I’m in mountain country this weekend, far from familiar surroundings, a national park, World Heritage site where the golden wings of the bower bird are in the air and also woven into the carpets underfoot.
Being a long way from home, I get a perspective from the tree tops and the rolling mist, reminding me of the good fortune of being able to travel safely to another part of the country. The birdlife is generous and the rainforest holds the story of Gondwanaland long before dinosaurs and the Yuggera Ugarapul, Danggan Balun and Githabul people called it home. The place known as Woonoongoora doesn’t need an interpretative sign to tell us it is precious, sacred. I feel very privileged to be able to spend time in the forest on my 63rd birthday – a microdot of time in this 180 million years of landscape. I found myself reciting Mary Oliver’s When I am among the trees, to myself as I wandered along a trail towards a tree top walkway.
I gazed meditatively at glow worms lighting up a river bank, and green tree parrots flying with crimson rosellas, heard the squawk of a baby tawny owl, saw ancient lichen seemingly floating in mid air and orchids 10 metres high embedded in fern encrusted black booyong trees, bandicoot hotels in the folds of trunks and then there are the brush box who have been carbon dated at 1,500 years old. It is a lesson in complexity, co-existance and ecosystems. If you are ever trying to teach about ecosystems – such a misused term in many a start up community – I encourage a walk in a park – the more ancient the better!
The metaphor of taking a path to a waterfall, is not lost on me, an occasional stumble and I was paying very careful attention to where I was placing my foot, should I find myself on a slippery surface. I got to the spectacular view of a waterfall, at this slowest and driest time of the year and it is still falling, making rainbows in the sunlight, and finding its way to the floor of the forest.
This year has been easier than the last four or five, and there have been less stumbles, still moments to catch my breath and look at the view to see how far I have come, not despite, but because of, weeping making landfall. It seems to be a practice of detachment and pleasing myself more. I am a beginner. Being in the forest reminds me that this kind of growth is slow and takes serious time. I am particularly taking instruction from the way the fig tree clings to the booyong and uses it as a prop without taking anything from the booyong along the way to the clouds. It has really got me thinking about what props I have around me to help me grow towards the light and which ones I might need to cling to with more confidence and certainty.
I am meeting this moment bowing in gratitude to all those people and landscapes who have propped me up along the way these past 63 years, and taking a blessing from the trees mediated by Oliver: … and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.
When I am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It's simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”