Beautiful Places, June 8

Beautiful Places

Dear People, I was asked about some beautiful places that I’ve seen across the world, and I’ll talk about some of them in these posts.

I’ll start with the place that opened my “third eye" to Nature, the Waipoua State Forest in New Zealand, north of Auckland City. This astounding area between Aranga and Waimamaku hosts the largest Kauri tree forest in New Zealand. The Kauri trees are giants, like the American Sequoias, reaching to 50 meters high and 18 meters around.

Walking among them, we step around harmless giant snails as big as a wrestler's fist, and luxurious, fantail beds of ferns. Our voices are hushed, as if we're in a Cathedral.

And in fact, that forest in New Zealand is a cathedral of sorts. The trees are so immense that their peaks are lost in the leaf canopy far overhead. We are so tiny beside them. There is a sense that this is what the world was like in the time of the dinosaurs. Things that live here should be bigger, somehow, to match this fantastical forest.

Presiding over the forest is the tallest tree, called Tane Mahuta, Lord Of The Forest. The age of this colossal giant is estimated to be about 2,000 years. This tree was alive when Jesus walked in Galilee. Standing before it fills the heart with awe and humility.

As a city boy, raised on asphalt among tall buildings, I had no affinity with Nature. I was at home on the streets, and any trip to the country was an irritating distraction from the real stuff happening back there in the city.

Then I stood before the Tane Mahuta, and my Kiwi friends who lived in the area took me back there at night, when there was no one around.

I got it, at last. What others responded to when they were in a natural place. The connection, fo a few hours, with the world that made us, and that will still exist when we are gone.

The gorgeous splendor of striving Nature, each living thing constantly working to be the most effective and beautiful expression of their existence.

I felt connected for the first time. And respectful. And protective. I didn’t want anything to happen to that magnificent, living thing, The Lord of the Forest, or to any of the beautiful giants around me.

My city boy’s third eye for Nature opened up, and I became an environmentalist.

It was also a spiritual awakening.

Being in the presence of that forest giant at night, alone and safe for hours because there are no dangerous predators in New Zealand (no small thing for an Aussie, accustomed to a colorful variety of deadly threats) I felt myself letting go, and listening to the creaks and moans of the tree, and for a little while it made more sense than philosophy or poetry.

For a little while, it made more sense than anything else.

The cherry on the transformative cake, when you visit the Waipoua forest, is the New Zealanders themselves. Kiwis are kind, fair, generous, self-reliant, ingenious and tremendously warm.

The people completed my little moment of connection, adding their living example of a nicer way to be, to the spiritual awakening provoked by the living trees.

It still lives within me in precious and sacred memory, and still ranks as one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

Love and Faith,