A Himalayan Buddhist lama once remarked, “Many people come, looking, looking. No good! Some people come, see! Good!”
I’m currently on a small mountain range about 200 kilometres (124 miles) inland from Queensland’s city of Brisbane. These days, the area is known as Bunya, but the mountains were once called “Bunya Bunya” by the Wakkawakka, Jarowair, and Barrumgum people.
Following decades of rampant logging throughout the region, the remnant forests here were fortunately protected. Remaining in the park are nine different types of rainforests, made up of many species – trees, plants, fungi, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and the all-encompassing microbes!
The forests are impressive and beautiful, and it’s clear that they want to eat me! I have only to be still for a while, and the devouring will begin with the moulds and slugs, then the beetles and small nibbling birds, rodents and ants, and finally all the fluids and juices that ensure compost and life beneath the canopy. Walking the well-made trails is like gliding through protective tubes inside a vigorous digestive system. I imagine remaining aware through the digestion process, through weeks, months, and years, until there’s no trace remaining, and I have become forest! Delicious!!
How self-righteous is this rogaining around Australia? With my small car, my roof-tent, my kit of belongings and a few books, is this wandering exploration too indulgent, precious, and pretentious? With millions barely surviving in refugee camps, others struggling in city streets, and millions more straining to raise families, am I exploiting my culturally inherited privileges too much? As I journey through these lands, I am also aware of the wise and elegant human cultures that once thrived here, sacredly integrated with their beloved “Country”. It is only because of their near complete destruction that I am able to do this, and feel that I should! For what was done, and is still being done, I am ashamed and embarrassed. I trust that I am traveling with sufficient gratitude and care.
Last night, after meditating on the roof of my car, I tried to go to sleep, but raw old fear “found” me. I withdrew at first, but then rallied and chased fear all through the night. Fear likes to stalk us, but does not like to be looked at directly. So, all night long I pursued fear as it hid within countless disguises and hues. I slept only fleetingly, and as the sun rose, I tried to meditate once again. But I soon gave up, and instead walked up into the dripping forests of Bunya and Hoop pine, red cedars and great stinging trees, catbirds and flitting blue wrens, to hopefully be digested a little more. I don’t know what good it did, hunting fear through the dark hours and recesses of my psyche, but as I climbed I felt energized and restored to some strength and ease. I did not capture fear, nor vanquish it, but I think our “relationship” is a little healthier and more accepting. As before, we will wrestle again, for certain. I hope I will survive (and there, in that hope, lurks fear, still 🙂 ) our next encounter. But I am aware that no seeming separate self-sense ever does survive. Patterns of life within forests are wholly integrated, not separate and individual.
The matters of this journey are to press beyond the crude presumptions of institutionalized National Parks, which newly proclaimed nations conclude to own and attempt to manage – those they did not destroy. For sure, it is good that the Parks exist (and to which end a great many good-hearted people worked so very hard), and are being maintained, but we need to go further. They ought to be made into Sacred Parks, not of particular nations or religions, but of the world. They need to be returned to the responsibility of indigenous cultures, the ancient friends and custodians of all these places. In some cases, this process is actually beginning, but only barely. And these “elder” members of our humanity must become mentors, coaching and instructing all the still-new migrants to their lands, for we must all now become equal caretakers. All humans are indigenous to the Earth, with many now at a great loss, and in need of learning what our presence in life requires, both for the world and for essential humanity.
So… somehow, and god help me, I feel this intention and traveling as an obligation, for now to stoke conversations and swirl the waters… But, of course, it is up to all of us, every one. All. If you’re reading this, then, yes, you, too : )
Tomorrow I move on from Bunya Bunya, heading west and north…