The wylde woods are like no other place on earth. I just experienced a most magnificent four-hour immersion in the pristine rainforest of World Heritage Listed, Dorrigo National Park. The rain fell in every variation, from veils of cool mist to chilling downpours. Every slope is decorated with curtains of spectacular greenery. The dark, straight trunks of red cedar shoot towards the light at the top of the canopy. Bombastic buttresses support trunks alive with clinging webs of candle vine and vast Bird’s Nest Ferns.
Every so often the sun came out for a few seconds and accentuated patches of bark glittering with rain drops, like God wanting to point out the twist of a particular vine, or the iridescence of a shade of green. Pristine natural environments are extraordinarily magical places, rainforests particularly so. Every glance encompasses a richness of green that is intoxicating to the senses and nourishes both body and soul. When we began our walk, we were both exhausted from baby-induced interrupted sleep. The longer we spent in the forest, the more hidden energy emerged from my body. I could have walked all day!
We trekked down through varying vegetation to an opening in the canopy that revealed a cascade dropping about ten metres into a perfectly round pool. The gentle rushing of the water was the only sound we could hear. Further along the track, amongst the biggest cycads I have every seen (some were over two metres tall), there was an opening in the trees marked as a lookout. We saw nothing, just a white void, as though we had reached the edge of the map, an unimagined place waiting to be filled in.
Cycads have remained relatively unchanged for millions of years. I imagined their great great grandmothers being chomped by hungry dinosaurs. In fact, the less I spoke, the more the ancient forest spoke to me. As I walked and allowed the images of the forest to penetrate my being, the other realms of my consciousness came alive via my imagination. There were dark flashes behind tree trunks, sparkles where sunlight failed to reach and where water ran, the sense of an Otherworld just out of sight was so strong, I could have sat down amongst the leeches and written a hundred faery tales.
Contrary to commonly held belief, there are still many of these ancient, brooding, magical places on earth. Some are fiercely guarded secrets, others like Dorrigo National Park, are World Heritage Listed and can be enjoyed by anyone with the will to see them. The energy of an ancient forest is powerful, moving and nourishing. Spending time in these places is uplifting to the human soul. I experienced such joy that I would have danced, skipped and thrown my arms wide in celebration, if I hadn’t been carrying a sleeping baby!
These are the wylds that disturbed Darwin and his ilk and would have sent the Romantic poets into raptures of delight. It is dry and dull-witted to suggest that we preserve them just because they contain complex ecosystems or, even more dubiously, for the benefit of future generations. Lets keep our ancient forests for utterly selfish reasons: because they invigorate our bodies and sustain our souls, and most importantly, connect us to our mythic imagination, without which we are merely cogs in the machine.
2011 Pollyanna Darling
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