Thursday 11 January 2018

The Whispering Ones, Secret Lives of Trees

Tane Mahuta. Lord of the Forest
I was deeply touched when my mother shared with me an experience which she had a number years ago with her younger sister, my Aunt Carolyn. Carolyn passed away several years ago from breast cancer and this particular incident of which I am about to recount took place a year or two before she died.

My mother was in Auckland visiting Carolyn at her beautiful home on the outskirts of that big New Zealand city. The two became very close in later years and my mother often made the trip north to spend time with her. 

The later visits were particularly poignant because of Carolyn's illness and yet despite this, they were also joyful visits and deeply satisfying as Carolyn never tried to hide or ignore the fact that she might not overcome her illness. She was honest about it and honest about the fact that she was not quite ready to face the ultimate challenge and yet one could sense that she was nevertheless facing her fears with enormous courage and coming to accept them in her heart.  She took the fruits of this precious 'teaching' into her everyday life with the understanding that every moment was precious. 

There was none of the anger that can often accompany an unexpected and serious illness. Instead, there grew in her an implicit understanding that sooner or later we all must face the 'great leveler' and being an utterly gracious and compassionate woman, she knew enough of 'truth' to know when to bow down to it.

One day, during this particular visit, she surprised my mother by asking her to get ready to accompany her. She would disclose nothing at all about where they were going. It was all rather mysterious.

They put a few things into the car. Loaded the picnic basket and took off into the cool and pleasant morning. Several hours they were driving along, stopping often to gaze out at the contrasting colors and beauty of the New Zealand countryside.

Eventually, they turned onto a dirt road and followed it along on the loose metal surface for several miles until they reached a small car-park. Still, without giving away anything as to the purpose of their visit, Carolyn climbed out and beckoned to mum to follow.

They wandered along a gravel pathway until suddenly they turned a bend in the path and right there before them was Tani Mahuta. The name was given by the Maori and translates as Lord of the Forest. It is a huge and very ancient kauri tree. 

The sheer size, the silent power, and majesty which rose before them so suddenly in the shape of this whispering giant made my mother gasp. It simply took her breath away. Never, in her entire life, she later recounted, had she felt such an instantaneous and overpowering sense of awe, quite spontaneously the tears had begun to flow down her cheeks and her immediate instinct had been quite simply to fall on her knees in homage.

Read on in Pieces of a Dream

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