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Walking For Beauty

There is beauty in walking with ease through a landscape. Tramping or hiking has been part of my life  since I was very young. I grew up on a huge estate where my  parents were caretakers. My siblings and I roamed. I loved the trees in particular; ancient and fully grown chestnuts in a grove, and the bite of the fallen kernels on our feet as we tiptoed through trying not to get bitten by them! A huge cherry tree that towered over the lawn and apple trees of all sizes.

We had huge mature white oaks along the winding driveway. They fell in a huge storm one day and their wood was made into furniture, two rocking chairs and a table. I am drawn to trees, in all their shapes, sizes and scents. 

Now when going for a walk inevitably I choose one which includes the beautiful New Zealand bush. This is what some call a walk in the woods. The silver birch and the lichens that decorate the bark, the native tōtara, mānuka, flax. It smells intensely of deep earth and bush litter, it’s spongy when I walk on it. The dense darkness pierced by shafts of sunlight, filtered by the fronds of the tree ferns and the feathery foliage of other tall trees. It’s a place to encounter the presence of the Holy. 

The birds sing and sweep from branch to branch. The fantail chirps and is curious enough to hop from branch to branch as I walk along keeping me company. The tiniest of all birds, the rifleman is as light as a piece of A4 paper, and yet its little legs are sturdy enough to climb a tree. 

There is so much said about being mindful and being in the present moment. I rebel against this a little as it seems entirely motivated in focusing our gaze on ourselves. And often that does not liberate us from fear, anxiety, stress. When walking in the woods, tramping up the side of a mountain, I want to see and feel the thin space, where I can touch the face of God. To know him in every tree and bird, the sharp point of a rock under my boot. I can then be released from inner churnings because the Holy is so much more than I am, and it always surprises me with His grace. 



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