I belong to an exclusive club, one that has no doors or windows, admission fees or structure. Its membership is open to anyone but it is limited to those of us who are able to appreciate and connect with nature on a daily basis. We understand that in order to be grounded, you have to get off the pavement, and out of the car, out of the house and off the sidewalk and find a piece of the natural landscape where you can walk the earth amidst the trees, the seaside, or the cactus in the desert or the fields of a rural scene. Walking in a natural setting gives you the opportunity to hear the buzz of the bumblebees and birds calling back and forth, to hear the great chorus of the wind in the trees, and achieve a measure of peace through simply marveling at the beauty of the physical world. When this can be accomplished in relative safety, with no need for protection, no fear and just a peaceful sense of enjoyment, you have joined the club.
Here at the edge of Victoria, I live on a hillside beside a mystic and mythic park. There are trails that lead through oaken groves that seem to be transported from the Middle Earth of Tolkien’s mind and wind past craggy rocks scored by the crush of the last ice age when glaciers soared high above the ground. For thousands of years this has been a sacred site, a place of mystery and delight. Last year, this was reaffirmed when a group of followers of the late Katharine Maltwood arrived to dedicate the hilltop as the Heart of Virgo, in the physical manifestation of the Zodiac as proclaimed by Katherine, who came from Glastonbury England and was adept in metaphysics, philosophy, and mysticism. I should mention that she was also a fine artist and sculptor, and that her husband made a fortune with Oxo, the beef bouillon company. And so, decades after her death a group of seekers appeared on the hill to invoke a new rite for an old place. Was it serendipity that brought me there as witness that afternoon? Stewardship of a place that still has its old spirits, sprites and cosmic doorways intact can be fun. They poke and prod, shimmering at the edge of sight, elemental to the core.
All this, is simply to share a small measure of where I walk and what I see. I often wonder though, what my counterparts in distant lands experience on their walks. There must be some wonderful places where other feet tromp on their daily rounds out beyond the distant horizon. Places like the Normandy coast, the Cotswold hills, Grecian Islands, fragrant tropical coastlines, and a thousand more rush through my mind faster than a husband flipping channels on the bigscreen. We walk, our club, in blessed peace, bathed in beauty, absorbing grace.
Yet, even as I take spiritual refreshment on these nature walks, I feel a twinge of guilt. Because after all, why should I be so lucky and so privileged to be where I am? I know that millions more suffer lives so bleak it makes you cry. I mean just for starters, living in a big city in some tiny urban cave that looks out at thousands of other electrified cave dwellings, can be pretty soul destroying. A lot of folks are stuck and never see the country, just over-used and trampled urban parks, littered with needles and shell casings, a haven for the dark. Whole cities live in violent terror, calling into question what we mean by the term modern civilization. Millions live trapped and corralled, without freedom and for them each walk beyond their personal safety zone is a walk of terror, waiting for a bullet or a landmine or a jeep full of gunmen to cut them down. Squalid refugee camps proliferate, slums expand and then are subject to eviction, the forgotten armies of the undone hang on in desperation. Prisons holding poets and social activists along with petty thieves, maintain a chokehold on self-expression and personal beliefs.
So what gives me the temerity to celebrate yet another exclusive club, yet another privilege, yet another luxury beyond capacity? I can only try to imagine what someone trapped in a horrid place might feel, and I don’t doubt that my club is for the most part lumped in with everything else of the privileged few, and resented unreservedly. But perhaps it may also be that this idea of natural beauty, being grounded with nature and being able to experience that without fear might also serve as a beacon of hope for the more forgiving of those different sisters and brothers across the miles. At least, I tell myself, I will appreciate the world’s beauty to my full capacity, and enjoy the gifts that have been put before me. And far away, some lonely soul, beaten and downtrodden but still alive can find a measure of understanding as I revel in the glory of the land.
David Trudel © 2012