Lying on a large flat rock in the middle of Washpool Creek,
in a new national park, was a magic moment.
The sky is clear.
Sparkling points of stars and galaxies are framed by the
rainforest gallery along the creek.
The dominant sound is the rushing and gurgling of the creek
as it swirls and eddies its way along its private journey.
It does not matter that there are seven people lying on that
rock. They have been there for an hour or more, and any word
that has been spoken has been soft and gentle.
The darkness embraces them.
They have become part of the wilderness and there is
an empathy which makes speech unnecessary.
Wilderness is best at night.
Wilderness is best at night.
The daytime usually means you are on the move. You are
more aware of yourself and your companions as explorers
… as interlopers.
The exertion that is made as you find your way in the
trackless terrain seems somehow out of place when you think
of the effortless movement of the snake and wallaby,
who leans forward on his forepaws and brings his hindlegs up
and then settles into another nibble.
They hardly seem to touch the earth, these creatures…
it’s more of a caress.
Lianas wind their way round a tree in a motionless movement
- or does the tree wind its way around the liana?
They are so entwined it’s hard to say, but they represent the
closeness that wilderness has with itself, a closeness that
we can only gaze upon
… but, at night … it will come in and touch us.
The further you walk the closer you come to feeling the
wilderness. That’s why it has to be large.
But there should be no roads.
They let the outside in. And to be in the wilderness
means the trappings of civilisation have to be excluded …
As the day goes on,
and you leave the world behind,
you get closer to the magic time.
Finding a campsite … settling in … eating a meal
it’s all working …
it’s all coming together.
As the light fades, and the stars awaken,
it’s as though the millions of miles,
the millions of years,
In the wilderness, the stars are different.
They are sharper.
They are clearer.
They are close.
In the wilderness, you can touch the stars,
you can touch the past.
The dawn is a magic time too. We see the awakening of life.
The getting on with the here and now.
The sunlight warming and waking
… pushing the stars away
… pushing the dark away,
giving everything its space,
its room to move … its room to live.
Seven people standing and stretching,
murmuring and muttering.
They can come here.
They can stay here … for a while.
We still belong to the wilderness.
We can find the closeness if we try.
Even if we don’t we still have some lingering feeling that
wilderness is important. We have to cherish what we have,
not just for ourselves and not just for our children.
For the magic …
© 1990 Peter Morgan (Then President of National Parks Association of NSW)
First printed in the 1991 Wilderness Calendar, Kalianna Press