Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I've deliberately chosen this striking picture to illustrate what occurred to me today. When I came upon it in the hills yesterday it took me a long moment to realise that what I saw as a life-size crown of thorns was in fact the stem of the flower, dead and curled round on itself. But the fact that I saw it as I did perhaps reflects some of the wilderness experience which has set me thinking properly again.

Since I retired in June I've read nothing at all serious, and have been so busy-busy that I feel I've neglected thought and meditation in favour of action. Here, I've rediscovered space - mental space and physical space. The TV is so poor and so broken by advertising that I have not the slightest desire to watch it. There is time to go to bed early - and there is time to read. I've been reading Ivan Mann's thoughtful book "A Double Thirst" on our response to suffering, and I've been allowing the silence to soak into me and still all surface thought. The results are exciting and challenging.

However, at the same time I'm aware of the woman in the next-door house. She plays loud pop music all the time she's at home. The endless repetition of the pounding beat is maddening. Her dog barks a lot. It's as if the silent hills and the noise of crickets in the long dead grass beyond the garden are perhaps too much for her. I'm very aware of this essentially northern European culture sitting in the middle of this sparsely-populated land, where the buzzards swoop over the empty hills and the thorn bushes tear at the intruder. This neighbour shuts out the silence with electronic rhythm.

We've lost much of this silence. True, you can walk all afternoon in Argyll and see no-one, just as you can here. But the sense of being alone in the desert takes me back to a time and a place I never knew - and yet a place which is familiar and necessary.

There are more usual photos on Flickr - you can see them be clicking on the one shown here. But this one is special.


  1. All that space and silence must be wonderful .....for a while. I know that I would probably be like the neighbour and have to fill it with something in time and I suspect you would to...- the "pounding beat".

  2. Anonymous7:07 PM

    HI Chris and John, Looks like you're having a great trip! Where is the town you are staying in? North or South Island? Casey and I have been working away on the house, some bad news, it has a case of "rising damp" that has to be fixed...oh well, I still prefer old houses to the sterility of the new.
    Keep on blogging!

  3. Hi Chris and John, what lovely photos. Especially the beach and the Pacific Ocean. It's great the trip, the scenery, the wilderness etc are inspiring you. Good material for some poems ?

    Have been in touch with Shona, now well settled into Lincoln. On Sunday she went on 7/8 hour walk, climb, scramble to Arthur's Pass. Said it was all so spectacular.

    Saw Euan today, doing great things with Lesley's German class and pod-casting.

    Amusez-vous bien !!

  4. Jimmy9:43 PM

    I have Travelled
    where the wild orchid blooms
    glorious in the crimson desert dawn
    Life in the lifeless sand
    beauty for no one
    for no one to look upon.

    Silence is also Speaking

  5. Working backwards: thank you for that, Jimmy - fits well with here.
    June - yes: a couple of poems so far!
    Diane - hi! we're in Cromwell, Central Otago, south Island. One of the hottest and driest places in NZ.