The Rock


To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just did something which made me realise again how strangely connected I am to this place, and something which also shows how Nature evolves through time. Climbing up that tricky little ledge, I involuntarily reached out with my left hand and grabbed at nothing but air. What was I grabbing at? Where did my random spasmodic movement just come from? Am I developing some sort of nervous tick? But look, there is the answer. That fig tree growing out of a fissure in the rock has its main trunk broken off. I used to grab that trunk which no longer exists, as a handhold to hoist myself up.

Fig trees are strong. This tree here, for example, will not be easily broken off from life. (It hasn’t been pushed to the same brink as the unfortunate old crabs which lived below the bottom rock.) While constricted by tons of sandstone, fed only by the nutrients seeping through the cracks it inhabits, and getting busted and banged up by whatever act of natural or human tomfoolery, this fig tree grows on regardless, quietly clinging to a healthy, humble, albeit stunted life with a thick gnarly stump sprouting new fingers which, like you, are reaching out for energy and vitality.

As you probably noticed with the ski boats and moorings along the caravan park beach, waterskiing is a popular pastime for those frequenting the area, as it used to be for me too. Waterskiing was so important back then that given a chance I’d ski all day. We had a boat and some days behind that boat I did ski all day.

Last week I had two dreams about our old boat. The first: I was driving the boat with the steering cables rigged in reverse so when I turned the wheel to go left the boat went right and vice versa when I turned the other way; and the second: I was changing a rubber impeller in the old Chrysler outboard which always wore out. They weren’t particularly significant or world-shattering dreams, more like flashbacks, but they were dreams enough to illustrate that this place lurks strongly in my subconscious.

With those dreams and my involuntary reaching out to where a fig tree trunk used to be, I see now how very familiar I am with this place – The Rock – in the past and present and probably the future too.

The terms ‘sixth sense’ and ‘extrasensory perception (ESP)’, I believe, relate less to psychics, telepathy and clairvoyance than to a sense of wonder. I believe there are some people who may possess capabilities to receive information through means other than our five recognized senses, that people have the ability to communicate with deities, ancestors or spirits; with fairies, elves or other Nature-spirits.

I hold a stronger belief – like the Nature writings and philosophies of Rachel Carson, John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others – that every person is born with a sense of wonder. Arguably, our sense of wonder is our real sixth sense. But as with our other five senses we need to know how to use our sense of wonder properly. We need to adjust our soul both inwardly and outwardly to tune-in to our sense of wonder and I believe there are two ways to do this.

The first is to love Nature. To know Nature is not enough – when you can feel Nature you are beginning to make use of the power and possibility of your sense of wonder. As we take time now to sit down and reflect on all the sensations we’ve experienced today at The Rock I’m sure you’ll agree that your sense of wonder has been stimulated. You used all your senses to their utmost. You felt the wind and tasted the water, saw the sun on the river and smelt its heat in the rocks, and among the pulse and beat of this place you also heard a few of my yarns.

You may also be aware that you sensed a whole lot more from your experience today than you expected. In your young life I hope you have gained some useful impressions which you can take away and reflect on – over many sunsets and many sunrises; and I hope your flickering eyes will continue to search for ‘where to?’ and ‘what next?’ with an illumination which shines straight into your heart. You might not be able to put your finger on this ‘sixth sense’ we’re talking about but I think you now know enough to know something exists.

You are young and your energy is boundless, but never forget while on your voyages of excitement and discovery to sit down as often as you need. Your sense of wonder needs the stillness of sitting and there is no scarcity of rocks to sit on – they are strewn on our Earth in such plenty that you could never sit on them all even if you made it your one life-goal.

The second way to tune-in to your sense of wonder is something I’m only just learning now, something you will have to be content to learn with maturity. The second is to look into the eyes of a young person – to watch someone like you notice with intrigue and joy the beauty of a sky that’s blue by day and starry by night, notice the sweet smell of summer rain, the fresh growth of a sprouting seed, the mesmeric whistle of an eagle on an updraft, the cruel and itchy prick of a thorn in your foot.

Today at The Rock I have watched you notice the trust you have in yourself to function as a young ponderous person amid the throb of Nature around you. You have certainly pushed my sense of wonder buttons! After all, you are my blood and you are my future.

I don’t know about you but all this sitting on rocks has given me a numb bum. The tide is right out now, which leaves us with a few choices. Would you like to jump again? I would, but we’ll have to wait for high tide in about six hours.

How about we both have a little snooze and dream up some more yarns, and when we wake we can make a campfire and then tell them to each other. The tide should be well and truly back in by then.

About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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