I need to get out of this City more often.
When I was in my teens, I spent most of my weekends and holidays in the Bush, while my parents worked at building what would become their retirement home.
I realised the other day how much I miss that.
|The valley's main stream|
There was a couple of spots in particular that were my favourite places.
The first was up the hill above the house. There was a pocket of more mature trees in the regenerating bush, secluded in a hollow at the top of a dry gully.
As I turned the corner of the track and dropped into what we called “The Glade”, I descended into stillness and quietness. I realised for the first time since coming into the valley I could no longer hear the rushing of the main stream echoing up the hill. It’s a bit like when you have a power cut and you suddenly realise how much background noise your appliances make as they all fall silent. By some quirk of the geometry of the hill, this hollow was completely shielded from outside noises. Even the wind only brushed over the tops of the trees without disturbing the Glade.
|Me aged 13, "The Glade"|
There was a particular tree whose roots made a comfy spot to sit, leaning back against the trunk. I loved to spend as long as I could just sitting and listening to the chirping of birds, the humming of insects, and the complete absence of other sounds. It was like being in some other world.
The other spot was one I visited less often. It was further up the valley, on the public track in the Forest Park. The track mostly followed the main stream up the valley, but at this point it cut a corner, and as I walked along, the rushing of the stream faded away, and was replaced by a smaller, lighter splashing. Then turning the corner, the track crossed a small side stream that dropped into a trickling waterfall just below. Further on the track returned to the main stream, and as the smaller waterfall faded the rushing water came back into hearing.
|The "Waterfall Spot" up the valley|
With a bit of a scramble, I could climb down to the bottom of the small waterfall, and find a “possie” to sit and listen to it for a few minutes. Occasionally other trampers (“hikers” to my non-kiwi readers) would cross above, intent on their destination up-valley, and apparently oblivious to the magic they were passing.
As I soaked in the Silences, it became a spiritual experience. I became aware of the hand of the Creator, and of His presence. I was not a Christian believer, but I became convinced of the Spirit. I didn’t try to label the experience, but if pushed I probably would have called it “Magical”. Not the tricks of a stage magician, nor the waving of wands and casting of spells, but the kind of magic you find in stories like Narnia - the intersection of other worlds with our own.
Now, having read some of Evelyn Underhill, I’d probably use the word “Mystical”.
When I started to attempt contemplative styles of praying from the example of St Teresa of Avila, or the Cloud of Unknowing, a corner of my spirit lifted its head, sniffed the air and blinked, “Hey, I recognise this place, I’ve been here before”
The challenge, as a working mother of three children, is finding the Silences.