On this particular two‑week trip we were, for three nights, camped on an island in Crooked Lake and were returning to it in our canoe, from a visit to Curtain Falls. In the time that we had been away the day had changed. It was now most bewitching, magical. It was warm, too; back into the 900s (f) and so still as to be unbelievable. The world was holding its breath: the stillness and silence were overpowering. The threadbare veil which separates the spiritual from the physical world was being pulled aside. A mackerel sky had now developed and we were travelling into the sun. The sky, reflected perfectly in the water, blended with it. Where sky began and water ended was impossible to see. Looking at the water it appeared to curve up and away from us. We were paddling on the sky. Water and sky had merged to become one. Distance was at once strangely substantial and yet incredibly insubstantial. The air in the distance was a light, translucent blue, giving it an air of solidity, but merging with the sky, the clouds and the reflections to merge with eternity itself. Time and the day itself became one with the sky and the water in an other‑worldly, ethereal quality of unity. We, and our immediate environment, had somehow merged with the Infinite. We and our surroundings were no longer part of this world. Only the shore, its deciduous leafiness richly lit by shafts of sun, gave any indication of the material, and it was too far off to do more than accentuate the blending of timelessness, space, water and light into a different dimension, faintly delineating another world from the other plane in which we now found ourselves. The day had magically blended the spiritual with the physical, and we floated on, immersed in its ethereal beauty, totally enchanted. It is days such as this which bring one back time and again to the wilderness.
Sadly, man, for all his supposed great intelligence, has increasingly shut out such experiences and prefers to call the hell of urbanisation heaven. Increasingly in our materialistic, politically correct, urban world there few left who hear the faint echoes of nature blending with the spiritual as captured by visionary poets. The late Nan Shepherd, for example, heard the echoes and felt the oneness, for in her beautiful poem she wrote :
Here on the edge of Europe I stand on the edge of being,
Floating on light, isle after isle takes wing,
Burning blue are the peaks, rock that is older than thought,
And the sea burns blue or is it the air between? –
They merge, they take one another upon them,
I have fallen through time and found the enchanted world,
Where all is beginning. The obstinate rocks
Are a fire of blue, a pulse of power,
a beat In energy, the sea dissolves,
And I too melt, am timeless, a pulse of light.
It had been a blue and silver day, a day hanging in time, but back at our island camp in the late afternoon there was just the slightest whisper of wind from a great distance away. From far away we heard what was nothing more than a whispered vibration, such is the stillness and the silence up there, and we wondered at first what it was. Slowly the sound drew nearer and eventually we realized what it was. The faint murmur of a gentle zephyr which finally reached us. . The reflections went, but suddenly a shaft of light broke through and illuminated the lake and our camp.
The day continued to bewitch us. As the sun set, we walked across the island from our camp to a vantage point from where we could look towards Curtain Falls and the sunset. This was not a lurid, colourful sunset, but one of the most bewitching I have ever seen. The grey and silver clouds were reflected in the water, and the islands were dark against the light. Gradually the sky, the clouds, water and reflections, took on muted colours: shades of grey, violet, dark blue and mauve. Once more there were deep shadows, and suddenly, once more, the material world became insubstantial while the colours and the air became substantial. Again there was a fusing of material and spiritual. It was as if we were looking not at water, islands or even clouds, but into a scene that was totally ethereal. Now, too, there was the most profound sense of mystery in the evening. We were transported to that mysterious ‘Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, full of fairy lights and mysterious shadows.’ (John Buchan writing in “An African Colony)