I went for a walk today. Not so unusual, but for the setting: I’ve taken myself off on my own writer’s retreat, to the Hunter Valley. Quiet, trees, the oxygen-rich air of bushland which springs from the richness of wine-growing earth. I wish I could describe the beauty of this place. The way the rain-laden grey settles so quietly down into the tree-furred valley. Gentle, a mantle, like the peaceful coming of sleep to a tired mind. I wish I could describe the green covering the hills over which I walked today, the depth of rainforest richness, the bright of new ferns and the vivid soft lichens and moss which coat the rocks, those small monoliths which have lain for the passing of more seasons than any living person could tell. The silent perfection of a bright tree-fern nestled into the fork of old wood. The moist air rich with the piping of bellbirds and the slow, eternal thoughts of the thousands of trees. There are few flowers; those that I saw were small, muted, understated. Quiet and self-effacting in their unobtrusive magnificence.
I walked these hills, walked through this bushland, an intruder with clumsy human feet which snapped twigs and swished aside the leaves which had lain rotting for the next generation of small creatures to find succour. An intruder, although not unwelcome; no more or less important than the orange-bodied ants which I stepped off the faint trail to avoid; or the sharp-winged swallows which darted through the trees in joyful, rapid celebration of their own agility. No more or less important than the large black bug with its helicopter buzz which droned past my ear; or the electric neon flash of the blue wren and the earth-coloured beauty of his mate which flickered through the trees with the speed of thought.
There’s comfort in that idea. My life, my thoughts, the myriad of concerns that I tried to leave at home but which rode the back of my mind as I travelled to this place – in reality they mean nothing. That’s not entirely true, of course – they mean everything to the collection of atoms and cells and thoughts and soul that is Naomi. But they mean nothing to the little black-and-white wagtail I watched dive-bomb a magpie four times its size. They mean nothing to the spider whose web I walked through in a place so quiet that the snapping of those invisible silken threads was audible. They mean nothing to the trees under whose enduring thoughts I walked.
In a few days I will return to the demands of my life; and all my worries, my concerns, the things I need to deal with, will be waiting for me. There will be a job to do, and people to be with, and relationships to navigate, and music to learn and rehearsals to attend. But for the next days, there’s peace, and the piping of bellbirds, and rain-scented grey, and the eternal thoughts of trees.