Splendid Isolation – 44

Wooden gate into graveyard. Watercolour sketch
Wooden gate into graveyard. Watercolour sketch
Gate, Clifton

I have been reading ‘A field guide to getting lost’ by Rebecca Solnit. She writes about…

…the word “track” in Tibetan: shul, “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by—a footprint, for example. In other contexts, shul is used to describe the scarred hollow in the ground where a house once stood, the channel worn through rock where a river runs in flood, the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night. All of these are shul 1, the impression of something that used to be there.

We walked the Rameka Track which brought that passage to mind. Our footsteps made their own shul over the narrow winding path climbing the great Takaka hill, driven through the bush and pine forest by early settlers to open a route into Golden Bay, replaced by a better track and then lost, to be re-discovered and cleared for mountain bikers and ‘trampers’ (the New Zealand term for hikers). We rested at ‘Martin’s Lookout’ a stout wooden seat commemorating one of the main movers behind the restoration and looked out over the sunlit Takaka plain as he might have done, the sea glistening in the distance.

We stopped at one of the narrow sinkholes beside the track. I dropped a stone and it fell and fell into the darkness without a sound, descending through a liminal portal into the hillside beneath us, perhaps joining the clear waters that flow deep below out into sacred springs to join rivers and meet the sea.

There has been darkness this week with the eruption of endemic racism adding a heavy load to the Covid pandemic. Several friends have had their own meltdowns and I have too, temporarily losing my motivation to paint. An ongoing, distressing family issue has added its own weight to everything here but there is some hope for a resolution of sorts now.

We have been here for 94 days, through three levels of lockdown. Level 1 will start tomorrow, bringing daily life back to a cautious normality. But I sense that normal will never be quite the same; a new shul has left its lasting impression over what used to be.

  1. This is not the same as the Hebrew word for ‘synagog’


  1. Finola

    Yes, we will always remember this time we are living through. The historical and the personal shul will blend.

  2. Robert

    I like the idea of going out and getting ‘lost’. It’s happened to me a couple of times in a Dartmoor mist.

  3. Ashley

    Great painting of the gate! Keep up with the painting, it won’t change the traumas of the world but it will help with how you see things!

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