Travelling – it’s not just about seeing

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For me, a place doesn’t need to be spectacular to have a breathtaking affect upon me.

Wind howled around the caravan yesterday from dawn til dark, forcing me indoors for the day, so I was out walking on the beach first thing this morning in the stillness of the early light. It was spectacular in a simple, ordinary way.

Time enough had not elapsed to putrefy the weedy mat that yesterday’s storms had dumped on the beach. A day of sunshine would bring out the stench, so then the beauty will be much diminished. Strangely, the sound of the waves was muted by the cushion of weed. Although the waves were breaking right at my feet, they sounded way off in the distance.

I walked to the sandy peninsular, free of marine grass where the waves were given free reign to tumble and roll – translucent green falling onto white sand with a scattering of seashell fragments. The sky was grey, but many delicate shades from violet to blue to grey and back to white. Such elegance.

An old man exercised his dog. A young man stood in the water, fishing. Terns and gulls claimed their patch of sand to rest. Rays of sun occasionally cast golden light on the many jagged limestone rocky outcrops in the ocean. And windswept clumps of dune-grass still holding droplets of rain looked, to me, as splendid as any wildflowers.

My connection to the landscape and every component of this scene was automatic and strong. Nature touched my soul, uplifted me, and left me with a feeling of  wholeness and gratitude.

In contrast, we then visited the Pinnacles Desert – a truly spectacular and astounding ancient natural site. And although I was suitably impressed, little emotion was evoked.

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And that’s an integral part of me. It doesn’t take some monumental icon or tourist attraction to wow me. For me, it’s all about what moves me emotionally, what touches my heart and soul, a connection, a feeling of being nurtured and of belonging – not me belonging to a particular place or a place being somehow mine simply because I’m a citizen of this country, but a merging: a feeling of oneness. A beauty and serenity that is within and around me. Something subtle yet obvious, to me. Yes, a feeling, a connection, an awareness.

Often, a fantastic attraction that sees hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of tourists or visitors annually, leaves me dulled, presumably by the massive whirlpool of energy that remains – in comparison, a simple natural place that is only visited by those who are delighted by solitude and understated beauty can be spiritually awesome, for me. Today, the two separate places left me mulling over the unmistakable difference that grand and simple can often affect upon me, and why, and I am more aware of me as a result.

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Travelling – The incredible beauty of solitude and nature

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tranquil expanse of water, stretching into the sky, glittering in the sunshine as it merges with the horizon. Slow moving rippling light is reflected from the water surface to the underside of bleached paperbark limbs reaching over the inlet, branches dangling into the water.

Whirring wings of honeyeaters and chirping chatter of fairywrens. Nature’s music. The sky is blue, the earth is damp.

Solitude. No-one else’s energy or thoughts to deflect – just nature emitting nurturing energy. As I rest in the shade, Mother Earth’s chilly fingertips brush my neck and bare arms, and I shiver involuntarily.

Alone with nature – four elements of earth, fire, air, water – all speak to my senses. Although it’s a ‘place’ I’m sitting at and admiring, it’s more than a ‘place’. It’s a part of everything that the universe encompasses – and I’m a part of all that.

A special moment where the birds jump about my feet – unthreatened by my presence because my energy is totally loving and giving. I want nothing from them, just the privilege of sharing their company and space.  I shift to sit in the sun and let the fire in the sky warm my back.

When you’re aware of the absolute perfection of solitude and when you feel overwhelming gratitude for the nurturing hand of Mother Nature, clarity trickles over your being, and you know that everything that you have in this moment is all that you need.  There is no temptation to think of the past or the future and all the angst it might hold for you.

Thoughts disappear as I embrace the incredible beauty of solitude and nature.

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Travelling – Sitting on a mountain

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A mountain only by Australian standards. Elsewhere in the world it would be classed as a rocky hill. East Mount Barren in Fitzgerald National Park on the southern coast of Western Australia.

And it doesn’t matter that I only made it to the foothills. Size and scale don’t equate to success or notoriety in my world, for my soul has been touched by the magic of nature. That’s a beautiful and all powerful experience.

I’m perched on a chunk of granite with a splendid view of ocean, beach, mountains and bushland, all bathed in brilliant early-morning sunshine. A gentle breeze whispers to me. The solitude is precious. Birdsong, waves rolling in to the beach – no human-made sounds. Sunshine is warm on my back. The moment is perfect, and this moment is all there is.

I put my pen down and soak in the tranquility and beauty. It is now a part of me.

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Travelling – Vineyards and orchards, Mallee and saltbush

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Dry, dusty inland Australia – the sky belongs to raptors and ravens. The land ‘belongs’ to humans to do with as ‘they’ see fit.

I don’t agree that particularly thirsty crops like cotton and rice have a place in Australian agriculture, but, I do appreciate the expertise, employment, and economic value and sense of pride that goes with these industries in rural communities. Travelling west from Hay in the Riverina, vast paddocks of cotton spread across the landscape, giving way to even bigger paddocks of wheat stubble. Not a tree in sight. Wait. There’s one. Just imagine the noisy scuffles in those branches when the whole bird kingdom feels the urge to nest at once.

Murrumbidgee River irrigation gives way to Murray River irrigation as we drive into the Riverland district of Renmark and Berri. Acres of quality vineyards and citrus orchards butt up to parched Mallee and saltbush country. The strategic placement of dripping water produces lush and bountiful fruit crops, not a drop goes elsewhere.

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Citrus orchards butt right up to parched natural Mallee and saltbush country

The might River Murray, according to records, is apparently nowhere as mighty as it once was. Over use and mis-use. I can’t verify that, but to my eyes, the Murray is still a splendid river, running wide and clean, lined with grand River Red Gums and weeping Willows. But I am just an on-looker.

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And, I was overjoyed to see for myself that water is being allocated to maintain wetlands vital to water-birds’ health and wellbeing. What progress it is to see Murray River water diverted into wetlands surrounded by saltbush and sun-baked earth. Governmental view of environmental needs is finally making some slim changes that evoke hope.

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As we prepare to leave the Murray River, I feel sure we won’t find another that can stand anywhere near its grandeur until we trip around Australia and find ourselves back here.

 

Travelling – Observing the behaviour of shore birds

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Shorebirds can be difficult to identify by a shorebird-novice like me. But for someone who appreciates the nuances of animal behaviour, they can be endlessly entertaining, even without names.

Cudgeon Creek estuary at Hastings Point on the north coast of NSW proved to be a great place to watch the comings and goings of sand dwelling birds – our first stop on our around Australia caravanning trip.

Other sand flats and rock walls gave up surprise encounters with fascinating birds too. Like the Osprey, a raptor that generally preys on water-dwelling creatures, but is not immune to opportunism created by humans. I watched a woman catch a garfish and secure it to a bigger fishing rod in the hope of tempting a table fish to her hook. But the Osprey had its name on that garfish. It swooped to steel the live bait from the line and flew off to feed on it from a high perch. Brilliant!

And bath time always provides plenty of amusing antics. Crested terns scooped water up with their bent wings, splashing like children for longer than necessary. They all bath differently. Ospreys stand alone in the shallowest of water, tentatively dipping headfirst, throwing water onto their back, with its mate on patrol in a nearby tree.

A Mangrove Heron skulks among the rock-pools searching out tiny fish, freezing like a statue, then thrusting its bill into the water at such speed that I always miss the catch. The heron did not miss.

Birds with long straight bills like straws, others curved downwards, poking and prodding the sand for morsels of food – birds that have flown halfway around the world. How is that possible? Incredible.

Yes, the bird world is breathtakingly amazing.

Travelling – The spiritual experience that was Crystal Castle

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Sharing something special with someone special, makes that something special all the more special.

My daughter and I spent the day at Crystal Castle on the north coast hinterland of NSW, and it’s hard to find a word to describe the experience – beautiful first and foremost, absolutely splendid plants adorning a misty mountain setting surrounded by natural rainforest. And crystals; stunning huge and ancient crystals on paths and clearings. Mossy stone statues, bamboo groves, sacred spaces. Seats amongst the garden for solitude. A truly special place.

We started the day taking part in a ritual offering to deities that are ‘simply’ universal energy. It was moving and enlightening. After tea and cake in the cafe overlooking the forested slopes, we wandered at leisure, taking in the beauty and abundant positive energy.

Group meditation with the hauntingly soothing sounds of Tibetan singing bowls, and a crystal workshop, delicious vegetarian food, and peace and quiet. We both took away wonderful memories, love and warmth, and a new perspective on some very old traditions.

 

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There are times when being alone is ideal

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Can spending time alone amongst nature be healing? Can spending time in nature be a spiritual experience? Yes, on both counts.

I was a bit apprehensive about swimming in the river on my own. But at the same time, I was overjoyed that I was on my own. Nature at its most beautiful: a mountain stream, crystal clear, deep, lined by boulders and trees. No man-made sound, no buildings, not even any rubbish. And no other people. Idyllic.

Carefully, I slid into the water, swam to the other side of the river, and sat in shallows above the rapids. Nature chatted amongst itself, with the babbling of the stream a soothing chorus backed by the swishing of eucalypt and she-oak canopy. Occasionally, a bird would add to the song with a musical call. Harmony.

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I lay back watching clouds float by, letting the water trickle over and around me. The sunshine was pleasant. The water was fresh and cool. Mountains upstream towered over the narrow valley. It was a stunning scene, and I was filled with gratitude for my stunning surroundings and the opportunity to immerse myself in Mother Earth’s beauty. Solitude.

At one with nature.

If I’d had to share the experience with a companion, or if strangers were also using the river at that time, the moment would have been something different, not as special, and I would not have been so profoundly touched by the spirit of nature. Often times, experiences are best had alone, and this was one such venture. Bliss.

A soulful experience

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