Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.
Walking up a mountain in fog and drizzle is sometimes just a process of putting one foot in front of the other. The body moves in a certain rhythm and the mind tends to become more meditative. Wreathed in protective gear with water constantly trickling down my face I begin to feel like I’m in another world; an otherworldly place. Reaching the top of each hill doesn’t seem such an achievement when all I can see is fog. I could be anywhere. We start down again but I only know it’s down because different muscles are hurting.
The mystical properties of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania reveal themselves in varied ways. Fog makes most things invisible but there is a sense of being enveloped by nature. Cocooned in the mist, cocooned in wet weather gear, trusting that the path will take you where you want to go. I notice I am paying more attention to the small things. The wet leaves, the occasional flower, the water running along the path – all draw my attention away from the mist that envelops us. I stop wondering what is beyond the fog and start to enjoy the peacefulness of walking.
The next day the weather clears and I see where I have been and I am a little stunned. The fog had shrouded not only the visual beauty of the place but also the dangers – the steep inclines and cliffs, the scree and boulder fields. Places I had trudged the previous day with my head down now demand my focused attention. With the fog cleared away the mountains and lakes are revealed and the bigger picture of where I had walked clicks into awareness. There are trees of different shades and types, cliffs reflected in the mirrors of lakes and clouds now far overhead. I feel like I had visited a different place the previous day.
The moods of wild places are part of their mystical charm. The weather can change in an instant and suddenly the blue skies turn grey and snow begins to fall. We have no control over the weather but when we live in cities and towns we think we are insulated from the wildness of nature. When we venture out to the wilderness we rediscover our lack of control over the elements. We are like a small speck in a foreign landscape. Yet it has not always been so. Once we lived with the land instead of simply on her. Once we knew her moods and respected her changes. Once we lived as part of the whole rather than as individuals. We looked after the earth because we knew we needed her to look after us.
Sometimes we need to go back to nature to remind ourselves who we really are. We are not just individuals but part of a much larger system and we want to feel connected to the larger system. When we feel our feet rooted to the muddy path we know that we belong to the earth. The mystical properties of the wilderness lift our spirits as we climb mountains and marvel at the beauty but they also help sink our roots into the ground. Wild places help us connect our spirit to the earth. And we need to find that connection now more than ever.