Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Life and purpose renewed

I just returned from our regular Christmas pilgrimage to the New Zealand bush: dating back to the late 1970s when a group of friends purchased 150 acres (60 ha) of rugged bush country on the Tutaetoko river near Opotiki. We call the place St Jude’s. How we arrived at that name is another story but coincidentally perhaps St Jude is traditionally the patron saint of lost or impossible causes.

In many ways, St Jude’s bush camp is an unlikely cause; a collaboration for recovery: respite, reflection, reconnection, recreation, rejuvenation and inspiration; therapeutic activity, friendship and durable relationship spanning life’s changes; a materially very simple environment cut off by high-ridge, river and rugged terrain from electricity and mobile phone; the moist musk fragrance and entrancing sounds of New Zealand bush unfiltered, unframed, unmitigated; an antidote to the disconnection of contemporary life and work.

The pace is easy but the essence of life and relationship strong and obvious in the activity of provisioning, cooking, hospitality, construction and adventure. Firewood must be collected and cut and fires tended to produce hot water and food. Food safety, fresh water and waste management are everyday issues. Provisioning, cooking and eating are communal in the the high-gabled, open-walled, wharenui style communal shelter: rustic corrugated-iron roof and fireplace and crucially, long table.

The river rules: its course changing with each winter’s rain; its soothing chuckling waters made turbid torrents by summer-storms cutting camp from road and storm winds wreaking havoc amongst poorly pitched tents; overseen by the deep-gullied bush that dispassionately disorients and injures unwary adventurers.

But, in the shelter, on warm breathless nights, open-laughing faces glow by unflickered candle light and the coals of the cooking fire. Beyond, in soft darkness, campfire-lit figures reflect, intimately cocooned by the benign brooding milky-way come down to the ridge-tops.


1 comment:

  1. does not get better than this. Holidays in the bush are priceless and likewise good friends and simplicity.