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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 2, April 2014


Gerry Jacobson
Canberra, Capital Territory, Australia

In the Rainforest

Someone has put a rock in the base of this tree. Or is it natural? A seat out of the rain, with its comforting bole around me. On a track like this I met those Wagi men carrying salt in bamboos. Naked but for some arse-grass. That ancient trading route, from Lake Kutubu to the Highlands.

Silent in a cave. White volcanic ash. Pilgrims are writing letters to their trees. It’s raining outside, words are pouring inside. But it’s late in the day and I don’t want to stay here.

Heading back. It becomes a grey twilight world in the forest. An elkhorn on a tree trunk looks like a Green Man. I get out just on dark. The others emerge. Hot drink and cake. Then it seems a bleak pre-dinner hour. Everyone chatting except me. I pretend to write. Actually I do write—my Letter to a Tree. And when I share it, I hear them gasp.

I don’t know your name
silent majestic one
I see
your buttressed trunk
the vines that wrap you

bird calls
in your dark tangled
for two thousand years
the sound of dripping rain

way down below
I’m on a slippery track
rain patters
my parka hood
turning me inwards

my right hip groans
my left knee wobbles
how long
can I go on for
you . . . will outlive . . . me

Sitting meditation, then the gong. Is it still raining? I haven’t got a bed for the night. This pilgrim life. Where will I sleep?

I brave it, go out into the night world. Mountain mist. Trees still dripping but it’s not actually raining. Gerry in the clouds again. Lay my sleeping bag on a table in the picnic shelter. It seems that I don’t sleep, don’t feel comfortable, afraid of rolling off. But I open my eyes and it’s dawn.

a night
of mist and cloud and rain
then the sky clears
and the sun rises
over Surfers’ Paradise

Morning meditation. The rising sun casts our shadows, linked, across the circle. As though together we come out of archetypal darkness.

nineteen pilgrims
in a circle
sitting . . .
watching their thoughts
on nineteen TV screens

Schoolkids walk past with packs on, talking excitedly, starting their journey. Teacher says if you start cold you’ll walk warm. He strips his parka off to set an example. Two aboriginal girls wave to me. These kids are 14–15, the age I was when I started walking.

I flick the hoop pine in passing. It flicks me back, into the past. Is it fifty years since Fraser Island? Can almost see it from here. Just around the corner out there.

that island in the sun
that morning
of all my days . . .
sand between my toes

Small group, with deep sharing. I feel blessed. A man comes down to our circle with a leaf blower. Why is he blowing leaves in the rainforest?

I share about the separation, the nights out, and K draws me out about my life. My craving to be out there. And where am I now, and the future. Has the ‘out there’ affected my relationships? I suppose ‘out there’ is more real than human relationships. But then my early girlfriends, my wife, were fellow travellers.

In the larger circle the focus is on strength. I share about growing up as the Little Prince—my resilience. I'm starting to claim my place as an elder. Until now I’ve pretended I’m as young as everyone else. Well I feel young. And now I feel heard.

Forest dirdling (L's expression). Black Booyong, Watkins Fig. Figs are awesome, strangle their host leaving a hollow trunk. Size and power, extraordinary. White Booyong, Marara, Black Apple. This giant, I can see it bending over to kiss another tree.

mindful walking
in ancient rainforest . . .
a shaft of sunlight
through the canopy . . .
omg I’m missing Facebook

A network of detached branches, held up by vines. Yellow robin. Eastern whipbird. Deep time. Gondwana broke up over 105 million years. Thirty five species of Nothofagus in Southern Hemisphere. Our Tweed Caldera formed about 23 million years ago. The drying of Australia about 10 million years.

Crazy beings, some of them, bent over, encrusted with vines in leaf. It’s late afternoon and the sun squeezes in under the canopy. The sun lights up strange things. Fungi or dead fern? Copper leaves on the track—beech. Grove of Antarctic Beech, Nothofagus moorei.

The bark cool against my face. I sit in the hollowed-out core, looking up at the last sunlight on the canopy. Flicks me back to boyhood. A scots pine in pale blue sky. Camped under it. Was it somewhere in Kent?

The business of the bushwalker—to get out in daylight. Walking the track slowly, noticing things. Then I stride out. Thoughts of departure. And after a while, I notice I’m thinking. What is meditation?

I love to go
a-dirdling along
a forest track
and as I go I love to think
about my thoughts

Author’s Note: from my journal of a yatra (pilgrimage) in Lamington National Park, Queensland, 2013.



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