Friday 31 May 2024

Talleh Tales: Chapter Two

[Water lillies in Talleh Lagoon]

Warming to this new style of bushwalking, with its less-is-more vibe, I retired to my tent after the "ripples at dawn" event (see here)With our plans for the day decidedly low-key, and neither Jim nor Lisa up and about, a lie-in seemed appropriate. 


Some ambient bird song helped me doze until the strong sun warmed my little red tent a bit too much. Time for breakfast. We’d made a kitchen space between some boulders, and we relaxed in its comfortable warmth, sipping and chatting about our options for the day. We decided that a circumnavigation of our lagoon would be a good way to get to know the immediate neighbourhood. 

[Exploring the neighbourhood]

So from our little bay we walked south through light scrub to the next bay. Water lillies dotted the shallows and carpets of red seedheads of mountain rocket brightened the whole scene. Nearby we found an elevated open place beside a large eucalypt, with room for many tents. Feeling the generosity of this whole lagoon, we agreed this spot would have made a good alternative campsite to our own. 


[The next bay south]

We wandered on, enjoying being off-track with only a vague agenda. At the southern end of the lagoon we needed to cross the outlet stream. Here the scrub thickened markedly, and boulders joined the party, necessitating a little scrambling, some bush-bashing, and a small leap across the stream. Once on the other side we could turn north and walk up the eastern shore of the lagoon. 

[Lisa and Jim cross the creek]

Of course it wasn’t that simple, but after some creative meandering, we found ourselves more or less opposite our campsite. From our “home” campsite we’d looked across to a grove of pencil pines near a beach, and had wondered whether it might hide a pleasant, pencil-pine-shaded, lakeshore campsite? Now that we’d reached it, we saw that the answer was NO. The only campable spot was the beach itself. This was well away from the pines, and was both sloping and very open. Still, it was a very pleasant spot for a break on this calm, warm day. 

[An alternative campsite?]

We reclined on the beach, watching swans on the lake, which were no doubt watching us back. We’d taken lunch with us, but as it wasn’t even midday yet, we made do with a snack and a drink. We’d save lunch for when we’d got “home” and could add a hot drink to it. 


The afternoon continued warm and sunny, and two of us talked ourselves into a post-lunch swim. The lake was quite shallow, and not too cold, but there was no persuading Jim to come in. If the urge to swim ever comes over him, his response is to have a good lie down, or else to book a flight to Queensland. After the swim we all toyed with the idea of heading to our tents for a nap. But by now the sun had grown fierce, and the tents were unbearably hot. So I decided to continue my day the way it had begun, with a quiet sit by the lake shore. 


I shuffled my Helinox chair into a small patch of shade and sat still for a very long time, just looking out over the calm waters. Swans drifted in and out of view, rising trout occasionally rippled the water, and tiny wavelets made the softest of splashes beneath me. I’m not always good at stopping and being meditative, but this was an opportunity too good to miss. And wasn’t one of our reasons for going “slow-packing” the chance to feed our souls?


As I pondered my morning experience, and the sense of God hovering quietly over the waters of creation, I thought back to the old testament prophet, Elijah. This gifted man had suddenly met life-threatening opposition, which had plunged him into a period of dreadful anxiety and depression. He’d hidden on a mountainside hoping to be rescued by some words of reassurance from God. Instead Elijah experienced a series of intense natural events. First a mighty whirlwind, then an earthquake, and then a fierce fire passed by. But, we’re told in I Kings 19, the Lord was not in any of those. It was only after all of those natural dramas had subsided that Elijah heard a “still, small voice” (as I learned it in Sunday school). Other translators have it as “a soft whisper”, or “the voice of fragile silence”. However we translate it, it was in this surprising, quiet, and extraordinarily personal manner that God chose to speak to Elijah.


Someone closer to our own time and place, the bush bishop E.H. Burgmann, may have had a related experience. In the 1940s, writing about his time in the Australian bush, Burgmann says:


The bush . . .  will not speak to a man in a hurry. Its message is worth waiting for. Only the soul that is stilled in its presence can hear the music of its song.

[Looking across Talleh Lagoon]

Here, now, by this softly whispering lake, I felt I had come to such a still point. It was no mountaintop experience; there had been no spectacle or miracle. But I had experienced both a quiet awe and a deep joy. And as American author, poet and biologist Drew Lanham recently put it: 


Awe is a kind of prayer. Joy is my praise.


Di E said...

Beautiful, Peter, thankyou. I need to organise such peaceful getaways too.

Nature Scribe said...

I’m so glad you enjoyed it Di. And yes, it is worth the fuss and bother of getting out there, as you know from your bike riding experience.