Mary Robson recalls her recent “Tropical Wilderness Retreat” experience, a six day walking retreat based in Cairns, Far North Queensland – an initiative of our Melbourne partner Campion Centre of Ignatian Spirituality, ‘Being with God in Nature Ministry’ run by Peter Saunders. If interested in this style of retreat please contact us.
A walk through the Daintree
A smoking ceremony preceded our introduction to the Daintree Forest. As I walked around the smoking fire on the Kuku Yalanji country and our Aboriginal guide, spoke softly in his language, I felt a sense of anticipation, what would this 180-million-year-old forest reveal.
Our first stop was to admire the beauty of an ancient red cedar growing on the edge of the forest, it rose majestically from its buttress roots disappearing high into the canopy. Its hollow base, greened with moss and creepers providing a shelter for small forest dwellers. A large stone lay next to the tree, our guide demonstrated its use as a method of communication, as he struck the stone against the tree, a deep-throated sound reverberated throughout the forest.
As we headed deeper into the heart of the forest, our guide requested that we stop whilst he called out in respect to his ancestors of the forest, introducing us as we entered the Daintree. As his voice heralded our coming, I experienced a sense of being on ‘sacred ground.’
Feeling more and more insignificant in this ancient place, I stood looking up at the enormous boulders, laced in moss towering above me and I wondered what catastrophic event had brought them to their resting place within the forest? I longed to know more of the Dreamtime stories that would reveal the secrets of this wonderous place.
From the majestic rainforest trees, the ferns and cycads, to the line of termites marching up a trunk, the brilliant colours of the fungi growing on decaying wood, the brightly coloured butterflies, the abundance of birdlife, there was a sense of the interconnectedness of this primeval ecosystem, all things in a communion, the ongoing cycles of life, decay, death and recreation.
As we continued to walk feeling more and more at one with the forest, the sound of water could be heard and the forest opened to reveal the Mossman River, its pristine waters flowing over and between the boulders. The flow of the water over the years had moulded the great rocks, creating swimming holes.
Sunlight sparkled on the water, lighting up a multitude of coloured stones bejewelling the river bed, as fish glided lazily through the clear waters. The forest colours had created a gentle green hue to the colour of the water.
I left the Daintree having being enriched by an experience which is perhaps best explained in the words of Thomas Berry,
“The communion that comes through these experiences of the wild, where we sense something present and daunting, stunning in its beauty, is beyond comprehension in its reality, but it points to the holy, the sacred.”
(Image by Mary Robson)