If anyone has read to here, this story is about my life and what I now perceive as its thread of treeplanting. While this has been going on in a relatively low key way, there also seems to have been a series of weird events. I sometimes call my story a catalogue of weirdness which has haunted my life. I now even crave these unexpected things which may be meaningful or trivial. I now wish that I could even invoke them on demand to my advantage. In fact, I have probably written this to tempt some more but they are sadly it appears out of my control. Maybe thought I do have some little ideas but I would only say something to anyone who has a genuine interest. My basic theme though is to appreciate with gratitude and wonder life on this beautiful planet!
Why does a serious stay at home go travelling? Probably I enjoy hosting visitors because it gives me an opportunity to meet people which I enjoy but on my own terms so I can get the best of both worlds.
Reason 1. If I am offered an experience that no reasonable person can refuse. For example, about 2 years ago, I friend of mine who is a traveller purchased the ticket for me and so I had no choice but to go and yes for sure, I did have an adventure.
2. When away, I can look back on my home life and see it in a better perspective and so understand things better.
3. This reason is rather grim. All humans know that sometime in the future they will have to let go of everything. It is a fact of life. The deal that I imagine/hope with my God, [as if you can do a deal with God!] is that if I do a practice letting go and leave the comforts of home, I won’t have to do the real letting go for at least a little while longer.
4. When I return home, I am just so relieved. I have gone so far and have returned that I promise I will never travel again!
To Travel as an Englishman
I am a serious stay at home and the recent travel experience of me travelling to Taiwan and the Philippines has been a serious shock to me not only for cultural reasons but also because of the place of English in their society. English for them is more than the lingua franca but an expression of the modern, of what is chic, and of even defining oneself. To be able to speak English is to enhance oneself, to say, it is me, I count, I want to have my say and to be listened to. It is to be on the crest of the wave of the modern moving forwards. To master English is to be enhanced, empowered, and a transcending experience rising above the local language and its history of repression and hopeless poverty. It is to say, I am modern and I am now and I am to be listened to for my opinion which I think counts! This is the positive side to democracy and it has its roots in 1215!
I believe that these people don’t quite grasp why they desire to master English but they know that they like it. In Taiwan, most signs are written in Chinese and English. The shop’s name and perhaps a catch phrase defines themselves in English. It is also very common for people walking in the street to wear a tee shirt with some pithy statement on it. It may not make too much sense to us but for them, it is a personal and I would say a defining statement. The literal use of Chinese into English we give the word, Chinglish with its unusualness and its energy.
Chinese though is a very difficult language to learn to write. The Chinese have to rote learn thousands of characters and to also learn up to a series of 27 stroke sequences to write these characters. They then have to rote learn the combinations of these as well as they form different and unusual words and meanings. A Chinese teacher told me that it was never enjoyable learning to write Chinese but just maybe it could be interest learning English such as when the children learn how sing nursery rhymes. The Chinese are almost all short sighted because they have to study too hard. The Taiwanese are interesting because they have already changed their national language from Taiwanese to Mandarin. They like to think of themselves as an out going people and Taipei is an international city. I wonder if it were possible that sometime in the future, English displaces Mandarin as their national tongue.
In the Philippines, anything serious is only written in English. If one goes into a Filipino book shop, I would estimate that 97% of the books are in English. There are basically no books in Tagalog there most common language except for their English/Filipino dictionaries. As a nation, their English is pretty poor but it is also their only national language. To listen to these people speak even in their native tongue, it is interspersed with English. The more important they are, the more they speak English.
Us native born English speakers are in a greatly privileged position. If we know anything, we feel the excitement of using English and like to see it being used so vigorously even if its use is shocking. What I am asking though, is that we acknowledge our esteemed position. Incredibly though many English speakers don’t see this and just seem to accept that it is just the natural course of things like the sun rising every morning that everyone wants to speak English. We just think that it is natural that everyone wants to speak English not even asking what it implies and how did it happen? What I ask though, is that we acknowledge our esteemed position and accept it with great humility and consideration. For the world to speak English, it is also at least partially an endorsement of English speakers and what they stand for. I once met a girl who lived in East Germany before the wall came down. She had learnt Russian for 7 years but said that she knew nothing of it but she had also learnt English for 6 years and was pleased to be fluent. She obviously hated the Russians and all they stood for. We personally haven’t done anything or very little to add to the English speaking world but have somehow inherited this incredible legacy. How is it, that a tiny island off the coast of Europe with a population of English speakers of maybe a million when modern English was stabilised before it grew to become the world’s most spoken language? It has come about from a truly remarkable series of events and circumstances.
Firstly, is it possible that English is the world’s best language? It is a modern language that has come about from several languages being squeezed one upon the other. The last time this occurred was in 1066 with the imposition of French upon Old English. This has resulted in improvements by making it more efficient by doing away with redundancies. It has done away with gender for most objects, it has a past, present and future tense, it has many short words and a large vocabulary where there is usually a choice of words to use. It has additions to words to make easy changes to meanings and readily accepts new words and concepts. English now has a vocabulary of over one million words, much larger than any other language. English is so rapacious that we imported a new fruit from China about 30 years ago and give it an English name of Chinese gooseberry. In New Zealand they rename it Kiwi fruit and then export it back to the Chinese with the new English name which is how they now know it.
Together with the development of the language, has been the expansion of the English speaking world. Key battles or wars have been 1588, the 1660’s [when the Dutch transferred New Amsterdam to English rule and renamed it New York and English was set to further expand], 1805 and 1815, 1918 and 1945, and 1989. Each time, the English speaking region or what we now call world was being threatened and comes out victorious with expanded opportunity. English has not experienced the success of its colonies but it has had to maintain its dignity in giving them back again with their granting of independence. Hong Kong was, over 150 years ago, just a rocky outcrop of a port but became an incredible financial success. The problem was though that the lease was for only 150 years and it had to be handed back, no matter what. To do so was very painful, to hand over all of this. It was done though with good will and dignity and the standing of English was further increased.
This has also been associated with scientific and technological developments. Key ones I will mention are Vit C and scurvy [sailing long distances in good health becomes possible, and a settlement is made 9 months sailing away in Sydney], the steam engine [crossing the US in only 9 days instead of 9 months by wagon], and the invention of the chronometer. This last one justifies London placing itself on the world map at the centre or zero degree longitude from where everywhere is measured from.
Maybe most remarkable and effective of all has been what is called, soft propaganda, sport, movies, television, classical and now popular music and the image they portray of excitement of the modern and that it is available for all now! The internet now is linking people all over the world in ways never before possible and 95% of it is [or maybe now a bit less] in English.
English as a language is now wild and free. The world is its stage. What is the world’s largest English speaking country? India, it is the common language for all Indians. Is there any other language where one writes oneself as the capital “I”? Is this a statement of self worth, a validation that if I speak and write English, I am special and I count?
Unfortunately though I come from Australia, a back water of the English language where it is a national pride to both arrogantly and stupidly think that everyone both has to and yet naturally speaks English and at the same time to have a pride in speaking English so very badly. Rules of grammar are not understood, their vocabulary is infantile and often dominated by several profane words so much so that they seem to suffer from torrets as a Freudian slip. Are Australians the only people in the world who have a pride in being ignorant and speaking poorly?
To travel as a native born Englishman, well maybe a Colonial, is even so a very great privilege. It is something that I wish to do with great awareness and respect. I wish to be a worthy custodian of the English language and all the achievements that have gone on before to enable me to travel with such poise and to be aware of the power of the language and its ability to express the voice of the world.
To Travel as a Pilgrimage
I am a serious stay at home because I believe that I live in a most wonderful and beautiful location and in a most wonderful and comfortable house. I grow trees for timber from trees that I’ve planted and daily watch these trees grow and enhance the landscape. I find this a most beautiful and satisfying occupation. I do though host the occasional visitor who comes here to experience what I call, “rustic Australiana”, so I’m well aware of the concept of travel and its reputed benefits. I have a friend though who is a committed traveller and he likes to go travelling twice a year or so. It came to pass that he owed me a favour from some cavalier tree cutting that I did for him. If a sensible arborist had done the job, it would have taken all day and cost a thousand dollars but the two of us did it in a couple of hours by cutting corners. A few months later, he received some easy money and with this, he offered to purchase a ticket for me to go travelling with him. This is an offer so good, that I cannot reasonably refuse and so I feel even obligated, even fated to accept. One condition I set is that it will be for me a pilgrimage since I’m philosophical about life and take it all very seriously. Somehow, for some reason, fate is offering me something out of my ordinary existence to experience something vastly different. Something way out of my comfort zone. This is how it seemed to me and how I justified my accepting the offer. The other condition is that I first visit a friend of mine before meeting him and carrying his bags in an adjoining country. Yes it is agreed, the tickets are purchased and the dates are fixed.
This is to be a pilgrimage and I am obligated to accept. It is as if it is fated that I have to go. I am to put aside all preconceived ideas and to accept all that is offered to me in the way of experiences while I live in these very different societies. I have reached such as age where some good friends of mine have already died so I am to consider my life when compared to them, as being a bonus, and I have nothing to lose and all is a gain regardless of anything. In fact, I have almost been killed on several occasions myself mostly due to my stupidity. This is something that I don’t readily admit to because it is unsettling. I easily could have been dead. I accept the offer, knowing that with this experience, I will set all prejudices aside and take it all as a bonus, on face value, leaving it to fate as to whatever comes along. It is almost 30 years since I was last overseas and then I was working in a very corrupt country just to Australia’s north. The person’s job I was taking over from had unusually died. It was said to me on several occasions that “he had died from natural means and that I had nothing to worry about”. The implication was that he could have been murdered but wasn’t actually as one may have surmised, or so they though at least. Yes, it is time for me to let go of past bad experiences and to see what surprises fate has installed for me this time.
To be called away from the comforts of home on a pilgrimage implies reasons. It could be because I need to learn a lesson from someone or something. I will therefore always be open to any lesson. It also could be I suppose that it is possible that I need to give someone a lesson so I will always attempt to be considerate and aware of others and their circumstances. It is also possible, that while I am far away, I am to look back towards home which I can now see more clearly in its correct perspective and to have a more accurate picture of what I have really achieved. These are the rules of my committed pilgrimage and I await with nervous expectation as to what will come along.
The first country that I visit is a small and oh so concentrated Asian country. The exotic experiences of these maybe not so far off lands have been profoundly shocking to me. They have shaken me to the core. Life here is just so different and I can only just comprehend it. Let me give some examples of the psychological difficulties that I faced. For example, this is the first time in my life that I have ever seen driving on the opposite side of the road. This for me is just so unnatural and against all the rules of the road. Traffic is dense and frenetic and these are rules of life and death importance. I was never able to understand and was always totally confused by the experience. The only thing that I could ever understand was that if a car was coming towards me, I had better do something about it or else! I did have a couple of near misses which is just so dangerous. My friend said that she would look after me, but I thought that she was trying to kill me when we crossed the road together.
In this concentrated country, I never really saw what I could describe as a rural landscape that I’m so familiar with at home. Everything is just so built up with blocks of flats, roads, freeways, overpasses, railway lines, quarries and factories and except for some parks which do exist, there is no nature. In the urban environment, there are no houses, it is only flats, shops, and offices and there are no front or back yards with a little greenery.
The tiny flat had a tiny bed. I’m about 6 ft tall and the bed was only about 5ft 6inches long. The flat was on the fifth floor and over looked this busy road. Out the window and down below there were some street stalls and over the road there was a 24 hours 7 days a week supermarket except there is no car park and totally no where to park a car. It was called, “Welcome”. It was never quiet. Trucks would come and go all night. About 3 buildings away was an intersection with a main road of 8 lanes wide.
Here day and night, cars, more likely taxis, scooters and motor bikes, trucks and buses would race up and down. Ever hour or so, an ambulance would race past, and I would say a pray for some poor scooter driver who came out second best with a bus or a car or something. Well that is how I imagined it.
And what was more, there are the beautiful girls! How can there be so many beautiful girls who like to get dressed up in style and walk around showing themselves off? I saw a stylish couple with their stylish pram but inside the pram was their well dressed dog and not the baby I expected. Life here is just so concentrated. So many people squeezed into such a small space with little lanes, tiny shops, and the press of people everywhere. It is quite impossible to own a car. There is just no room. Everyone owns a scooter and they are parked/packed, everywhere. The streets are full of them and they travel like schools of fish keeping together for their protection. There are the beautiful girls on their scooters with their mobile phone tucked into their helmet strap, there are the girls and their boyfriends and the mothers and their little children. I saw one child sitting on a little chair on the floor of the scooter with his back to the front, head down and racing along with his mother along a busy road. He must have been told to sit quietly and still and surely he was. There were also dad, mum, and the two children on the scooter. One standing between his arms holding the handle bars and looking forward and the other sitting between the two parents. This is life on the edge and I am unsettled. This moment now is all that counts and tomorrow is far away.
Most shocking for me though was their use of English. English here is revered with an energy that we don’t even have. It is like that anything ordinary is written in their language but anything special or of greater importance to express their ideals is written in English. This though isn’t quite the English we are familiar with. It is a literally translated English expressing their ideals and we call the form, Chinglish. This is found on all shops. It is also found on the tee shirts that they wear. Can I give some examples that come to mind. There was a fashion shop which called itself, “Oh My God” and another called, “Show Off; In the Name of Love”. I saw a café with a big sign calling itself, “We Do It Differently”. I don’t know what it was but they were sure about it. Another was “I Swear” and my favourite cafe was “ Buddah’s Vegetarian Paradise” which seemed pretty right to me. Maybe a quarter of the population are wearing tee shirts which are making a statement. Maybe it doesn’t make too much sense to us but it is I think meaningful for them. It probably isn’t literal but more for the effect. I saw a lady in a temple praying to her gods wearing a tee shirt that said, “I Need Love”. Maybe it is obvious but it seems just too obvious to me. I felt like giving her a hug but that would probably have been a misunderstanding. Another said, “So Brave, So Fragile” which was probably true, and another advertised the perhaps worrying fact that “My Boyfriend is Broken Down”. Every day, I would see two or three people wearing in some form, the Union Jack. They are saying maybe even subconsciously, I like English and what it stands for yet we can hardly even understand. I met girls who were fluent in English who had virtually never spoken to a foreigner or native born English speaker. The effort they must have put into learning English must be incredible. There is an internet site where a visitor can meet girls who will accompany you and show you the sites of the city in return for you giving them some English speaking practice. I was most impressed how out going and adventurous these girls were.
To learn English is on top of the nightmare of learning how to write Chinese. To do so, they have to rote learn thousands of characters with up to a 27 learnt series of stroke sequences. Then they have to also rote learn thousands of combinations of these characters to form new words or meanings. The task is absolutely daunting. I don’t say that they read, I say that they have to decipher. A Chinese English teacher told me that to teach the children how to write Chinese was never fun, but just maybe to learn English maybe on occasions perhaps could be fun, such as the singing of nursery rhymes. There are many after hours English schools for the already hard pressed children. The whole nation is becoming short sighted from too much study! Everyone wears glasses. What an effort these people put into their lives and how fat, lazy and stupid so many Ozzies seem in comparison.
I know that a scenario can be made that they come from a society where for generations, they have had to have keep their head down and work hard and now, they with democracy and individual freedom and with some money to spend can make up for lost time. It is though, a shock to see it happening and English being used in an even stronger way than how we even do so. In English, we write “I”, meaning me, as a capital I. Is this a statement of self affirmation that they feel and like as they learn and become fluent?
I was only here for a few weeks before going on to another country to accompany my friend and carry his bags. The first country through dint of effort has clawed itself up from poverty to developed world standard by effort and resourcefulness alone. It has done it with almost no resources at all. This second country though, God intends to be a paradise but unfortunately it is still a deeply poor grossly mismanaged third world country.
I arrived late at night, booked myself into a hotel and prepared myself for the morning. Here just to venture out on to the street is an affront to the senses. You only take 10 steps before someone is trying to sell you Viagra or the other one I cannot remember, to sell you sunglasses as a cover to sell you a girl or to beg for money. I could only walk down the street a little bit before returning to the hotel to fortify myself before venturing out again. I had to find a hostel for accommodation and to make a bus trip to meet my friend.
I found the hostel the next day and went inside to sit for a couple of hours in relative safety. The armed guard was only there at night. Here in the lounge, there was only one person, a man a little older than myself but maybe more spent. He like me, liked talking and we passed a few hours comparing notes on life. He now lived here and had mixed stories to tell about the unique aspects of life here, both the good and the bad. He showed me his wooded leg but what unnerved me was the story he told me about how he got it. It was because of this, he now lived here on a U.S. pension. As I mentioned earlier, I only was here because I did some timber cutting for a friend who I was soon to link up with. This American was also a timber cutter but about 6 years ago, he had an accident, which he told me about. The accident happened was when he was cutting a tree with a work mate and pulling it over with a hand winch. This caused the tree to fall unexpectedly and crushed his foot “completely flat”. A most unnerving story especially for me to hear now. I told him that I had cut these awkward trees using a different and unusual technique which he had never heard of or seen but liked it saying that it was most novel. Yes, I accepted this.
Just up the road from where I was staying, I discovered a shopping mall. This would be at least 100 times larger than our local mall. It is 4 stories tall with an open auditorium and around it are many wings with what appears thousands of shops. I’m not a great fan of malls but here inside, everyone seemed clean, well dressed, even stylish, and happy. Here I’m not continually being assaulted by the noise of the traffic, and the grim and dirty street life. To enter though, one submits to being frisked buy an armed guard with an armed offsider. Once inside, there are patrolling armed guards with a euphemistic “safety officer” on their back. I had a coffee at the local Starbucks with their smartly dressed armed guard/doorman/waiter keeping an eye on everything. Maybe it is wrong for someone with my point of view who is against exploitation and believes in fair trade but I felt relaxed and could watch the passing parade of humans making their individual statements in peace and safety. I was very careful not to make any quick moves though.
I even went into two book shops here. Can you imagine, in this foreign country, I would say that somewhere between 97% and totally all the books except the dictionaries are written in English? There were either none or almost no books written in their language. Here English has totally dominated the written word. In this country, everything serious is written in English. If you watch people talking on the TV, about half of what they say is in English. They continually change between English and their local language but what is emphasised is in English. Anyone one who knows anything speaks English!
While we were walking back together that night, we were accosted by an unshaved American. He tells us that he has no money at all and would I of all people give him some! Naturally without thinking, I pull out my wallet and offered him a note of about $2 which he correctly says isn’t enough. I then pulled out a larger note of about $12 which he graciously accepts. He said that he needed to contact his parents to send him some money and to have a place to stay for the night. He asks, what can he do for me, meaning can I give him my address for him to post the money to. I say, don’t bother, just say a pray for planet earth because it is surely in need of something extra! I strangely recalled a friend who told me that he personally didn’t pray but he didn’t mind paying people to pray for him. It seemed appropriate here.
My friend had some social and business meetings to attend to in different parts of the country and I accompanied him where ever he went. While there, I always felt myself to be in a state of shock. I could never come to grips with the poverty and seeming chaos. When the time was up and I was to return home, I was just so relieved. To return was like the impossible coming true.
I have now been home a few days and have been trying to understand my experience. To me, I felt as if I was just so far away, physically and metaphorically, I was concerned if I could ever return. The worlds are so completely different, my idyllic farm life and the hectic concentration of life over there. I felt that my return was like a return from that most far off world of all, the world of the dead, perhaps like a near death experience but I had come back again. Oh, what a relief and what private promises have I made to be allowed to return! If I could ever put words to my experiences, who would even believe me anyway? Strangely though, I have returned to my old life, as if I had never been away. Everything is more or less as I left it. As if it never even happened but I know that it surely has. Australia is like a Paradise. The problem though is that we don’t recognize it and many or us treat it with contempt. To travel as a native born English speaker puts us in such an esteemed position. I think that we need to at least be aware of the history and discoveries that have allowed it to happen. Not only the victories in battle but the success of soft propaganda so that everyone desperately wants to learn English and to be modern and the English language itself, that fusion of several languages with its rapacious vocabulary of over one million words! I haven’t done anything but what a legacy I have been given! Australia though must be the only country where one is rewarded to be dumb and lazy and to be proud that one can only barely speak even a simplified colloquial form of English. I am disturbed by our wasteful affluence and their poverty and the question as to what to do about it and the gap both here and there between those who lead descent and honest lives and those who are scoundrels bludging off the work of others. It surely has been a pilgrimage for me and I am now surely a more sober man for it. Will I do it again? Well, we will just have to wait and see!!
The Importance of Small Things
Or the Scary Moment of a Tipping Point
A few days ago, I was walking on my walking track with a visitor. We decided to go up to the cave and each collected a block of Red Cedar from a small dead tree that I cut a few days earlier. He grabbed one quite heavy piece and I picked up the other. He was just about to throw his down the slope when I stopped him and said, “No not that way but over there!” He then hurled his and I did likewise with mine. We then clambered down the track to collect them and were just about to pick them up again when there was this awful crashing of a bang, bang, bang beside us. I was shocked for the moment as I didn’t know what it was. I then realized that it was the rolling and tumbling of several rocks beside us that had somehow in that moment become dislodged and were crashing down the ravine beside us. What if Ludo, my visitor, just in that moment had spontaneously thrown his block without thinking as he was about to do and without me observing and stopping him. I would certainly then have then said to him, “Well you can now go and collect it!” He may well have been crushed by a dislodging rock. A most sobering thought. At the time he was reading a book on tipping points and how small things matter, as if I didn’t know this already! Yes, loose rocks are dangerous! He left here to do a 10 course on Vipassana Meditation. I wonder if this incident crossed his mind in those long hours and days of silent meditation and reflection.
My take on things is thinking and contemplation with its resulting hopefully good inspirations. I call it, the religion of good ideas! Louise and Esme, with their in effect, ashram, were committing their lives to these higher aims. I though am not academic and couldn’t spend much of my life with study and meditation but have for sure had an inspiration to plant trees. This also gives me the time to think about life and the next step as I watched my trees grow. Being in such a group, it was very easy to be filled with over enthusiasm and an overly optimistic self appraisement of one’s standing. Upon discovering such things, these what I would consider neophytes would immediately see themselves as being some sort of initiate. I’m sure an initiate would never have the need to study things in this way. Ones standing would never be discusses as it would have been considered pure folly and utterly irrelevant as ones task was at hand. We were though encouraged to go with our ideas and to step up to life’s opportunities. It was all too easy together with an inflated ego to think of oneself as being some sort divinely sanctioned guru and one of the members became inspired almost straight away in this problematic way. She resigned from the group and attempted to take over Louise’s mantel when she left. She also attempted to expand herself into the greater public arena but it has not been successful and she really only confines herself and her self appointed status to her rather large and acquiescing extended family. Louise though never in any way saw herself as anything but the somewhat reluctant head of nothing more than a study group. It would have been considered nothing more than pure egotism to think of oneself as anything more. Maybe she was more, but these were only allowed to be private thoughts. Another two, meet in the group, become a couple, and announce that their union is on a higher level and form an actual community of at least superficially committed people. This fails in the end and everyone moves on elsewhere. Another former member now sees herself as a self denying saint who has even built a large centre/ashram to acknowledge her status which though is still tragically empty. Others in the group I’m sure now give it little if any thought and are as, as so called normal can be and I’m sure that others now if they give it any thought at all would renounce it all as hocus pocus. Another member though became sort of successful and a little bit famous as a radio talk back radio show host, interviews a then current Prime Mister and they even appear as mates but I know for sure that when the host was in his what I will call, his Rasputin days, he would have had no time at all for conventional politics and worst of all, conventional economics and for example the crazy and destructive concept of economic growth but now he seems to endorse it all. Could this be a betrayal of principles? A year or so later he dies suddenly and youngish. A severely worrying thought. What was the gain there? The results would be if one could look at it in a conventional way, would have to be mixed. I though confined myself to austerity and treeplanting and the ample rigours that life supplied to me. I liked another quote from the books that “the vegetable kingdom is the major achievement of the planet”. This I can believe as the human kingdom is surely full of faults. Another friend who was never in the group, but who is a philosophical recluse says that he doesn’t have much to show for all his efforts either. I do though think that it is life’s natural progression that if one reaches a certain age, one has a desire to pass on what has been learnt. We are all on different paths and have no choice but to be true to our own path. I have another friend whose way is meditation and he would like to set up a school for meditation. What now of myself? Well, I like the idea that my next step for my life of good ideas is to write this little story. It might even be the last chapter of my autobiography which is more a catalogue of weirdness? I wonder what if anything will come of it!?
Now in 2011, as I drive past the now unused green letter box in its state of almost total ruin, I can’t help but still wonder of the brave “RIHUREL” that was once painted there and what it once meant and of their commitment. I do though remember and would like to make a confession. At the time, my farm was in ruins, the house was a wreck, and the land was devastated but my perspective on life was to fix up the house and to replant the land with trees and to transform it into an Arcadian paradise. Now years later, what once looked like a desperate liability has now been transformed into a vastly different place. I think though that cynicism plays too much of a role in our lives. It is obvious that thoughts and actions can transform our lives but occult studies imply that this can change can go even further and change our karma, fate or evolutionary position. To say this I even now feel is heresy against the mainstream cynicism. I though think of my place as being more than in just a striking or significant location but actually even a sacred sight, [maybe minor sacred site is more accurate but anyway]. Over the years I have learnt of its history and the poignant set of circumstances that led to it coming on to the market for me to purchase. Another group member also purchased their land as a direct result of an even more powerful set of tragic and disturbing natural circumstances. Mine was death from snake bite while the other was death from a rare local tornado. Of me then learning of these facts, to then to have been given the insight as to it being as to what I was looking for and being as to what would be possible from a desperate situation, the farm physically and me personally. To then to have been able to seize the moment through difficulty and was it luck, and then to be able to purchase it only with my own hard earned money. To have held on to the vision through much strife and rancour. To have planted the trees without any encouragement from anyone other than surprised disbelief and then after the work, to have to show no immediate improvement to the desperate landscape. To have fixed up the house and to have made the changes that have turned it into one of the most wonderful and comfortable houses to live in. To have seen its position in the landscape and to have made the connections. To then discover weird alignments between me, the house and the landscape. To have made a walking track that circles the farm which I and others have then used as a walking meditation. To have then made a jungle shrine where visitors have made confessions. To discover a tiny stream whose source that is here on the farm that never even in the worst droughts, ever stops flowing is more than just remarkable and also to have discovered a largish cave. To have spent my life here where just to look at the now green hills is more than a comfort to me but a positive affirmation of life and nature being able to repair its self. To have visitors tell me that they have had experiences here that they will never forget. For them to say, because of all the good health of the planted trees, that the air is so pure and envigorating and for them to go on and say that the green colour that on occasions can be best described as being an electric green, and is just so healing upon their tired city eyes. I look back and I am just so grateful of a life that early on, was so much on the edge. To have made something out of so little, I find miraculous. I don’t claim to know how or to who or what, but I can at least write the word gratitude and dwell upon this as well.
I said to my neighbour, that I had led a very lucky life. She said that I had led a very, very lucky life. Oh how true!
I now look for words that describe my experience and situation. The process of redeeming the land to become the sacred landscape. To have a walking track whose purpose is to circumambulate the farm as an act of meditation and devotion, there is the Buddhist word, kora. To proclaim, I suppose, a jungle shrine on this track and to then charge seemingly ordinary objects to become mysterious. The word, awe is to approach the holy. A word that I have discovered and like is tirthas. This is a word from Hindi meaning, a place where crossing overs are easier from this world to the other. This word I am about to carve into a block of wood and place it at the jungle shrine. How much do I owe to those lessons, visions and the opening of a door to a life far beyond what I once thought possible. Naturally I don’t know, but I still occasionally pass by that now ruined letter box and the still painted “RIHUREL” although now unseen but surely still there under the repainted green coat of now faded paint. I still do remember something from all those years ago and I am still extremely grateful for a life greatly enhanced. Now it is my turn, can I now pass on my good karma and what I believe should be, a redeemed and sacred landscape. May Silvanus, the restored God of the Forest help us with his shrine, the Apotropaie. Genius loci, the spirit of a place and numinousity, the haunting quality of some places.
Here in my manscript, I have attempted to show that by living here and transforming the landscape by treeplanting, I have gradually discovered that I actually live in what I believe is a special location or dare I say it, a sacred site. Naturally, I ask myself the obvious question, how is it possible? The best answer I can think of is “by the grace of the Pine Tree”.
Things said when here, about here or what I think is relevant to here.
I have truly found Paradise.
This is the best think in the Pocket.
[John and the cave.]
You would not believe the pleasure it gave me sitting on your verandah.
I learnt to have an adventure every day at your place.
Some things are so boring they become interesting again.
[Apple, probably about life on the farm and watching trees grow]
Can pain ever become boring?
[Emily, my daughter on being bitten/stung so many times by the dreaded jumper ants.]
All decadence is cheap.
[Melony. We still do here what ever we like]
After a week on the farm, a trip to Gympie seems like a trip to New York.
The stupendous task for the redemption of planet earth.
[The good news is that a start has been made at least by the writing of this]
The earth is meant to be a shrine to the Goddess.
[The sacred landscape]
Planet earth can make an adequate heaven and a more than adequate hell.
[Theosophy]. Up hill is hard while to backslide is easy.
Vispassana, a torturous hell. A poker faced miserable approach to life.
[Visitor who knows]
I have visited in all my wanderings, shrines and other places of pilgrimage, but have never seen anything as blissful as my body.
[Not sure who]
The word lazy in English is already too lazy in Japanese.
Why are the English speakers so happy?
Motivational speak divorces husband because he is a workaholic.
[Visitor] Husband, “I was just trying to please you”]
I prefer to speak English to German/Danish .
[3 visitors, 2 German and 1 Danish, although beings native born German/Danish speakers]
Create space, slow down and think
[Those winning are often losing, while those losing are often winning.]
I taught her how to think.
[By who about whom, I will keep to myself.]
I think I’m only just a homosexual, but I’m so pleased that I am!
If I have to drive at 80km per hour, I go crazy.
[Yes, true, someone said to me expressing the opposite philosophy]
Expediency is everything.
[If the pressure is really on and even said by me on occasions]
Life is a work of art.
[We hope so.]
Every passing moment is an opportunity for artistic expression and should not be missed.
Low standards are not no standards [about choosing pieces of my wood].
[Neville a uses my wood. He turns offcuts and junk into things of beauty]
Good taste is the enemy of art.
[Wabisabi is the profound in the ordinary, and the aesthetics of imperfection. Perhaps there is too much wabisabi here.]
Anyone who claims to know the way, doesn’t know the way.
[Life here is hands on and do it yourself and to make your own way ]
He ate so much healthy food that he became unhealthy.
I’m always at my best when people do things for me.
Mozart did’t try hard enough.
If you cannot help it, you are not responcible.
One thing you and I have in common, both our lives have been failures. Me; ‘true for you but not me!!”
One thing I’m certain of, you will definitely out last me. [Sad but true]
[Gertrude, a former resident guress]
The level of guruism in the district is very low.
[Chris Cordeaux. Probably even lower now.]
50% is a pass, 51% is wasted effort.
[Me and my poor attitude at university]
I personally don’t pray but I don’t mind paying someone else to pray for me.
Meat eating is the root of all evil.
When ever I feel depressed, I play some Tchaikovsky and I always laugh at the end because no one can be as sad and depressed as him.
[Was Tchaikovsky a tortured genius or a homosexual who just wrote tunes?]
The proof of Christanity is in its music.
[Many great composers and the insight they give]
A universe without life is inconceivable.
Bad news is good news.
[An extreme position of the abstract Reality of everything, something most terrible and wonderful at the same time]
Life isn’t so much about the work but the bringing about good ideas.
[Life then is the bringing about the good ideas and the greatest way to pay homagee to God is by their manifisation]
A theory for the bringing about of providential good luck. If one can transcend it, one can have it. To get something, one must give something.
[Is this the purpose of my story?]
If one is interested in cosmology, that is the universal metaphysical one, one is also interested in a blade of grass.