Create emptiness up to the highest
Guard stillness up to the most complete.
Then all things may rise together.
I see how they return,
Things in all their multitude:
Each one returns to its root.
Return to their root means stillness.
Stillness means return to fate.
Return to fate means eternity.
Cognition of eternity means clarity
If one does not recognize the eternal
One falls in to confusion and sin.
If one recognizes the eternal
One becomes forbearing.
From Tao Te Ching as translated by Richard Wilheim
Waldon went off to live deliberately. Joseph Campbell spent years in the wilderness! I have come to Wartook. Here at Wartook I see and feel what these men felt, understand why they stepped off the well beaten path and isolated themselves. They came because you have to come and create emptiness, be still, with nature, in order to fuse with it and liberate creativity, give one’s art life through merging one’s spirit with nature.
Here at Wartook I know that the spiritual plane is not on some elevated platform, far from my grasp. Here, within the shadows of Mt Difficult I know that spirit walks where I walk, sees what I see, breaths the air I breath, communicates with me through something as simple as a blade of grass, a spire of bamboo grass being caressed by the gentle breeze. Here in this quiet space I can hear her gentle laughter, echoing within the empty spaces.
Here at Wartook I gather dead leaves to accelerate the fledgling fire that warms my womb like cabin. I take dead leaves, hold them in the palm of my hand, crush them and feel them disintegrate. It is self-evident that spirit abandoned these leaves, left them to fuse with the earth, to be gathered by me to fuel flames and heat my coffee pot. I look and understand that the dead leaf is nothing but an empty shell, the remains of an organism that once breathed life, danced upon a bough, amid other leaves, drank the sweet life giving oxygen that surrounded it.
Having taken the dead leaves, gathered the brittle twigs, that once carried the tree’s life blood, I stop, quizzically ponder and in doing so, learn that in the same way our bodies, once emptied of spirit, will stiffen and wither.
Ash’s head drooped within milliseconds, the proud body crumpled and curled, his spirit rose within an invisible vapor, like a curl of smoke from a chimney and drifted out into the cosmos. Dog, human, leaves are a part of the great cosmic force and that cosmic force is a part of dog, human, leaf, until it decides to depart, leaving a shell to be disposed of.
How does this knowing affect what I do here in Wartook? Why am I writing about it? I am writing, quite simply, because the spirit of Wartook, the custodian of this remote valley, has taken it in to its head to sit me in class, insist that I observe, sit wrapped within a snow dome, a galaxy of bright stars. Spirit seems to think that I need to understand that, while my ego would like to think otherwise, I have no real existence outside nature, beyond that galaxy of stars that cloak me.
As I sit within the dome of bright stars, I am certain about some things. I am certain that Ash only exists as remains, lying within a grave over which birds carol their evensong, above which magpies call, announcing the arrival of dawn. Yet I am just as certain that a part of Ash came, to greet me, as I entered Rose Gully Road. He lies here now, beside me, tail wagging, adoring eyes watching, protecting.
As I sit within the dome of bright stars, I know that Darryl’s body, dissolved in to ash, was scattered upon the water of the Stony Creek, floated, like a raft, along with the currents and vanished. Yet he exists within memory, within the stories, told of him. He is not with me yet he is always present, a guiding hand, a reassuring voice, a gentle touch. Where Darryl once stood, where Ash once lay, there is a void, an emptied space. Yet this void is not formless, anymore than the heavens that surround me are formless or empty. They are filled to over flowing, bright stars bursting forth light, forming constellations, patterns, pathways to distant worlds.
The void is just another manifestation of nature, another form of energy, and a place I keep returning to, a well from which to drink and replenish.
Spirit thought I needed to know that from voids, shapes rise, that while I have no existence outside nature I will exist long after I am gone, just as Darryl and Ash will exist for many life times. I have listened to spirit, to the custodian of Mount Difficult. I hear and know that shapes rise, return from the void. The shape that is rising is still imperceptible, is barely discernible, but it is taking a familiar form and within that form is life, the one, the very same spirit who has taken me captive here in Wartook.