31 January 2011


I am in my bathers, in a tent, in a campground, suurounded by scrubby sand dunes, on the southern most tip of Yorke Peninsuala.
Most people who camp here are surfers.
Walking along a track through the dunes I get to a deserted beach in the middle of Pondilowie Bay.

Looking south along the beach I can see the big Pondilowie campsite; about a kilometer north is one of the best surf breaks on the peninsula. I've found a camping spot in the middle and although there are a few others in the camp ground, no-one is on this beach.
I walk along the shoreline towards the Pondilowie surf break - its not quite so deserted here. I count 10 guys out on the waves. A group of sun-hatted girlfriends laze on the beach watching them.
It's 8.30am.

I surfed here once about 10 years ago - a brave 40 year old female amongst the guys. Paddling out I remember feeling that familiar heady mixture of extreme anxiety and adrenalin rush - I was scared to death of these waves, but paddled out anyway, plundering through my fear. They were the best waves I'd ever surfed.
Today there's not much swell, 4-5 foot clean waves, but a long long wait between sets. I sit on the beach and watch the surfers, relieved to have finally offloaded all remnants of youthful bravado. I no longer need to prove anything to anyone (including myself).

In my late teens I flew light aircraft, and got my pilot's licence in a Grumman Cheetah at aged 20. In my mid 30's I took up surfing. Youthful vitality and exuberance compelled me to extend myself in an effort to discover what I was capable of. In our younger years we take risks and push boundaries, expanding our sense of self out into the world to fill out our potential.

By middle age, our quota of those fiery youthful hormones are running low - they seep away as we settle comfortably into the characters we have moulded for ourselves. We take less risks, and find excuses to avoid the confrontion of new challenges that don't fit into the boundaries we have formed.
As our life stabilises and solidifies around familiar routines that support us, so our vital energy field loses its youthful spark as it too stabilises. This is the plateau of middle age, the bridge between youthful exuberance and the inevitable slide into old age.

I take comfort from the Hindu tradition of ashramas that separate a person's life into four distinct phases:
The student – spiritual learning under a guru
The householder – focus on family, career or job, community.
The retired person – time to contemplate the meaning of life and death
The ascetic – worldly ties are broken, devotion to God

As I enter my 50s, its not so much fear or a lack of vital energy that prevents me from doing new and exciting things, travelling to new places and taking on new challenges, but more that my priorities have shifted from exploring the outer world to exploring the inner world:
Yoga practice is where I explore the multi-layered landscape of Self; meditation is a fascinating journey into deeper levels of consciousness.

My outer life has become a response to my inner life, not vice versa.

So I am out here in a tent, under the trees and the stars, blissfully alone, and completely content.

It's a hot weekend, 40 degrees Centigrade today, probably more in this tent, and probably hotter tomorrow. I lay with maximum skin exposed, grateful for the light sea breeze moving through the tent and over my skin. The beach may be fresher - its an option if I start to suffocate in this sweat lodge.
Big four wheel drive vehicles grumble slowly past my tent, either stalking the area for a good place to camp, or heading off towards the surf.

Camping alone I am wild and free. I can be as dishevelled as I want, I can lay around and read or sleep all day or go wandering or swimming or just sit and meditate if I want. And the silence is bliss, it is the silence of not having to talk to anyone, the silence of not having to be anyone.

This tent is my cave; simple chores all require mindfulness and care - like warming food on a gas burner, washing dishes in a bucket, pulling on clothes while laying down.
Nothing is familiar.
I do everything carefully, with surgical precision. One mistake and the tent could catch on fire or the mattress will be soaked, or some other irrepairable catastrophe.

Camping is a wonderful exercise in awareness and presence.

Saturday morning I wake up as the sun rises.
The night breezes have died down and already the tent is warm.
Looking over at the photo of Mark I remember the love I felt for him and feel it instantly flood my heart again. His image triggers a flow of clear, pure loving energy in me but the love is not directed towards Mark, a person who is no longer alive. I recognise this love as a universal force, an energy that flows through us when our hearts are open, connecting us all as one within this Divine creation.
And as I remember Mark, his smile, his body, his arms squeezed tightly around me, it’s sweet nectar fills my body, mind and spirit, dissolving the boundaries between self and other.
I am living with this gift, this Love that he brought into my life.

Mark and I shared a simultaneous and mutual opening - it was the first time either of us had experienced this union betwen souls, this deeply human love with another person.
Was he a soul mate? Maybe, maybe not.
Was this a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a profoundly real love? I hope not.

Six weeks have passed since Mark's abrupt death - a cruel twist of fate for two people joined in an ecstatic human/divine union.
I have moved on from the shock.
With the passing of time, the journey continues. The flow of life is constantly moving and changing and each new day takes me further away from the time I spent with Mark and his tragic death.
I look back to see it in the near distance, a significant landmark imprinted deeply into my psyche, soon it will fade into the far, hazy distance of my memory.
I am not clinging to that place any more. I am neither holding on to the memory of his love nor mourning his death. The flow of life wouldn't let me stay.

I am here, in a tent near the beach, and outside is a kangaroo.

"I went out to the hazel wood
Because a fire was in my head..."

1 comment:

greenfrog said...

"I recognise this love as a universal force, an energy that flows through us when our hearts are open, connecting us all as one within this Divine creation."

I think I needed to read this today. Thank you.