. The frogs are seeking mates. In the pools outside the window they sang serenades. The wattle bird punctuated the silence from a eucalypt nearby, the rosellas called to each other as they flew between kunanyi and Chimney Pot Hill and the wrens held intimate conversations in the garden’s undergrowth. All this beneath a sky by turns cobalt and domed with cumulus transforming, and one turned grey, the raindrops falling quietly into the pools, repatterning the reflections of the trees all about.
During a break I sat down on a lichened rock in a part of the forest where I sometimes walk, enfolded in its deep and friendly silence, noticing the beauty of random scatterings of leaves, twigs and impressions in the earth, and the slightly anxious flight of a bumble bee. I must have sat for about ten minutes when a gentle trilling began to rise through the forest. This insectivorous chorus was one I had never heard before, and so neither had I experienced the way the forest seemed to attend to this shimmering music.
It evoked that perpetual question, that one too big to have an answer: what is the secret life of the forest, what the mysteries of the river and the sea? What happens when we are not there to witness it?
Krishnamurti (2000), in All the Marvelous Earth asks
‘…what is beauty? This is one of the most fundamental questions, it is not superficial, so don’t brush it aside. To understand what beauty is, to have that sense of goodness which comes when the mind and heart are in communion with something lovely without any hindrance so that one feels completely at ease – surely, this has great significance in life; and until we know this response to beauty our lives will be very shallow.’
It’s a closed loop
it’s an open invitation, because ‘medicine and sickness heal each other. The whole world is medicine. Where do you find your self?’ (Yunmen, 9th C China).
In effect, the extensive damage we have done grants to us an opportunity to develop a symbiotic ease in our relationship with the earth and bring about the healing change so urgently needed right now.
Robert Hass puts it beautifully: ‘We are the only protectors, and we are the thing that needs to be protected, and we are what it needs to be protected from.’**
* Murphy, S. (2012). Minding the Earth, Mending the World: the offer we can no longer refuse. Picador, Sydney.
**Robert Hass, as quoted in Murphy, S. (2012). Minding the Earth, Mending the World: the offer we can no longer refuse. Picador, Sydney.