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Talking with Nature/Journey into Nature
A Michael Roads Reader
By Michael J. Roads
New World LibraryCopyright © 1987 Michael J. Roads
All rights reserved.
The Platypus disappeared underwater as though sucked downward, so effortless was its passing. Not far away, wind whistled through the long, thin needles of a solitary River Oak, a high melody of sound invoking a feeling of coolness despite the warmth of the spring sun. A slight breeze moved the leaves near where I was sitting on the river bank. The water flowed cool and clear, sparkling in the sun from endless flickering points of light.
"Help me," I asked.
I spoke to the river, to the rocks, to all the different plants which grew in a semitropical profusion around me. I spoke to Nature. Inside, I felt it was smiling at me.
Help yourself. If you wish to tell the story of our connection, then write from the point of contact which you are.
This was not going to be easy. I tried again.
"What I need is help to explain in a concise and simple way the human connection with Nature. I need something that people can relate to. Something which is easy to understand and accept."
The smile became more pronounced.
You are suggesting some written material which does not stretch the imagination, something simple enough for the mind to comprehend.
"That's it," I said triumphantly. "Just the thing."
The smile vanished.
Forget it. How can we write of unseen realities, hint of unheard concepts, or even demonstrate the practicality of inner truths, without disturbing the slumbering Self within?
A long, deep sigh.
We have a choice, my friend. Either you write it as it happens, as it is revealed, or forget the whole project. I can offer no compromise. Accept it. This will be written as a synthesis of man and Nature.
For a long time I stared across the river, trying to pretend it was not happening this way. Surely I could write my book the way I wanted. It was mine to control. The rock beneath me was very patient. In a physical sense it had not moved in a very long time, but I could feel a surge of conscious activity. I was plagued with a cross-section of thoughts. Who will believe me if I present it the way it is happening? Surely the best plan is to disguise the issue and make a story of it? The thought of Jonathan Livingston Seagull crossed my mind. Problem is, that's already been done. This is ridiculous. I cannot just write that I listen to trees and rocks and rivers, that I talk to them and they talk back into my mind. I squirmed and fidgeted, pretending I could not hear the river chuckling as it flowed smoothly past my rock.
I could feel an expectancy around me. The trees all looked their normal, majestic, indifferent selves, while the rocks maintained a solid silence. A Heron swooped down, bright eyed and alert. Deciding I was no threat, it carefully alighted on the gravel on the opposite side of the river and, cocking its head to one side, held me with a fixed stare.
"Okay," I said. "If you have an opinion we might as well hear it." There was a powerful feeling of bird energy moving into the more subtle areas of awareness.
We would also like to be involved. If you are going to write of our connection, then we will represent our own point of view.
I stared at the Heron.
"Do you represent all birds or just your own species?"
The Heron stabbed into the shallows, its rapier beak flashing downward in an action defying the eye. Thrusting itself into the air, it winged slowly away.
We represent ourselves only. We will contact you when the time is right.
The consciousness of Heron was curling in upon itself, becoming smaller and fading swiftly. It was interesting to realize that in no way was it a single, solitary bird which spoke into my mind. Rather the bird was no more than a trigger for my slowly developing awareness. It was the point of focus which allowed me to be aware that the Heron consciousness waited for me, not wishing to impose on my mind unannounced. I stared at the words I had written.
"Nobody's going to believe this."
I spoke to the river flowing past my feet. For a while there was silence. I became aware of a surge of power from the river as though there was a gathering of force.
You have already reached your decision. It was made long before you came here. I suggest you now allow the clarity of a higher truth to move through you. The fear you have established is a real one and it can cause problems. You will now need to act in trust, knowing that the timing is right. Only the few will mock you. Those who are attracted to this book will have an inner hunger which seeks appeasement.
Your words will not be easy to digest. Questions will be asked and much inner dialogue will be worked through. This, however, is not your concern.
A favorite quotation by Victor Hugo moved swiftly across my mind: "Nothing has greater power than an idea whose time has arrived." It was a flash of illumination. The time "has" arrived. More and more people are looking for a higher truth and meaning in life, and what better starting place than our connection with Nature?
I smiled into the water.
"Okay, I'll do it your way, but if I am trying to present something which seems incredible, please help it to become credible."
The energy of river, coiled in an almost serpentine formlessness around me, was suddenly in motion. I had the fleeting sense of being in the center of a vast whirlpool, expanding outward with an exultant joy.
Go now. With acceptance comes expansion. If you can capture the experience on paper, this will be our mutual presentation to the people with whom you seek to communicate.
Several days elapsed while I digested the first encounter and prepared to commit myself to paper. I read and reread my words.
Nobody was going to believe this.
Gradually I was forced to accept that it was I who found it most difficult to believe. I realized that I had yet to conquer my fears.
Just as Nature was my challenge, it was also my guide, so one sunny morning I returned to my favorite place by the river.
It was cold, but crystal clear. A yard below the water surface, a shoal of tiny fish faced into the current, floating effortlessly in their fluid environment. On the smooth stones beneath them, a large, solitary shrimp made its way slowly and carefully to an unknown destination, its antennae waving methodically around it. A catfish drifted slowly past, vanishing beneath an overhanging rock.
It was a tranquil scene, and I felt encouraged by the sense of peace around me. I greeted the river. "Well, I'm back and I'm keen to continue the book."
A feeling of coiled power was once more present.
Oh, it's THE book now, is it? Quite an improvement on your previous MY book. If you can retain such an unattached attitude we should have little difficulty.
I felt rather put down. "You seem to imply that I'm the only one who could be wrong, or is likely to be difficult."
I paused, hoping for some verbal comfort.
While you sit comfortably wrapped in a pitying ego, we have nothing, nothing at all.
For the next ten minutes I gazed in hurt silence across the river. My feeling of resentment slowly faded as I watched the antics of an Eastern Water Dragon trying hard to reach a succulent insect at the end of a long, very thin branch overhanging the water. I could see a connection between the dragon's laborious efforts to reach the end of the branch and acquire his prize, and my own efforts to approach communication with Nature from a clear, uncluttered mind. The dragon was not equipped for stealth on a long, bending, waving branch, but on a riverside tree stump or rock it could be patience itself, leaping like an uncoiled spring when it was sure of its prey. The branch denied this, so it had to change style. A plop as the dragon dropped into the water indicated its lack of success. Swimming with head held high, the dragon disappeared under the branches of an overhanging shrub. I also was out on a limb. This limb was of my own making, supported by my old belief system, and sustained by my self-image to the world.
Words moved from the source of power.
Do as the dragon did. Let go and fall into the river Let the river of life sweep you beyond all aid from old and worn concepts. I will support you. Trust me. As you swim from an old consciousness, blind to higher realities beyond your physical world, trust that I will guide you with care and love into a new stream of consciousness. I will open a new world before you. Can you trust me enough to let go of the known, and swim in an unknown current?
Even as I stared into the river, a dark cloud moved across the sun. The water was no longer clear. Suddenly it was dark and opaque, clouded with mystery and, to my reasoning mind, loaded with threat. I knew this was the way it must be. If the way before me was an old familiar scene, then I traveled the known path.
"I accept. I will cast myself as fully as I can into the stream you offer, and I am grateful. I ask only that you are patient with me, for I have many old fears, and like the dragon, I cling from long habit."
The cloud swept away and the river was again clear, sparkling with invitation. The power surged, slowly uncoiling with an inner sigh. I felt a sense of peace and joy sweep over me.
My commitment was made.
* * *
MY COMMITMENT to the task hadn't happened all at once. It had unfolded like fate over the years during my life as a farmer. I can look back now and recognize the stages.
It began with my wife, Treenie.
One evening, while sitting relaxed in our living room, she glanced at me. "The cows want moving," she suddenly announced.
I snorted with indignation. Her statement seemed a challenge, and I responded.
"Right! Just to prove you're wrong, we'll drive up there tomorrow at nine o'clock, and you can see for yourself all the contented cows on plenty of pasture."
In my smug satisfaction, I burrowed back into my book.
Next morning at nine o'clock, Treenie and I drove up to the back paddock. Shock! Practically the entire herd of cows was standing impatiently at the gate, waiting to be let out. I gaped at them, not willing to meet Treenie's eyes. You can imagine her next comment!
This was not to be an isolated incident. Over the next few months Treenie often became aware of the herd's need to change paddocks, regardless of the amount of pasture available. It occurred to me that since Treenie could receive their "move" messages, we could influence them with our thoughts. One evening we combined our thoughts to reach them. We will move you cattle at nine o'clock tomorrow morning. Smile if you like, but next morning at nine o'clock the cattle were all waiting to be moved. Now, I am not suggesting cattle can tell the time, because we eventually proved that they would begin to congregate well before the chosen hour; but the method worked, consistently, showing a stunning disregard for logic or reason.
During this time an area of land we had bought from the Forestry Commission had been cleared, developed and sown down to improved pasture. This land, known as Carvilla, lay at a 2,000-foot altitude, offering splendid views of the ocean along the north coast in one direction, while towering, rugged mountains dominated the other. Apart from where Carvilla joined our main farm at one end, the pasture was completely surrounded by unfenced forest, stretching as far as the eye could see over thousands of wild acres. Carvilla jutted as an elongated spur into the forest, possessing a long boundary. Not unnaturally, the wildlife were partial to a nibble of improved pasture and were lured in considerable numbers to our land.
With the organic development and improvement of the soil, Carvilla did not respond with growth the way I anticipated. I slowly realized that the forest wildlife was extracting a heavy toll from the new pasture.
After a few night visits, to my consternation, I found large numbers of Bennett's Wallaby (quite big fellows) and Scrub Wallabies and Pademelons in profusion. In the only way I knew to defend my pasture, I began to spend two nights a week shooting them. I quickly found it extremely distasteful, and rather than continue such a heartless task I contacted a few locals, offering them the opportunity to shoot for sport and meat — an offer quickly accepted. It seemed, however, to make little difference. The pasture which was carrying only thirty cows and calves made little extra growth.
To tip the balance in my favor, I decided I would have to become involved again; so once more I began night shooting. One night, after spotting a large wallaby in the headlights, I jumped out, rifle ready. The wallaby was only a few yards away as I raised my rifle. Suddenly the animal's head swung toward me, the shaft of light catching its eyes. Transformed to glowing red jewels, the eyes met mine, and I gazed spellbound into the soul of a wild and wonderful Nature. For long moments our eyes held, locked. Slowly and calmly the animal looked away and quietly grazed the pasture.
I stood silent, shocked to the core. Compassion, a comparative stranger to farmers saturated in death, surged powerfully from somewhere deep inside. I lowered my rifle and turned to walk back to the Land Rover. There had to be a different way. Violence could not be the answer. Violence begets violence. I knew I could not reach my objective in this manner.
I had twice used 10-80 poison, but this was no solution. It is a shocking form of subtle violence, insidious by the absence of the poisoner to witness the agony of death. By its very involvement, a rifle at least places you in a position where you witness your action, demanding a clean kill as a code of ethics.
I talked the problem over with Treenie, and together we reached the only solution possible. If we could "think"-communicate with our cattle, why not try and "think"-communicate with the wallabies.
Making such a decision was one thing, but carrying it out was another. We decided I should be the one to initiate the move owing to my current involvement, but how should I instigate such a thing? One morning, driving up to the wild hills of Carvilla, I stopped near a group of trees in the center of the paddock and, feeling rather self-conscious, prepared myself for an attempted communication.
I held the required agreement clearly in my thoughts, but so silent and remote was the act that I began to verbalize my request. Despite feeling foolish, I felt more positive and comfortable. Warming to my task, I fairly yelled my message to all the wallabies that might listen. It sounded something like this:
"I don't know if you wallabies can hear me, but I am offering an agreement with you by which we each meet our own needs. I am asking you to stop eating our pasture, and in exchange for this I will see to it that nobody shoots you again. However, because I realize I must share this land with you, I will allow you to graze around the outside of the paddock. Please don't take more than twenty yards."
Following this announcement, I paused expectantly. Nothing! Nothing except the mental echo of my own words. I was in no way convinced that anything would happen, but to keep my side of the agreement I chained and padlocked the entrance gate and told the shooters that I wanted no more shooting on my land. Eyeing me as though I were nutty, they agreed. I felt glad I did not tell them the reason!
Within only a few weeks, the pasture was thickening so rapidly that I was able to introduce an extra ten cows and calves. It continued to improve. Soon I had ninety cows and calves grazing over Carvilla, while the white clover grew in abundance. For three years we maintained this tenuous agreement, the pastures continuing to thrive and flourish. When the pasture was knee-high it was crisscrossed with wallaby trails, but their grazing was concentrated at the boundary. I confess, whoever they chose to measure the twenty yards took mighty strides ... or bounds! In some areas, pasture grew right to the forest edge, while in other places they fed a long way into the paddock. On average I estimated they grazed about forty yards into the field.
One fact which emerged was obvious. We were able to communicate our wishes to the wildlife and reach an agreement for our mutual benefit. We recognized their divine right to life, realizing that cooperation with Nature offers unlimited potential.
There is a follow-up to this story. When we eventually decided to sell our farm, we sold it under separate titles. When the new occupants moved into Highfields, we retained ownership of Carvilla for another two years before selling it to the original buyer. During this time shooters broke the padlocks and, without our knowing, began shooting wallabies once more. When I visited the area three years after selling the farm, the owner asked me if pasture had ever grown on Carvilla. I stared at him in surprise.
"When I last walked Carvilla, white clover was knee-high," I said. He looked dour.
"Well, mate, I can assure you there's none there now," he replied.
Excerpted from Talking with Nature/Journey into Nature by Michael J. Roads. Copyright © 1987 Michael J. Roads. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Talking with Nature,
Foreword by Sir George Trevelyan,
Journey into Nature,
1. Meeting a Myth,
2. Becoming Water,
3. Becoming Plant,
4. Becoming Mineral,
5. Becoming Animal,
6. Within a Storm,
7. Becoming Dolphin,
8. Entering Another Realm,
10. Going Beyond,
About the Author,