Remarkable Rocks

Even from a distance, it separates itself from the landscape that gave it birth. After two hundred million years, its many faces continue to laugh at the sky – in the defiant way that large rocks often do… or perhaps it is long-lost love…

Its act of separation is not one of colour, for the hues are not dissimilar to those around it on that hard-faced dome above the Southern Ocean. Its perpetual difference is one of shape…

On a place where mature male kangaroos spring without warning from hidden gaps in the gumtrees that line the side of newly tarmaced roads – and will wreck a car doing any more that forty miles per hour – the Remarkable Rocks of the Flinders Nature Reserve occupy a liminal zone between the ancient and the modern faces of this place – Kangaroo Island – Australia’s third largest island, after Tasmania and Melville.

It is the way of Australia, that casual, no-nonsense approach to naming things, that renders this collective edifice of two hundred million years as merely ‘remarkable’. Yet that is their name – Remarkable Rocks, and has been for hundreds of years. No-one knows where the name came from, but my guess is that it originated in Aboriginal lore as something that was subsequently translated back into English.

Kangaroo Island separated from mainland Australia around 10,000 years ago, due to rising sea level after the last glacial period. You might imagine there were no human witnesses, but it may surprise you (as it did me) that the Aboriginal peoples date back an astonishing 60,000 years, so they would have actually experienced the gradual separation of what had become a shrinking peninsula from the mainland.

They left the island then, but not before naming it Karta (“Island of the Dead”). Their existence here was told in their stories, but has been proved recently by the presence of stone tools and shell middens. If you’ve followed the Silent Eye’s posts you may be familiar with the idea that such sites can be seen (and experienced) as not just honouring the ancestors, but as living links with them – places where communion with the collective ‘spirit’ of they who came before is possible. Carl Jung’s ‘collective unconscious’ is a good basis for considering a rigorous basis to such investigative beliefs.

They would have honoured its strangeness and gathered here to watch the sparks of their wise fires. For all we know, their spirits may gather now, flowing in from the surrounding greenery, to hold wise counsel when the bewildered tourists have gone home in their coaches and four-wheel drive cars. You cannot leave here without an intense feeling that you ‘missed something’. The inner laughter generated by Remarkable Rocks may well be designed to call you back, to be part of the commune-ity

The rocks share a process of origination with Uluru, which we were fortunate enough to visit on our last trip to Australian, two years ago. They were once a giant dome of molten lava, thrust upwards into beds of sedimentary rocks ten kilometres below the surface. The intense pressure and heat turned the sedimentary layers into hardened and crystallised metamorphic rocks. Two million years of erosion did the rest – leaving us with the other-worldly shapes found today.

You cannot stand here without being spoken to. Like Uluru, the giant rock in the centre of Australia, to which the Remarkable Rocks are related, these stones invite you to run, to dance around them, regardless of the dangerousness of the steeply shelving platform of basalt that tapers down to the sea – faster in its seduction than the wits of the unwary traveller. No fences or barriers prevent this; you are guided only by a small, written warning to be careful… Which leaves the raw danger untouched by laws of health and safety and invites you to dance around and through the strange shapes, with their curving hollows, sharing the danger as the price of Being here.

It was only as I was leaving that I had a flash of what was so compelling about the shapes of the Remarkable Rocks: they are like one of Salvador Dali’s surrealistic paintings. Once seen, you expect to turn another face of the rock and find a watch face, drooping around a ninety degree corner, moulded to the same magnetic override that shaped the rock on which it lies – its trivial purpose defeated by the incomprehensible age of that which supports it.

And, of course, you want these rocks, this place, to yourself… You want to watch its strangeness and come to terms with its shapes in solitude. I suspect that is seldom possible. Instead, an assorted cross-section of nationalities carry out their individual approximations to presence within the uncompromising shapes. It is playful and there is a feeling that there is no insult to the rocks in that play…. They have, quite literally, seen it all.

The Remarkable Rocks do something to the light. Again, like Uluru, they seem to drink it, allowing it to reflect different faces – different stories – from the vastness of their age and experience. It is impossible not to wonder how they ‘see’ the presence of the civilised men and women around them.

And then, we, too, have to go – urgently – to get to the tiny airport at the far end of the island that will take four adults and two young girls back to their home in Adelaide. I race one final time around the dangerous granite base, intent on taking with me the most precious of the emotions in the form of images. I want to be here…. This brief encounter was not enough. I will bridge the distance with heart and mind in meditation.

©Stephen Tanham

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The caring game…

From Sue

The Silent Eye

Image: Pixabay

“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“Bebop died. I stayed with him. Said thank you.” He choked again. “Said goodbye. It was really emotional.” The voice managed to sound both surprised and a tad embarrassed, even through the evident emotion, and well he might. “…and then Arthur died too…”. There was a silent pause. I am fairly certain I heard a sniff. Bebop was his horse… not a flesh-and-blood horse, mind you, but part of a computer game my son had been playing for some time. Arthur was the character as which he had been playing. Oddly, I didn’t laugh. I could quite understand why he was feeling that way, even though, on the surface, it should have been funny. I have cried my way through too many books and films to laugh for such a reason.

The…

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Missing the mark

From Sue

The Silent Eye

A new footpath has been installed close to the village, running for a few miles through the silent, empty fields. One of its entrances gives onto the road I travel every day and I have watched with mild curiosity as the work has been underway.

The path is part of a walking and cycling initiative to connect the village to the nearest railway station and, hopefully, reduce the need for cars on the road. It follows the course of the old Roman road, which probably followed the course of an older track, thus continuing a tradition of travel along this route.

My interest was caught when I noticed the workmen had installed a sculpture or two, glimpsed through one of the gates and through the thinning leaves on the trees. Aha, I thought, a Pointy Stone! Even after millennia there is something about a standing stone guarding the…

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The Art of Dark Departure

It could equally well be titled ‘The dark art of departure’, I suppose, but, in this case, its not the act but the leaving which is dark…

At the time of writing, we are about to leave Sydney, aboard a cruise ship: the Royal Caribbean ‘Solstice’.

We’ve never been on a cruise ship before.  It is only happening because two years ago, we booked a short cruise to the Norwegian Fjords which was cancelled at the last minute by the cruise company. We were due to depart the weekend after our main workshop of the Silent Eye’s year – the Spring event in Derbyshire. The timing was perfect; such events are very demanding, and the idea of a restful break in the glorious surroundings of Norway seemed perfect. In grim fashion, the man paid to break the bad news to us said that, basically, not enough people had died… Cruising, he explained, generally appeals to an older audience, and the organising companies have to take a statistical prediction as to how many cancellations they will get, due to severe ill health or death. Knowing this did little to help our mood, but Bernie soon found us a flight and hotel in the Mexican Yucatan, which enabled us, in consolation, to see the Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza – a life-changing event I recorded at the time under the blog heading ‘Unexpected Shaman’.

We were compensated for the cost of the holiday and all consequent expenses: hotel in Southhampton, car parks and sundries… and… offered an additional free cruise of the same value anywhere in the world. We did query that there might be nothing to stop Celebrity Cruises from doing this to us again, but the man assured us we now had a direct link to him and that he would ensure that our next cruise definitely took place

So here we are….

Here is Sydney, a very lovely and friendly city. And only our second ever trip to Australia, where our son and daughter in law, both doctors, are bringing up their two young girls. We don’t get to see the grandchildren very often, and it’s hard to be a real part of their lives, but such a trip gives us the chance to be with them, play and laugh and fill the short but intense few days with the real, instead of the largely-artificial world of the ‘Skype’ or ‘Facetime’ call.

It occurred to us that we had the chance to combine the two; that we could fly to Sydney (instead of Adelaide, where they live) and then do our cruise, ending it with a flight to join them on a more local holiday. So the plans were made, and we are about to embark on a twelve-day sailing to New Zealand, ending in a flight from Auckland (where Bernie has a close school friend) to Adelaide to meet up with the family.

These few days in Sydney, following a flight from Manchester with a stopover in wonderful Singapore, have not been sufficient to scratch the surface of this city; but there is a compensating factor. The greatest attraction of Sydney is its harbour – or, properly its harbours, as the waterways are a vast complex linking the many nearby towns that supply it with many its daytime working population. The ferry terminal was allowed to be constructed right in the heart of the city; and show off these massive ships to perfection…

Now, we are on ours and, after a lengthy check-in, we are finally sitting, unpacked, on our balcony, looking down from a great height onto the very heart of Sydney. It’s a photographer’s dream, and my little iPhone has served me well in such situations before. Additionally, and, I like to think as some sort of karmic compensation, the sun is beginning to set, flooding the harbour with golden light.

We can feel the throbbing hum of the engines beginning their departure preparation. Then there is the most ‘perfect’ noise I have ever heard, as the Captain of the vessel gives the five minute warning signal. It intense, rather than just loud; it is a specially tuned sound that sounds like it comes from ‘the Gods’. I’m convinced that a few minutes of it, done as therapy, would drive any sense of depression from a soul… not that we are in the least depressed; but it carries that kind of ‘trumpet of hope’ feeling. Images of the Tarot card ‘The Last Judgement’ spring to mind… Whatever you were doing before it, you won’t be doing now.

In response, and to show their defiance of this leviathan of the high seas, a dozen of the smaller (but very fast) local ferries scurry off their piers to get their hard-working passengers away before the idlers on the ‘Solstice’ begin their holiday. A boating fury to rival Henley on Thames ensures the then, with the earth-shaking second warning blast, the giant begins to slide, backwards, away from the key. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the early Star Trek films, but, for their time they had masterly sequences of the Enterprise leaving the orbital terminal very, very slowly, before building up to ‘warp speed’ somewhere safely away from the Earth. 

The slow initial departure of the ship Solstice is just like that, and about a million souls on Sydney’s Circular Quay are watching and smiling in the golden evening light.

We can hear very little. With perfect timing, our steward has entered the cabin and presented us with an ice-bucket holding our complimentary bottle of champagne and two flutes. I can’t resist taking it out to the balcony and popping the cork – discretely – allowing us to toast the lovely city to which we are now saying goodbye. We may be back, but you never know. It’s a long way from home and we hate leaving our beloved cat and dog for so long.

With the minimum of fuss, the huge ship slides into the main channel, still backwards. Then it begins to turn, bringing the Bay Bridge into full view. The light is now photographically perfect and I take as many shots as the rotating angle will allow. Then the vibration of the engines becomes even more purposeful and the Solstice begins to accelerate towards the open sea-still a full two miles distant.

We navigate the twists and turns of the widening estuaries, then comes a wonderful moment as the pilot boat comes right into the back of the cruise ship, nearly disappearing from sight.

When the Pilot boat reappears, the pilot has been transferred back to his home vessel and the smaller craft pulls away with a wave and set of lighted signals. As he falls behind the ship gathers speed toward the open sea… and adventure.

It’s time to have our first dinner on board. With one last wave we say goodbye to Sydney. Next stop Melbourne, then on to New Zealand for what we hope will be the trip of a lifetime.

©Stephen Tanham

Steve Tanham is a director of tbe Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not for profit organisation that provides distance learning courses for the deepening of self understanding.

Waving from the Shore

One of the most wonderful moments on our cruise around New Zealand, so far, was when we were leaving the estuary at Dunedin. Bernie and I were sitting on our balcony, watching the soft green hills passing by as the giant ship gained speed towards the open sea.


Just ahead of us was a promontory that jutted out in to the waterway. There was a road around its edge, and a couple of parking spots at the point nearest to where the ships pass. From a distance, we could see a car pull up… and could ‘feel’ the intensity of its purpose. Three figures raced out – two adults and a child – and began waving furiously at the Solstice – the name of our ship.

A few minutes prior, the captain had given the traditional parting signal: three loud blasts of the ship’s very deep and musical horn. But now, as though seeing the family waving, he did it again. It is a deep, sonorous and landscape-shaking thing. The little child danced with joy as this happened, and I managed to grab a shot or two with the iPhone. Zoomingin is not its strength, so, by the time the images get to this blog, the quality may be poor. Nevertheless it was worth it to try to capture the joy of the moment.

As we passed, we began to wave to the family from our balcony, not expecting them to notice us in the mass of this giant ship – but they did. They saw us and began waving, enthusiastically back. Such a simple thing, but, in the golden light of our departure, what a beautiful experience.

Next stop – Akaroa… and a Maori encounter.

©Stephen Tanham

Ungrasped

I take a lot of photographs, and like to share the ones that move me the most.

Looking back on these, there is a theme: they are, more often than not, a moment of natural beauty, defined by light on landscape, which could only be captured by camera or poem… so, here, for my less formal ‘Tuesday slot’, is picture and poem.

Twin Guardians

Twin guardians, we will play

And to those in the vale

We will escort your passing blaze

With turning leaf salute your days

And bowing, be your setting sail.

© Stephen Tanham

Steve Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness; a correspondence-based method for living a fully conscious life, with personal mentoring.

Antipodean Fragments – Foodoomooloo…

Sydney

We are having breakfast at Charlie’s Foodamalloo, across the street from our hotel; the Ovolo. It’s a wonderful greasy spoon and reputed to be one of the best places for breakfast in Sydney – if you don’t mind the simple interior and the washed but stickily-aged wood and tiled tables.

The Ovolo is located on the redeveloped old giant wharf at Woolloomooloo. The beloved old cargo and passenger quayside is now home to twelve restaurants and Russell Crow’s luxury boat… and, it is rumoured, his penthouse, high above the dock.

There’s a man. He is noisily on his mobile and standing, partly blocking my view through the opened shuttered window. He looks very at home here but is not Australian. He sounds… perhaps Austrian?

Another man comes in, an Australian with a broad and deep accent. He walks past the two young naval officers putting their caps on, post breakfast. There is a large naval base along the quay. Yesterday, I’d taken several shots of a gleaming new warship before I got to the sign that said don’t.

The two men greet each other by swinging their hands together in a well-practised gesture. It produces a crack so intense that the two naval officers turn in alarm.

One of the men gets up to reassure the uniformed men, smiling. Their conversation turns to tobacco… interesting.

Bernie is having tea with her breakfast. The lovely Turkish lady who brought me my BLT tips over Bernie’s little steel milk jug. It goes all over my backpack on the floor. The young Turkish lady is mortified. She mops it up carefully with a cloth, then brings a mop and bucket to sort out the floor. I had no idea the little jugs held so much milk… She offers me a cloth Aldi bag in compensation. I reassure her that it’s okay…

There’s something weird in the Sydney air…

We’re staying at the Ovolo but breakfasting at Charlie’s. It’s much more interesting.

I hope it won’t rain all day… we can get this in Cumbria.

(Editor’s note: it did)

©Stephen Tanham

A walk with dogs, the Lune and St Michael

The Lune Valley is always worth exploring. The river Lune rises as a stream near Ravenstone Dale, Cumbria, and gathers momentum and volume as it winds towards the sea at Lancaster and its one time port, Glasson Dock. Devil’s Bridge, above, is, perhaps its most famous landmark, and was once the main highway between Yorkshire and the north Lancashire region – prior to the rejigging of the ancient counties that created Cumbria from Westmorland and bits of old Lancashire.

It is near Kirkby Lonsdale that the Lune Valley is at its most beautiful. We jumped at the chance to be part of a sponsored walk along the river and duly met up with the other participants in the Sun Inn, in the centre of the town, where we began the day with the time-honoured breakfast of walkers: the bacon butty…

The landlord of the Sun Inn, himself a dog owner, was joining us on the walk, and served out breakfast for his fellow hikers. Duly fed, we navigated ourselves and the dogs (It was an abandoned dogs charity we were supporting), and made the ten minute walk to the park area at Devil’s Bridge.

No-one is sure how Devil’s Bridge got its name, but the lady guide brought in for the occasion explained that it was normal for churches to fund bridges. Sometimes they didn’t and the fund-raising fell to the hard-pressed locals. In retaliation, they named their creation appropriately!

In similar fashion, no-one knows where the name ‘Lune’ came from. We had always assumed it to be a Norman-derived name for ‘moon’ but the guide explained that there were three theories:

1. It was Roman for ‘healthy and pure’.

2. It was named after the Roman God Lalonus who featured prominently in local worship.

3. Lune can refer to a prominent oxbow curve in the river, for which Kirkby Lonsdale (‘lunes’ dale) is famous – in the shape of what is seen from the spectacular Ruskin’s View near the church (photographed during the Summer):

Our guide was an English teacher who had a passion for local history. She had constructed two such walks. The first – the one we were on – was more suitable for dogs, and hence the choice on the day. The second was more concerned with the early industrial history of Kirkby Lonsdale. We may do it in the future.

Having cleared the edges of the town by crossing the perilous A65, we settled into a reasonably fast pace along the river bank. The walk was planned to last just under three hours, allowing for a couple of discussion stops. The route was constructed around a rectangle that would allow us to walk along the river to a point where we could turn right towards the historic town of Whittington, home of an ancient church and a rather unusual pavement…

We were blessed with cold but clear weather. The bright sunshine made the opening leg along the riverbank particularly pleasant. The golds and yellows have been strong and striking this year.

The happiest walkers were the dogs. Our Collie, Tess, discovered a good friend in a nine-month old Golden Retriever. They ran and ran in the bright sunshine, never seeming to tire.

The path divides after about two kilometres. Leaving the river path, it is necessary to scramble up a gulley to reach the start of a path that leads towards the village of Whittington.

Here the fields stretch on either side of the path. To the North lies Ingleborough, one of the highest peaks in nearby Yorkshire, and part of the famous Three Peaks challenge, during which contestants have to scale all three in a day – a very demanding ordeal.

Eventually, the horizon is lost behind hedges that hint at a more domestic landscape. The village of Whittington comes into view.

Whittington is a small village with a famous church. It forms part of a cluster of sisters along the Lune valley. Each of these has evidence of a castle’s motte and bailey fortification. This is the densest concentration of Norman castles outside of the those on the Welsh border.

St Micheal’s Church is strongly linked with two nearby churches of St John the Evangelist, Gressingham, and St John the Baptist, Arkholme. The church stands within the bailey of the former Norman castle, as can be seen from the above photo. It is thought that a church has stood here since around 1200. The oldest part of the present church is the tower, which dates from the early 16th century. The rest of the church was largely rebuilt in 1875, funded by Colonel D.C. Greene of nearby Whittington Hall.

Being a Sunday, the church was in use and we were not able to venture closer than gate. Happily, there was a compensation…

Beneath our feet, was a pebble-based mosaic, created, locally, to mark the millennium, by Maggie Hogarth, a local artist and sculptor. The photo does not do it justice. It marks the Church of St Michael the Archangel with great respect.

To complete our journey, we had a further climb of about a kilometre. From this, the highest point, we could see the whole landscape of our walk. The view across to Ingleborough was the best of the day.

Kirkby Lonsdale lay at the foot of the far side of the hill. Slightly weary, we trudged down to the Sun Inn, where a discounted lunch awaited those who had completed the walk.

©️Stephen Tanham


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.


Contexts: creation…

From Stuart. The plot thickens…

The Silent Eye

Image result for sumerian cylinder seals

*

‘In Mesopotamian mythology a Mother Goddess, with the assistance of a God of Wisdom created men out of clay, mixed with the blood of a slain God.

The Primeval male and female human beings were not allotted a life-span.

People originally only died as the result of natural disasters such as plague, famine or flood, or by internecine strife.

The Epic of Gilgamesh culminated with the introduction of a limited life-span for Mankind.

Man’s original purpose in being was to relieve the Gods and Goddesses of hard labour.

Gods and Goddesses associated with birth and fertility were also patrons of mining, smelting, and metal work.’

*

“We find the information contained on this board to be ever so slightly uncomfortable.”

“It’s slave mentality.”

“And it’s metallic mind.”

 “’The blood of the slain God’ is perhaps most perplexing.”

“It might be more than that if the Gods were Planetary Beings.”

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Heart to heart

From Sue

The Silent Eye

“I don’t get it,” said my son. “We’re an island… how can we be short of water?” I had been telling him about the shocking state of the Derwent Valley reservoirs. I have seen them very low before, but never this low. The water is no more than a trickle in the lake bed and the villages drowned at their creation are once more feeling the sun on their stones. We discussed desalination, technology and our acceptance of water-on-tap in developed countries. From there, we went on to other countries, where the populace is not so lucky and water may have to be drawn from a dirty well several hours walk from home. My son continued, “I mean, if seventy per cent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, and, if it all comes from the sea to begin with and goes back into the water cycle, how come

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