This is a lovely spot, a truly delightful camp site with lovely views up and down the river, and yet hidden away, untroubled by anyone else, the sound of the falls close by, the occasional canoe passing in the distance. We stay here for several days, such is the magic of the place. Time passes, but does not drag. Days blend into days. We become part of the rhythm of the land and sky and the timelessness and the space. about which Olsen wrote. We are not only in tune with the daily rhythm of the wilderness but with the rhythm of the universe itself. The intense quiet of the world, the changing lights and breezes, the passing of the clouds, the day turning with the sun, seeped into our souls and into our consciousness. It is these things of which we became aware and attuned. One could go on living there forever, absorbed by the rhythm of the world. John Buchan, in An African Colony writing of another time and place, captured all this when he wrote:
The cold fresh mornings, when the mist is creeping from the grey hills and the vigour of dawn is in the blood; the warm sun-steeped spaces at noonday; the purple dusk, when the veld becomes a kind of Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon, full of fairy lights and mysterious shadows; the bitter night, when the southern constellations blaze in the profound sky, he who has seem them must carry the memory forever; it is such things, and not hunger and thirst and weariness which remain in a man’s mind. For the lover of nature and wild things … it is little wonder if, after these, home and ambition and a comfortable life seem degrees of the infinitely small. And the others, who are only brief visitors, will carry away unforgettable pictures to tantalise them at work and put them out of all patience with an indoor world – the bivouac under the stars on the high veld, or some secret glen of the Wood Bush, or the long lines of hill which huddle behind Lydenburg into the sunset.
We were now content to sit and watch and listen, even when not consciously doing so. The rhythms of light, warmth, peace, the breezes, the clouds and reflections, the rhythms of insects and birds and fish jumping, and the beavers, had become a part of us and us of them. We saw the Eternal here, and were at peace, wanting nothing more.
Mankind needs to experience these things, to make them part of his Being. We need to go back to our primitive roots when we were part of creation, part of eternity. Sadly, though, there are fewer and fewer places which allow this and fewer and fewer people who do experience or even see the necessity for it. People have now become so inured to frenetic, isolating city life that the wilderness frightens them. They find they are unable to sit still and let the wilderness fill their souls. They flee from it and rush back to the cities where, to hide their lack of peace, fear and inner loneliness, they throw themselves into great useless activity which at least stops them from thinking too much. If they do venture into the wilds many destroy the very essence of what it gives one by taking with them their phones and radios, kindles and tablets, bicycles and toys. The wilderness frightens them, and they must have noise and remain in contact with the awful hum of man-made cities.
I find it frightening to realize that increasingly the decisions about wilderness are being made by people who have never been out in it and have never let it become a part of their souls. How can such people make any meaningful judgments about mankind’s need for wilderness and more importantly, about our planet’s need for wilderness? As long as mankind sees value in wilderness only in what it can provide to mankind as a playground, it will be plundered until it no longer exists. Its part in the web of creation will be gone and the world will become an urban quarry.
For those of us who do go into the wilderness, do we just go to use it, to look at it? Or do we actually allow it to become a part of us by imparting its essence on us? For those who do allow themselves to become a part of it, life will surely take on a new meaning and the wilderness and all its values will live with them and this precious planet of ours will be seen in a new light. One needs to become one with the wilderness; to merge into it.
To end this post with let me quote some lovely poetry about wilderness
O to dream, O to wake and wander
There, and with delight to take and render,
Through the trance of silence quiet breath;
Lo! for there, among the flowers and grasses,
Only the mightier movement sounds and passes;
Only winds and rivers, life and death.
From “In the Highlands” by RL Stevenson
Eagles and isles and uncompanioned peaks,
The self-reliant isolated things
Release my soul, embrangled in the stress
Of all day’s crass and cluttered business:
Release my soul in song, and give it wings;
And even when the traffic roars and rings,
With senses stunned and beaten deaf and blind,
My soul withdraws into itself, and seeks
The peaks and isles and eagles of the mind.
”High Solitude” by Wilfred W Gibson
I shall meet you once by day,
where you race the rush of foam
from the passing of the ships,
braid of samphire at your waist,
bronze of wind for naked pride,
pressing with impatient feet
shadowy circles up the sand:
I shall take them from your hand
fruits of ocean salt and sweet
mermaid love and seaman woe,
danger, quest and tempest home;
bind a wreath of sun and spray;
crush the froth against my lips;
hold your secret fierce embraced:-
till the movements of the tide
surge about my heart, and flow
singing chill from throat to knee:-
once by day mine the vision of the sea!
I shall meet you once by night,
where the wintry wrath of wind
bends a mutiny of trees
black against the moonlit fall:
I shall feel the river flow,
shivering in the willow-root,
from the urgence of your arm:
I shall hear all silence call;
join all darkness in pursuit;
leave no loneliness unscanned:-
till I touch your welcoming hand,
kiss the warmth of rainbow light
from the frost-stars on your breast;
catch you crying from the breeze;
clasp your whiteness through the snow;
and you yield your soul confessed,
all your song of woodland charm
sighing passion for my dream:-
once by night mine the sound of wood and stream!
I shall meet you once ere death,
in the brown and lonely spaces
where you ride the sands of storm
headlong at the angry sun:
I shall see the red light run molten
on each supple limb
down the aisles of desert places,
blazoning a burnished form
on the illusory glare:
dust of wandering on your hair,
evening answer in your face,
you will wait me on the rim
where the very deserts tire
startled into sudden ending:
I shall touch your throat of fire,
read the measure of all space
shadowed in your restless wings.
On the brow of time descending
when the level lights gleam low,
I shall know all the joy of endless things!
“Solitude” by Geoffrey Winthrop Young”