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Published: April 27th 2015
I first want to thank you for the nomination for Blogger of the Week. What an honor! It really touched my heart, realizing other people enjoy reading my words, especially since they are very personal. This is a difficult spiritual journey and I appreciate you coming along with me. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means the world! Soul's Landscape
The moment when it clicks, when that one stone comes loose and the avalanche starts, but instead of crashing down and destroying everything in its path, it all falls into place and as the dust clears, sun shines down on a much different scene than before and it looks something like clarity.
I have a certain knowing. Now I want sight. -Rumi, "What I See In Your Eyes"
Time in the South Island can change your perspective about life. Not so much that insights lurk around every hairpin turn or float out on crisp alpine lakes but that the epic beauty in the land sort of pulls everything out of you, like infection from a wound, and you're left feeling the small ant at a giant's feet. Your problems seem as distant as the mountains slicing across the horizon and as out of reach as the island miles off shore,
and there is a temporary peace that flows from inside and warms the skin like sunlight. You're content in your insignificance and the land knows when you're strong enough to take on life again and it delivers it to you, a bit at a time.
I make medicine out of your pain. From your chimney smoke I shape new constellations. I tell everything, but I do not say it, because, my friend, it is better your secret be spoken by you. -Rumi, "Medicine Out of Pain"
South Island is as varied in landscape as a bag of jelly beans is in flavors: reach your hand in and you never know what you're going to get. In the same way, turn a corner down here and a whole new world will open itself up before you. Abel Tasman, at the northern part of the island, is lush green rainforest kissing deep blue waters, with a chorus of bird song singing in joy at the reunion. Walking here isn't a thrill seeker's idea of a good time, but what the place lacks in difficulty it makes up for in beauty and your eyes can't drink it all in fast enough. Out on the water, smooth like turquoise silk, the yellow kayak is a stark contrast to the softness of the morning light, but somehow it too belongs, only for the sake of bringing you to witness the purity of the place. The
only sounds are the birds and the swish as the paddle gently dips in the sea, and gliding along it is easy to forget everything else but your heartbeat and how oddly it keeps pace with the lapping water.
Coastal people never really know what the ocean symbolizes to landlocked inland people--what a great distant dream it is, present but unseen in the deepest levels of subconsciousness, and when they arrive at the ocean and the conscious images are compared to the subconscious dream there is a sense of defeat at having come so far to be so stopped by a mystery that can never be fathomed. The source of it all. -Robert M. Persig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Driving down the west coast is like moving along an endless perfect brushstroke, filled with colors and textures that you thought only imagination could create: rocky coast smooths down to stoney beaches, then rises again to rich bush. The rainforest is a thick, forboding green, mysterious and demanding and all the while the Tasman Sea crashes upon the shore, whipping up white froth and churning the waters into chaotic swells. Seals laze about the rocks on hazy days, mothers apathetically lying still as the pups fight for the first of many feedings and seagulls play a game of slow hover and quick dive over the water. In the distance the Southern Alps, stretching the length of the island are jagged teeth in the sky, like blue sapphires.
Franz Josef, set a little bit back from the coast, has the unique luck to be one of three glaciers in the world located smack dab in the middle of a rainforest,
which is oddly a hard idea to grasp. Helicopters take you up to the glacier (please, no selfies till you're securely strapped in) and drop you off on what you thought was essentially just a big pile of snow, but which is in fact a labyrinth of trenches, tunnels, ridges, and walls of eery blue ice. Your mountainman guide, pick ax and pink sunnies included, takes you through it all, sometimes wandering off the path to go "find something to interest ya" and sometimes chipping steps into the ice with powerful, practiced swings. It's quiet, the lack of life natural rather than desolate but the drumming of the falls, grey and angry in the distance serves as a firm reminder that this hunk of ice is anything but stagnant. We don't talk in the group but plod along behind the guide, each wrapped in our own thoughts, which are buried under their own layers and mountains of impassable material, but still always shifting.
Keep walking, though there's no place to get to. Don't try to see through the distances. That's not for human beings. Move within, but don't move the way fear makes you move. -Rumi, "Move Within"
From the west coast you move inland, towards the Southlands, where snowcapped peaks keep pace with the road like guardians keeping watch over the entrance of a new land. Clouds hover and twine around the summits,
but sun shines down bright and clear along the road and it feels like the two are worlds apart and still trying to come together. This is where crystal blue lakes, surfaces as smooth as a mirror, reflect back perfectly the towering peaks that surround them and roads hug mountains like the ribbons in a bride's hair.Wanaka and Queenstown are two of the most picturesque towns I've ever seen. Lakes, mountains, sunsets and sunrises (take your pick) that no camera can capture, autumn's yellows and reds against white dusted, purple peaks, add a rainbows for flare and there really isn't a whole lot missing. But if that doesn't do it for you then there's always the option to jump off a a bridge, swing across canyons, or do away with any rope whatsoever and throw yourself out of a plane; anything to adrenaline-pump the hangover out of you.
It's an interesting part of the country, sort of a crossroads for travelers. Bus tours use Queenstown as a major junction, coming down from the north, some going to the deep south, and still others moving back up north by a different route. Backpackers you last saw two weeks ago in
Abel Tasman are here and it's like a family reunion as you each recount the adventures you've been having. You compare experiences, give and receive advice on what to do next, and then you go out for a big night on the town followed by a greasy but indescribably delicious famous Fergburger (tofu option available). It's where final goodbyes are made or put off for a little longer, where groups of friends lounge in the late afternoon sun, knowing that it will never be like this again, that this moment will be timeless in their collective memories and it will forever be perfect.
The South Island has changed me, though it is hard to explain how. I am puzzled at this peacefulness, like a child trying to figure out how a new toy works. It's irregular shape doesn't sit comfortably yet I know, somehow, that I'm meant to understand. I don't know where the weighty depression of the past eight months has gone and I miss it like you'd miss an old friend who suddenly disappears without notice. Sometimes we long for any comfort we know, even if it hurts us.In truth I know a reprieve when I see
one and realize it's not the end of the struggle. But that doesn't lessen their importance, serving to illuminate and remind us what we are fighting towards. For now, worries seem less important, laughter comes more naturally, and I sleep so soundly I wake up as if into a dream. The people I've met along this road have been incredible and I can't help but believe the cliché: that Love weaves lives together for some ultimate purpose and each person we meet has something to teach us. I owe them an unpayable debt for this sudden, unexpected elation.
This South Island is the landscape of the soul; vast, epic, and diverse with a beauty both majestic in its coloring and frightening in its mystery. Wandering here is both inner pilgrimage and outer journey, a place where you cease to be what you were and are allowed to be what you are. You see reflections of your true self in the mirror surface of the lakes, the surf - pounded rocks are your scarred wounds, the mountains your struggles, and the farmland a soft rolling blanket of peace. Your eyes will sparkle with happiness and your laughter will bubble with
ease; your tears fall and flow with the rivers out to the ocean and your anger boils in rolling clouds. This is where you come to escape and where you find yourself, time and time again.
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