Portrait Of A Wild Pool

Runner Up WILDCARE
Tasmania Nature Writing Prize 2005.
Published in Island
Magazine 102, 2005

PORTRAIT OF A WILD POOL              

   They carry/Time looped so river-wise about their house    

                                                                            Robert Graves

There are a dozen of us, two families. The adults laze on the
clear gravel shelf of the creek-pool’s outlet end while the kids, and an eager
black-and-tan border collie, mill in the water.

Bryony asks suddenly, ‘Do you have another dog?’

‘No…’

She is pointing to a small humpy shape in the shaded shallows
near the western bank. It is a platypus. It drifts calmly a couple of metres
distant from the kids’ and dog’s noisy midstream oblivion. Then it executes a
sleek rolling dive and disappears, probably to the hidden water-level entrance
of its burrow.

I had previously experienced a platypus swimming with humans.
Years ago, when we owned a remote East Gippsland property in the foothills of
the Great Dividing Range, we were tranquilly swimming in the magnificent, broad
stretch of water formed by the confluence of the Wentworth and Mitchell rivers,
when a platypus surfaced a mere body-span away. Its appearance was so
unexpected I yelped in surprise, but the platypus was undeterred. Like a
languid water sprite it duck-dived, reappearing to swim close by.  Then it slid beneath the surface again,
gliding off downstream.

Everything I’ve ever read on this small mammal, fact and fiction,
notes its reclusive nature. A favourite childhood book, exquisitely illustrated
by Walter Cunningham, was Leslie Reef’s Shy
The Platypus
. Platypus are shy. Theories for their aloofness range from their territorial
nature to the unfortunate reality that a century ago, in parts of eastern
Australia, they were shot and trapped to near extinction. Their soft,
double-layered pelts, denser than otter fur, made them commercially
exploitable. Platypus were made into coats and hats, both in Australia and
overseas.

Lore also indicates the platypus lifestyle is predominantly
nocturnal; zoos and sanctuaries dimly illuminate their enclosures to simulate
nighttime conditions. Yet from our verandah or the creek bank we often see a
platypus calmly exploring its territory in full daylight. One year, after a
summer flood manifested a cone of gravel in the very heart of the pool, we saw
the platypus frequently over a week, often at midday. Beneath the sunlit water
it busily vacuumed the cone’s fine gravel with its electro-receptor-rich
cartilaginous bill, foraging for aquatic delicacies like caddis-fly larvae,
worms, shrimps and tadpoles, happily submerged for five or ten minutes.

My most intriguing meeting with this curious monotreme occurred
in the creek-pool a few years ago, during another flood. This was a biggie,
breaking a three-year drought. The rain started on Christmas Eve and its
drumming on our iron roof soon drowned out the thunder. By daylight the usually
tea-clear creek was a churning chocolate mass metres higher than its normal
level, filled with the detritus that accumulates from the forest and upstream
farms over dry years; a minestrone of uprooted plants, leaves, moss and algae,
made thick and chunky with rotting logs, fence posts, broken branches, whole
trees.

That spring I had witnessed two platypus in the pool. I saw them
separately but as they are generally solitary mammals, and one was distinctly
larger, it was exciting to think there was a mating. The pool’s silty western
bank provides a perfect habitat for a platypus burrow. The water’s edge is
overhung with strappy green lomandra, and the bank is stabilised by long-buried
logs and the binding roots of ironwood trees and kanuka, as well as that relentless
coloniser, privet. This is the creek’s backwash side. Even in full flood the
flow here is gentler, the main current scything along the steeply plunging
rockface of the opposite bank.

The platypus digs with strong claws, the front-feet web membranes
that make her a powerful swimmer are folded back. She uses her broad tail to
shift the silt aside, excavating a burrow up to twenty metres long, sloping
upwards so the nesting chambers are above the water level. In summer we often
find holes in the silt of the bank above the burrow. I have found no
information to suggest these could be airholes, but each year we check for them
among the bank’s weeds and native grasses. Sometimes they are gone or barely
visible, filled with crusted silt, webs and dead leaves, but when we see a
platypus in the pool the holes are clear, with silt freshly scratched from
below the humus level. They were clear this year, it seemed the female was
nesting. Gestation is approximately one month, then the female lays her small
sticky eggs, usually a pair. The pups hatch a week or so later. (Perhaps
kittens is a more apt name for platypus young; there doesn’t seem to be an
official title. Nor is there a designated plural; platypus, platypuses and
platypi are variously used.) Small and hairless, the young crawl to where they
can suckle the seeping milk from mammary patches, attaching themselves to
motherfur. The mother curls her tail against her belly in lieu of a pouch,
holding them safely.

When, after three days, the flood peaked, the bank sheltering the
burrow was a metre and a half underwater. What sort of instinct would such
animals have to predict this sort of calamity? In years of drought or other
stress a female kangaroo can reabsorb her waiting embryo; chances of survival
are far greater without a foetus attached to the nipple as well as a joey in
the pouch. Could a platypus have the wild intuition to predict a flood and
cache her young in safety, or prepare her burrow defensively? By this flood’s
occurrence in late December, would the pups have been mature enough to leave
the nesting chamber?

On day three, fretting about their fate, I donned my blue
gumboots, grabbed a multi-coloured umbrella and threw my young daughter’s Red
Riding Hood cape over my head and shoulders for extra protection from the
relentless rain. Skidding down the narrow path to the grassy tractor track,
normally three metres above the pool, I found it was now the edge of the
flood.  Standing on the water-lapped
grass, a spot of ludicrous brightness within the valley’s streaming green, the
peculiar roll of a slick dark shape in the moiling water caught my eye. A
subnote in the swollen creek’s roar, the basso rumble of large rocks rolling
along the streambed, underlined the flood’s destructive force. There seemed little
chance anything living could survive in the rampant mass of debris thrashing
through the central current.

But the dark shape rolled again, a few metres further downstream.
Why hadn’t it spun away in the seething detritus? I peered through the rain,
trying to make out what it was; a car tyre perhaps or a dead animal, the scaly
knob of an elkhorn fern. Then it turned back towards where I stood, dodging
through the stick-matted backwash, and swam directly to my feet.

The platypus! She hovered there, paddling gently in the grassy
shallow, small and sleek and unscathed, taking a breather not a foot from my
blue boot tips. We sized each other up. This small unassuming animal seemed the
essence of wildness; I wondered what she made of me. Time seemed suspended;
after a long moment she pushed away from the grass and plunged, with apparent
relish, back into vortex of the flood.

Each flood writes a new narrative in the pool. Spring-birthed
from the flank of the sleepy plateau to our north, the young stream bolts down
the escarpment, broadening when it reaches this narrow twisting valley. The
dense stands of red and white cedar, white beech, turpentine, tallowwood and
brushbox succumbed to beef and dairy farms a hundred years ago. These trees
were giants; the first white settler 
bark-roofed a hollow stump to live in while he built his house. Felled
with sweat and crosscut saws, the forest elders were dragged by straining
bullocks for loading onto creaking jinkers, and the long trip to the fledgling
settlement on the mother river. There, in one of the last patches of
subtropical floodplain rainforest left standing on the east coast, they were
milled into flitches and loaded onto paddle steamers; the turpentines destined
to prop up wharves and quays in Sydney Harbour, the cedars to grace the New
South Wales Parliament and the grand homes of Sydney as wall-panelling,
balustrades and furniture.

There were escapees. In the emerald denseness of slopes that
should have been too steep for pillaging there remain some moss-shrouded forms
of the fallen. If the old trees hold the wisdom of the forest, perhaps that
wisdom is maintained by these fallen ghosts. Some travelled the flood pathway
down the creek; four or five large trunks are buried in the silt and gravel of
our pool, each flood unwraps a new snag or re-covers an old one. Resting on the
backwash side these logs contribute to the bank’s humus and stability, creating
habitat for platypus.

A Chinese Proverb advises ‘When you drink the water, remember the
spring’. Farms patch the valley between this pool and its source. The nearest
upstream settlement is a cluster of structures: farmhouses, outbuildings, a
hall, the old school. After these the creek winds a secret three-kilometre
path, gurgling over rocky reefs and tumbling into tree-shaded deeps to reach
our property, which we have dedicated as a permanent conservation zone. There
the waters slide below a remnant of the original dense rainforest, a richness
of spreading figs, canopy birds-nest ferns and hanging vines. The forest floor
is a multi-jewelled litter of fallen leaves, orchids, algae-graced rocks,
fluorescent mosses and fungi. Water purifies, to a certain extent, through
aeration. By the time the creek has tumbled this downstream path to the pool
the water is well oxygenated and sparkling fresh. We remember the spring
because we rely on it. We pump its water to our gardens and our mudbrick house.
We drink it.

Due to the creek’s rapid cleared-country fall, and the dirt roads
edging and crisscrossing it, flooding is often significant and can carry a huge
burden of silt and gravel. The pool’s bed changes constantly. Typically there
is a broad shelf of sand at the outflow end, a gentle entry-point for the young
and the tentative, easy on the feet. But some years we stumble in over large
pebbles and slippery bedrock, with a wary eye to the newly exposed stubs of the
old, pool-embraced logs.

Winters here are dry, summer brings the floods. The first,
usually freezing, swim of spring, or the first post-flood dip is cautious.
There is no knowing what changes time or deluge will have wrought. The gravel
dump that the platypus so patently enjoyed foraging in, materialised during a
midsummer flood. Returning home from a few days’ absence in hot and sticky
weather, my first impulse was a plunge into the pool. Breaststroking against
the turbid, turbulent midstream current I ran aground!  The central flow depth of the pool is
normally over two metres; inconceivably it was now twenty centimetres. Fine
gravel had been swirled into an elliptical cone, we could barely swim past in
the new shallows on either side to reach the deeper water beyond. We feared a
progressive clogging of the pool would spell its demise, but another flood a
month later took all the gravel away.

In Waterlog, Roger
Deakin’s wonderfully idiosyncratic ‘under the skin’ swimming exploration of
Britain’s waterways and pondages, it is clear that no matter what hidden or
well-used stretch of water Deakin samples, his homing instinct is locked on the
moat by his home in Suffolk. Each time he dives in he gauges the water’s
freshness, its temperature and weed-growth. He takes stock of the air, the
birdlife, the seasonal changes of the overhanging trees. He checks the state of
the moat’s inhabitants and incubates tadpoles in an aquarium to better their
chances of survival. Annually he clears the smothering weed. He knows his
stretch of water intimately.

Despite similar touchstones there can be no such shepherding of
our pool. Deakin’s spring-fed moat is topped up by England’s usually reliable
rainfall. This, along with aquatic creatures and plant-growth, keeps the water
fresh and viable. The pool I have coexisted with for over two decades depends
on unpredictable rains and floods. Twice we have seen the creek-flow reduced to
a barely discernible trickle, the pool remaining deep but developing a stagnant
smell while we waited with bated breath for rain. Floods can be destructive but
they are necessary to the epic story of the pool, the way it is shaped and
renewed. Without these periodic scourings the pool would choke. Tonnes of
matter pass through it each year. The first white settlers on our land, drivers
of an ill-fated bullock team, depended on the creek for more than drinking
water. The family shat from a forked tree hanging over the water downstream,
calling the floods ‘the twice yearly flush’.

This pool exists because the landform once slowly shrugged itself
almost vertical, then infinitesimally the rocks disrobed. Above the pool the
hill rises like a sensuously naked shoulder, smooth and darkly glistening, the
creek wrapping it like a silk-velvet stole. A while back, give or take a few
million years, the somnolent earth of this region yawned and magma gushed into
its opening throats. Volcanic plugs show where the earth once spread its
surface; now they thrust high and bare from the valley floor to touch the sky.
The smooth dark density of the rock rising from the pool is probably igneous; I
wish I knew more of its morphology. If I shared artist William Robinson’s
godlike view I could look down on this land’s topography and read its turns and
twists, the pentimento of changing. And I could follow the progress of the
earlier, higher incarnations of the stream as they polished the rock-shoulder
smooth. I feel very small under this hill.

Trees manage to grow on the hill’s rocky face although none are
large, the soil profile is too thin to support vigorous growth. Tenaciously
they root in crevices, exploring for deeper seams. In drought many die, thin
sticks bear testament, but after rain the survivors leaf densely, simulating a
bushfire’s aftermath. The strong, slender verticals of the dead and living
trunks patterning the hill echo Arthur Boyd’s vast tapestry in the Reception
Hall of the Parliament in Canberra.

 

Leaves fall constantly from these trees into the pool. They glide
to one end, then the wind changes its direction and they glide back. Slowly,
inevitably, they saturate and sink. When the creek runs low and the flow is
dormant the drowned leaves sigh up from their rotting netherworld in gentle,
silent, explosions. Swollen with their own decomposition they recompose in a
lilting dervish twirl, back to the redemption of light. Flesh and colour
leached away, glossy black and stinking, they clot into ghostly mats on the
surface, clinging in a communion of decay, then slowly separate and spread
apart. Some seek immortality, drifting on the wind again, the pressure-change
from water to air inflating them into small black bladder-sailed boats. But
their grasp on air is ephemeral. They sink alone, for the final time.

The pool often dresses in vivid raiment. Leaf and petal cast
bronze and silver wishing coins on the meniscus and on days when the air is
perfectly still, the pool’s dark face captures the sky; cumulus clouds building
their snowy billowings downwards into blue. Sculptor of place, Andy
Goldsworthy, could have chased the wind to gather all the scattering leaves,
weaving them into a gently heaving Persian carpet of scarlet, ochre, green and
russet. In spring falling kanuka flowers cloak the surface with a floating
filigree of deepest yellow; in December the pool is swathed in a peachskin
fuzz, the stamens of ironwood flowers and their fine pollen rendering the
surface the palest gold. When I breaststroke through, my wake is clear, fluid
darkness.

Wodwo, Ted Hughes’s solitary, mythic creature of the river
ponders ‘What am I to split the glassy grain of water’. There is something mythic in bodies of wild
water; in their unpredictability they can never be completely known. Beyond controlling,
they contain the essence of place. It is easy to imagine a subaquatic deity in
this pool, an amphibious Wodwo wandering as easily through the water as through
air, watching, protecting, being. Animistic religions ascribe a soul to all
things in nature, each rock and tree. Aboriginals often clap their hands or
throw a pebble into a body of water to alert its spirit of their approach.
Walking alone down the narrow, deeply shaded path to this creek pool, stepping
over the moss-soft log to the dark lap of the water’s edge and looking through
the veiling leaves up the still, indifferent stretch of water, there is that
imperative of awareness. To recognise. To be respectful. 

What is this Wodwo mythicness? Annie Proulx calls it the
Wer-Trout in a short story of the same name, pitting Sauvage and Rivers, her
eponymous protagonists, against a welling fear of wilderness. The more deeply
the two men journey into the swampy heartland of wild rivers the more visceral
their terror becomes. If one considered nature malign it would not be hard to
imagine the pool below our house as the seat of a vengeful god or creature
spirit. A Yowie perhaps. In the deep indefinable reaches of the dark water
something unknown could be lurking, keeping itself to itself. Or not. It could
be waiting, with long cold fingers ready to reach, to grasp and explore. There
are times in this pool when the impulse is to swim only in the top layers of
the water, to draw knees closer to chest, to avoid the shadowed recesses. Of
course there could equally be benign presences, water sprites or faeries;
nurturing, beneficent, seductive. Is it human instinct to anthropomorphise such
places? To weave stories, spells of awareness and protection? The mythic nature
of this pool could simply be the pool itself; the mystery of its source, its
flux and changing, its continuation. An existence neither malign nor benign –
an existence that simply is.

What is part of this
pool is poetry, the hieroglyphics of reflections, the light and dark polarities
of planished ripples. The follow-me loopings of the pair of monarch flycatchers
dropping from twigs to write on space in curling arabesques. The sound of air
unzipping as an azure kingfisher flashes up the creek, a pure, straight
arrow-point like a tiny jewel-bright Shinkansen in a vast green tunnel. Mild
October evenings are a lacework of drifting fireflies; crickets and frogs creak
songs of seduction, silvering the silence with tremulous longing.

The pool’s calligraphic brush drips colour. Eucalypts drop leaves
like scarlet scimitars and vermilion dragonflies dart and hover, dabbing a
heart’s brilliance on khaki water. The gloom below is saturated with the greens
and ochres of water-polished rocks, pebbly shallows flaunt the nacre of mussel
half-shells, cracked open by cormorant and heron. Freshwater crayfish, glimpsed
rarely, flash car-duco turquoise, olive and peacock blues, and when rain paints
a lavender lustre on the grey rockface the scraggy black-green mosses
effloresce to viridian. By day the sky is here, caught in the pool’s blue or
goose-down mirror; by torchlight at night the eyes of tiny shrimps, tenaciously
clinging to rocks under gushing water, are neon-pink. A pallid Marlene Dietrich
moon floats face up in the inky water. 

The stringlike Gordian worm has its own sheen as it twines around
my hand. I release it back to the pool and watch it swim in sine-waves, a
delicate underwater rainbow named for Gordius, a peasant of Ancient Greece who,
by being in the right place at the right time, fulfilled a prophesy to become
King. Gordius gratefully dedicated his cart to Zeus, tying it to a post with a
knot that could never be undone. Alexander the Great solved the problem in
333AD in his usual forthright manner, hacking through the knot with his sword -
proving the power of lateral thinking. Gordian worms often cluster in writhing
knots, although we see them singly in the pool where they happily corkscrew and
untangle themselves. The hatched Gordiid larvae inch (or millimetre) along the
shallows until imbibed by a host, usually the aquatic larva of an airborne
insect, which then flies off to fulfil its life-promise – to be eaten by
something bigger and hungrier. The worms here develop in mole-crickets. If you
accidentally step on one a worm extrudes from its anus. Clearly, hosting a worm
parasite that is half your body mass is not much fun; mole crickets are cranky
and they clatter malevolently across the floorboards of our house on summer
nights. The Gordian worm, however, is harmless to humans and a fascinating
inhabitant of the pool; we see several each summer, looping along in the slow
current.

Eels are the pool’s dark notes, the crotchets and quavers, sly
squiggles seen from the corner of the eye, the sinuous rods that rule the pool.
Their snake simulation is redeemed by their curiosity and wry, fixed,
sphinx-like smile. Small eels sometimes slither between our feet in the
shallows and from the bank I once watched in awe as a king glided past, thicker
than my arm and half as long again. There are other sinuous dwellers here too,
reptiles like to live near water where frogs and crickets are plentiful. But
the few black snakes we see are cautious, flickering quickly away, or if they
are swimming they ripple to the furthest bank, beating a quicksilver retreat.
Once we saw a python at the pool. Wrapped around itself like a turban, it hung
in the branches of a tree, low over the water, probably digesting, its light
and dark green patterning mirroring the ripples below. We swam beneath,
watching. After a week it was gone.

Another one-off poolside sighting was a small, greyish snake also
coiled but without the python’s sinuous elegance. This stumpy little reptile
looked like a baby when I stepped unwittingly beside it in long grass; small
and harmless. Its response was not to slither off like a black snake but to
point its tail-tip in the air, wiggling it like a worm. I was enchanted – as an
unwary bird might be, the lure of easy prey. I watched for a while then plunged
in for my swim. A friend identified it later as a death adder. Disbelieving we
consulted a snake book; the description fitted perfectly and we were
geographically within its range. The pool’s environs also shelter funnelweb
spiders. There are basic rules for coexisting with such potent creatures – awareness
and, in the immortal words of comic Ali G; ‘Respect Mon!’

The pool engenders endless stories, its inhabitants could write
their own Secret Life of Us. The
caddis-fly larvae in their commandeered twig suits, creeping along the rockface
gobbling algae, then losing their grip, rolling into chasms, and slowly,
heroically, clawing their way back. Or the sexy damselfly equivalent of the
Mile High Club. Or ‘The Push’, a dozen yellow-cheeked black cockatoos, flying
over; a dynasty of entrenched larrikins with tight familial loyalties. They
loop together in a lazy rabble, shouting insolently, cracking cocky jokes, with
no qualms about disturbing the neighbourhood. Setting up a squat in the trees
above the pool, they sociably crack gumnuts and peel bark from the branches,
scrabbling in a grub quest. As they gouge with hooked beaks, their litter
patters into the water. A cockatoo flying alone sounds bereft, calling for
reassurance or muttering querulously to itself as if it can’t stop talking.
Reunions are cacklingly joyful. I float languidly, listening to their gossip. A
lapis lazuli dragonfly lands on me.

On summer evenings we take plastic chairs and beer down to the
water’s edge and watch the drama of the golden skinks and punkish baby
waterdragons darting after fallen alates on the sloping rockfaces. Alates, the
breeding phase of ants and termites, issue from the earth in a swooning, light
drenched flight. They fall in thousands, dropping their wings, their life so
random that only a few pairs will breed and form new nests. With our feet in
cool water tiny guppies cluster to suck skin flakes from our skin. There are
bigger fish too, bass, catfish. We take no fish, crustaceans or shellfish from
the pool; with logging and fertiliser-based farming up the valley, its balance
is fragile. An upstream fertiliser spill years ago caused excessive algae
growth, deoxygenating the water. For some time the pool looked dead, even small
stream-life all but gone. Farmers upstream also use poisons. Corporations like
Monsanto swear blind that glyphosate will kill only targeted plants, but time
and trials have proven otherwise. Leached into waterways Roundup kills small
crustaceans, affecting the food chain. ‘Aquatic-safe’ poisons have been
developed with similar reassurances. Why should we believe them? We weed by
hand.

Long before committing to parenting, I read Escape to an Island, Eleanor Alliston’s account of her family’s
life on Three Hummock Island, north of
Tasmania. I was struck by a photograph of Eleanor’s young daughter swimming
naked in a grass-fringed pool. From memory the subtext was: ‘We came to the
island to give our children this.’ My children have also grown with wild water
and nakedness is first nature to them. My daughter’s childhood summers centred
on pool play, bare-bottomed handstands the order of the day. Every summer
children have added rocks to the natural weir hemming the pool; here the
creek’s quietude is shrugged off, releasing it to sing again its tributary song
as it hurries downstream to its next manifestation. My son places bigger rocks
now, tending the wall with the measured reverence seen in the old black-clad
women who nurture the ancient shrine gardens of Japan, sweeping each leaf from
the purity of moss with soft twig brooms. His efforts secure three or four
additional centimetres in the pool’s depth, then floods move the rocks away
again.

Now twenty, my son shimmies up an ironwood, a tree that has grown
tall with him. White and naked in the green gloom of foliage he snakes along a
branch finally stout enough to hold him, tying a rope fast. Back on earth he
attaches a cross-stick to the dangling end, tests the swing’s strength, and
satisfied, backsteps up the bank, rope taut. He pauses in anticipation, then
bolts downhill into a flying leap. From my water-level vantage he is all skinny
luminosity and hairy bum. The splash is volcanic, the depth seems inadequate, I
hold my breath. He shoots back into air, exultant, water streaming.

‘Did you touch? Are you OK?’

‘Yeah. Just my feet. Its great, you can’t hurt yourself.’

Swivelling in the effervescence he absorbs the still swinging
rope, a life-long dream. Turning back, his face is radiant.

‘Sweet!’

He thrashes through the shallows, clambers up the bank, grasps
the rope again, the water still sparking and popping where he landed.

 

Friends come from the city, setting themselves adrift on a
blow-up boat , immersing in the pool’s son
et lumière
. Bright ribbons of water reflect a sunlight dance up tree
trunks, under leaves, into air. Birds, bees, cicadas, zinging flies and beetles
create contrapuntal melodies; sandpaper figs plop, the water chatters over
stones like a half-heard, half-known language; a hidden pigeon’s liquid pouring
notes sound like red wine decanting from a bottle.

Maggs drags herself away from the pool to return to work. Veteran
of disaster relief and humanitarian work, nursing in countries like Somalia and
East Timor, now she leaves for Iraq. We party in Newtown with other friends
from Aid missions, to send her off, delaying her departure by two days. Her
arrival briefing in Baghdad is rescheduled, so she is not killed in the bombing
of the U N Headquarters in Iraq. As she surely would have been. As her briefing
manager was. She coordinates the relief and cleanup, mopping skin and blood from
walls and floors, sifting through shattered glass and the confetti of papers to
match documents with bodies. Once this grisly and monumentally tragic task is
done, she e-mails, ‘The creek! The creek!’ The pool becomes an invocation for
reality.

What happened to the platypus in the year of the Christmas flood?
I can only assume, from the way she plunged back into the chaotic flow, that
she was happy feeding in the cornucopia of the pool’s flood-rich consommé. But
the fate of her young? Platypus breed in late winter or early spring. The young
take to the water after about four months. When the flood came the pups would
have been too young to cope by themselves in a stream, much less a raging
torrent. If the mother had plugged the burrow they may have managed on limited
air for several days, or if she was able to hide them somewhere above the
flood, safe from predators, it is possible they could have survived.

We look for happy endings, but the pool is ongoing, endings have
little relevance. We look for purpose, but what is the purpose of the Gordian
worm, to kill the mole cricket or to simply exist? What is my purpose in this
place? Like time, purpose is a human construct, an intellectualism. Perhaps my
only purpose here is to witness the pool and protect it, so it continues, after
its own fashion. In his Walden Pond rumination Henry David Thoreau said, ‘Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I
drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it
is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper;
fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one.’

Although we do not fish in the pool, living by it is a meditation. I witness
its being, drink deeper, learn the humility of awareness. I too can count
neither the myriad of pebbles in the pool nor the stars reflected in it, but by
living with them, life is infinitely richer.

DAEL ALLISON

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