The Edges Of Twilight

I’m lost in a forest, all alone…

As we see in ecology, there are also “necessary edges.” The “edge effect” in ecology occurs at the border where two ecosystems … meet. At that interface, where there is the least density and the greatest diversity of life forms, each living thing can draw from the core of the two ecosystems. That is where new life forms emerge… Sometimes the most interesting things happen at the edge. The intersections there can reveal unexpected connections.

Yo-Yo Ma, Behind the Cello

Time, see what becomes of me

I don’t feel it’s a coincidence that I write these words on the day of the Autumnal Equinox. From here onwards, the days become shorter and the nights longer. The signs of seasonal change are all around me. It’s also the time of a full moon (in Libra). This time of year always brings up tensions around how I relate with other people, based on how my natal chart looks. The week before Equinox usually marks the point where the transiting Sun crosses the Ascendant on my chart; for me this is the last quarter before my Solar Return, and yet the beginning of a different cycle altogether.

Elusive time
In limbo active in never ending mime
The edge of twilight into the darkness of day
— Gentle Giant

It is a very liminal time by all descriptions. And it feels like it.

In the Chinese calendar, it is the beginning of the 春分 Chūnfēn solar term, and the first pentad of this period called 玄鳥至 xuán niǎo zhì, “mysterious birds arriving”. Although this calendar’s origins are in the northern hemisphere, so the seasonal descriptions of these don’t resonate as much. Looking at the astronomical data has always been my preference for working with this system situated where I am in the southern hemisphere. Doing so brings the same metaphors in line with the quality of the moment as I experience it in the present.

When I look at the data, there is a hexagram from the I Ching which is used to represent the Autumnal Equinox: ䷹兌 DUÌ, Joyful. Richard Wilhelm (1989: 224) describes it thus:

A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. It is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalising force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse … In this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness…

Wilhelm, Richard (trans. C.F. Baynes), I Ching or Book of Changes 3rd Edition

There are no coincidences.

Silent lucidity

I find myself in the Redwood Forest.

This is strange… because these trees are not native to Australia. They were planted in the 1930’s alongside other pines and cedars as part of the Board of Works’ hydrogogy research project.

Sequoia forests in their native California are not like this either — these trees were planted in exact rows, which gives the space an odd geometric quality. This is very different to the native bushland and temperate rainforests I enjoy visiting when I need time alone in nature, away from people and cars and hustle and bustle. The ground is soft and I can feel the carpet of pine needles under my feet; it’s also eerily silent — there is no birdsong in this forest. Our birds probably don’t know what to make of these strange alien trees. Or maybe there is a different Dreaming here, one of silence and solitude.

The silence is golden. This is why I come here, of all places. Even in the bush, it’s never really silent… it’s quiet but not noisy.

But in here it’s different. It’s probably also why it is so popular. There are always people here, but usually everyone is also coming for silence; and the area is large enough that I can be on my own, and not see or hear anyone else.

Suddenly I stop.
But I know it's too late.
I'm lost in a forest,
All alone.
— The Cure

Even though it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon out there, in here the thick canopy brings a subdued light which matches the silence. These trees are magical. I feel the connection with their homeland, on the other side of the planet, and part of me yearns to be there, to see the natural Redwood Forests over there, to feel the air, smell the pine, and hear the earth-song of another land, to feel her Dreaming.

I continue my walk down hill through the forest towards the creek. The Sequoia slowly give way to Radiata Pine, and then these eventually give way to Western Red Cedars; then I come across a thicket of large Ferntrees before coming to the creek which eventually flows into the upper reaches of the Yarra River.

On the other side of the creek is the remains of the temperate rainforest that is indigenous to this land. Giant Mountain Ash trees tower above creating a canopy, while smaller eucalypts, wattles, ferntrees, and other natives create a thick forest full of biodiversity. From my vantage point here I look up to the canopy — on one side the canopy is made up from the Mountain Ash (the 2nd tallest tree in the world), on the other side it’s dominated by the Sequoia (the tallest tree in the world).

I feel like I’m in between two worlds.

Edges of darkness

All my brothers we stand,
For the peace of the land;
Is there meaning?
— Greta Van Fleet

The Equinox, the twilight, the edges of the different forest… they invoke something deep within me that excites my meditations. Sitting in this space, I am inspired by what nature presents to me. It’s no wonder that the early Taoists placed such an emphasis on the empirical experience of the world in order to understand it, and model our behaviour on what we see.

These ‘foreign’ forests may have been planted by humans, however they have become part of the landscape here, and have created an ecological edge. This aspect of living in Australia has always fascinated me: the interface between the indigenous and the introduced. Whilst in human society this has caused no end of problems amongst the people, what has happened in the natural world suggests an element of hope.

I used to live in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne, where the European trees and plants sit comfortably next to the native flora. But it was the places where the different species grew together and amongst each other that was always mysterious and exciting to be in.

It’s this aspect of diversity that fascinates me: the edges where multiple parts meet and create a space that is so much more than the sum of its parts. For me, this is what both Taoists and Buddhists refer to as the “Middle Way”. It is the ‘S’-curve in the Tài Jì symbol that represents this: not-yīn, not-yáng, and yet both together; firm enough to keep the two apart, yet yielding enough to allow them to inter-twine and produce something different.

It’s why dusk is my favourite time of day, the magic of light turning to dark connects my soul to all the edges in nature…. this place, coastlines, mangroves, wetlands…

But also connecting into the edges of our communities and societies, where creativity flourishes. I heard a podcast just the previous week where some research was conducted that showed that creativity in the sciences was better amongst research groups where people of different cultures and ethnicities worked together.

From a healing perspective, ‘edges’ are those liminal spaces where we can learn something about who we are and what our behaviour is driven by which can then become considerably transformative. To be literally standing at such an edge in nature right now feels like it is the embodiment of this idea. My body is listening to the Dreaming-song of two different lands right here. When humans open themselves up to this in nature, it inspires our creativity and healing.

Then according to the man who showed his outstretched arm to space,
He turned around and pointed, revealing all the human race;
I shook my head and smiled a whisper, knowing all about the place.
— Yes

Can I call you from the edge of nowhere?

We need our forests.

It’s more than just for Oxygen and absorbing Carbon Dioxide. It’s more than just habitat for different species. In our crazy yáng world of relentless information, 24-hour news cycles, insane traffic, and the go-go-go and the sell-buy-sell-more-buy-more, the unassuming quiet and peace of our forests, and the ecological edges of wilderness, is where our souls can be refreshed. It’s where we connect with the Earth and feel inter-connected to something larger than our mundane everyday concerns.

We shouldn’t be too worried about non-indigenous fauna. In fact, it is these places where something new and evocative emerge and stimulate our imagination. What is more important is our capacity to simply be in these spaces, to value them, and to let them be.

Forests inspire us to write, to paint, and to draw. Here, our imaginations run wild with fantasies of pixies and elves and nature spirits that come out when the muggles leave. Throughout the history of civilisation, their wildness has also signified the dark hearts of our imagination: they represent dangerous places where ogres and bunyips steal children. The wild chaos of the forest stands in silent, sharp contrast to the imaginary order that civilisation believes it represents. And yet, there is an order to this chaos, once that is so grand and universal our petty rational minds can’t even begin to fathom.

Their value is not in what forests are, but instead what they represent.

As you draw near, 
I hear the Mother of the Wide Earth,
The joyous girl,
The crystal clear.
Deliver us our poor hearts from naked fear,
As you draw near.
— The Tea Party

All photos are original.

[//]:# (!steemitworldmap -37.718232 lat 145.751852 long Redwood Forest d3scr)

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