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View Full Version : A Story of a Walk Through my Treeplanter's Farm



Bob Whitworth
16th Aug 2018, 08:40 AM
The Jungle Path as a Walking Meditation

Dear readers, this is a true story of the walking track I have made over the years on my farm. If anyone doubts my story in any way, or are curious and would like to walk it, they are most welcome to contact me and make arrangements. Some people do gardening, I build and maintain my walking track.
I host the occasional visitor and if I get the opportunity, I invite them to walk my walking track circuit. There is a Tibetan word for a circumambulation, as an act of devotional meditation and that is the word kora. This time, when we walk the track, I can do a commentary but maybe next time, we could do it in contemplative silence.

Starting at the house, I'd like it to be noticed, how the old wooded house sits in the landscape with the hills behind it with its pyramid shaped roof seeming to imitate the mountain peak behind the house. This peak seen from the house is the summer solstice sunrise position, something a little Stonehenge like?
Before setting off, I offer something to bring with us, an attractive little stone I've previously found, a broken piece of pottery or even a twisted piece of wood that can be placed somewhere along the track. When we walk the path, we wear it down fractionally and it is beneficial to make a little reparation. The piece could be a broken pieces of china from something which was once useful and beautiful which has been broken by accident into uselessness and then to become useful again. Some pieces are from old broken plates that were used when I was a child and having dinner at my grandparents' place, another is from a broken plate given to me by the organiser of a spiritual group I once belonged to and again another is from a broken heirloom that belonged to an ex-girlfriendís family. To walk the path and to be momentarily caught by surprise by a glint of broken pottery may allow us in the instant to see things differently. We set off to the east along a tractor track.

First we pass a new shed with my sawmill. This shed built of trusses of an incredible 11m span is built out of wood from trees I planted here an unbelievable 41 years ago and it is my planted forest we are about to enter. Behind the shed is the old dairy, a legacy of a bygone era with the date in the concrete of 1929, the same year the house was built. In 1917, the forest was surveyed to be cleared for dairying, the dairying ran its course, the land became devastated and dairying stopped in 1973. I purchased it the next year and commenced replanting with trees. A good part of the track is through the forests I've planted. The old engine room has now been converted to a rustic grannie flat and just maybe someone, perhaps an artist is living and working here.

A turn to the left and there is a water hole in the gully and beside it, a quite large and impressive Red Cedar tree [RC]. I am one of the lucky people whose hobby and business is the growing of trees and the best of them all is Australia's most fabulous and valuable RC. It has a wood of alluring beauty which drew early timber getters deep into the then unknown parts of the country seeking out these trees. According to historians, it was Australia's first successful export from 1788 until the commencement of the wool industry. The local aboriginal name for RC, is Woodja.

I have done an inventory of all my trees, measured them, given them numbers and made little maps of where they are and then looked after them with a little silvicultural treatment. This tree for example is RC 84. It entered my register in Feb 1999 with a girth of only 20 inches. Now, only 19 years later, it has a girth of 71 inches! I won't bore you with too much detail but if you calculate the volume of growth and consider that even here in Gympie, a shop keeper was selling his RC timber at $12,000 a cubic metre. I told him I thought that it was a bit expensive, he said it didn't matter because he considered it almost impossible to obtain. I admit, I have sold it for much less but this tree, just growing there by itself has produced so much wood. Let's do the calculation in our mind's eye, about 3 cubic metres of wood at the above value, in 19 years, well the calculation is starting to blur my overly excited little brain but that comes to a figure of so many cents per hour and I have so far, in my register over 700 trees! Money is being made while just walking the track and meditating on higher things!

It turns out that a botanist friend of mine, who actually lived in the dairy for 2 years before moving on to work in a health farm where they nurture your soul and repair your body. There was at the back of that property, the biggest RC he had ever seen but its ownership was disputed because of an ill defined boundary. The neighbour took opportunity into his hands and cut down this enormous tree of 6 feet in diameter and sold the wood and kept the money. I was even shown the remaining stump. My walk now has an extra dimension to it. What if as we walk along and look around, I discover yet another tree so far missed, that is large and in need of cutting, what a windfall! I even own a book called, "How Money Can Save your Soul". What a coming together of ideas! Unfortunately, though, I've never had to call upon the teachings of the book, at least so far. On our walk, I'll point out a few RC trees along the way. Because of the modern world, I am now photographing the trees and placing the photos online for all to appreciate their remarkable beauty. Remember, the prized figured wood comes from a bent tree. All of the trees have what I describe as a pleasing irregularity. All have a uniqueness and individuality about them. There is a word for this which is sharawagi. It is an interesting word because it is actually a contrived English word made up to seem like a Japanese word with their culture of the appreciation of natural beauty. It came about in the 18th century with gardening landscapes that are more natural and less formal.
This is no ordinary water hole as no matter how dry it gets, it always remains incredibly full, fed by a little trickle of a stream which to my knowledge has never stopped flowing, no matter how dry it gets. Here is a seat to sit and think, and above it is a carved sign, "Normality Stops, Reality Begins". Perhaps, I could have carved, "Civilisation ends where the Jungle begins".

Just over the other side of the gully is a tree with the prophetic initials of GM carved into it which for me stands for the second most popular tree for me to plant, the local wonderful Gympie Messmate [Eucalyptus cloeziana][GM]. The wood in the shed mentioned earlier is made from this. Who did this carving and for what reason all those years ago is now totally lost.

Here is also what I describe as an Aussie sauna, an outdoor bath and a drum to heat the water over a fireplace.

A little further on, we enter one of my ordered forests [planted 1982] with all the trees so tall and straight and all planted in rows, well sort of anyway. One of the trees here has done the impossible and instead of growing upwards like all the rest, has by a freak of nature grown into a loop before heading upwards again. The impossible has become possible and the natural laws of nature have been turned upside down. Humans are more at ease in more open agricultural country and we always enter a forest with a sense of unease as entering a place that is a bit foreign to us and the weirdness of this tree adds to the unease.
The tractor track has now turned into a single file walking track and beside the track, I've placed a few unusually shaped rocks. The tension is that you are never quite sure what rocks I've placed there as an expression of my rustic art and what has just naturally occurred.

As we walk along the track, I might say something about the changes that have occurred over the years. When I planted the trees here, mostly in 1975 to 1977, there were a lot of weeds such as lantana and groundsel and I planted the trees in twisting rows around these clumps. In the gully below, I could step across from one bank of kikuyu, across a little gap, where you could just see a few rocks below to the other side. They used to grow bananas here on both sides far up the hill side. The amount of soil erosion is beyond comprehension. If you look into the gully now, there must be something like at least 15 feet of rocks. All the soil that was washed into the gully with the clearing, burning and bananas, was temporarily being held by the grass, but with the planting of the trees, the grass has died out, and the soil has been washed further downstream. I find this soil erosion so disheartening and me being ineffective in doing about it. It has been profound violation of nature and the planet that we depend upon. My thought is that if I have been given some age and can now see this slow but serious soil erosion, then I have a responsibility to do something about it. In my way, I do try and the planting of all these trees is perhaps something.

A small clearing is entered as here there is a small and remote hut. Inside are a wood stove, a single bed, a desk and chair. This is occasionally used by visitors looking for solitude and a back to nature experience.
On the back door is a little mural painted by two hippy girls. One was a business graduate from the US with a professional background and whose father was employed on some secret mission in the Pentagon. I don't know how, but she linked up with a natural free-spirited hippy, and the social downhill slide started. Together they were travelling the great magical land of Oz doing spontaneous abstract murals as acts of goodwill with the paints they took with them. After taking up the casual life of a hippy, I never discovered how successfully the US girl returned to the grim normality of her business world.
Above the door is a warning sign carved by another visitor saying, "The Edge of the Known World". The path is taking us beyond the known and into the mysterious unknown jungle beyond. Perhaps I can tell my story of another unusual word, tirthas, a Hindi word meaning a place where there are easy cross overs from one reality into another. Several people have reported to me how they have been walking around here and have become seriously disoriented. A lady friend who knows here quite well, got lost and seemed to enter a time warp before eventually coming through, another while camping in the hut, went for a walk in the afternoon, got disoriented and had to spend the night in the jungle. She told me about it the following morning. I said I was glad not to know about it as I had a good night's sleep without a worry on my mind. Another more recent example of someone who was famous in his high stakes profession got incredibly lost while attempting to make the simple walk to the hut and had to ring 000 on his mobile phone to actually arrange for me to locate and bring him back home in the dark that night.

To continue on, the clearing around the hut is left behind and we come across a cairn. The ancient sign of human habitation. Here the track forks. The track to the left goes to a small waterfall, across the gully to some huge GM trees planted in 1977 but we will continue straight ahead.

If you look closely, you can see a couple of strands of barbed wire on the ground. These are the remains of an old barbed wire fence when incredibly in metaphorically a different world, men, who must have been of a different breed to us, cleared this forest, built these fences by hand, only using axes and shovels, for cows to come and eat grass to make milk, which was then hand milked, separated, the cream was kept for selling for butter and the skim milk was fed to pigs for pork. So much work for so little gain and then at the same time, to keep the pastures free of weeds. Surely them must have been thinking that they were living in hell. I call these old original fences from 1929, Aussie gothic for the lost world they represent. The jungle advances and agriculture and its civilizing influence is in serious retreat. I though with a different approach, think I'm living in arcadia, a rustic paradise, but maybe I'm just deluded.

Down in the gully is RC278, perhaps my biggest and most impressive tree.

The track now forks. The circuit continues straight on but we will take a left turn for a diversion and go across the gully and up the slope. In front of us is an enormous tree. It has the common name of a Giant Water Gum, the older and more familiar botanical name is Eugenia francisii. It is in the process of being strangled by a fig and if the two of them are girthed, it comes to an incredible 24 feet. These types of trees are very slow growing and I'd guess that this tree would be well over a thousand years old. It has been named after a Mr Bill Francis, who at the time was the government botanist. He wrote a famous book in 1926 called, "Rainforest Trees of Australia" with photographs of many different trees with men and their axes. I can't help but have a sense of unease with these old black and white photos as I suppose, once the photo was taken, the men set about to cut down the tree and surrounding forest . As a boy, he lived on the next farm east of here and that is where I'm sure he got his love of rainforest trees and his intimate knowledge of them.

Across to the right was the biggest Crow's Ash [Flindersia australis] I had ever seen. I even took a photo of it with my daughter when she was young, but something went wrong and the tree died and has fallen over.
Up a bit more and here is my camping cave. Getting inside is a little bit difficult but once inside, it is about the size of a small room. It has a sleeping platform, which has slept up to four people, a little floor space, and a fireplace. To be honest, I have spent a few nights here and to do so is quite an experience. Life here is tough and an indication as to how our distant ancestors all lived. We bring some modern food and bedding and are out of the elements so a day of being a cave man is passed relatively safely and easily in comparison to the former cave dwellers experiences but of immediate experience for us, there is no entertainment, except for ourselves and the stories we can tell and staring into the fire and thinking of the passage of time and what it brings. It has happened that someone once came all the way from the US to camp in this jungle cave and to live the life of an anchorite. As it turned out, she only spent a couple of nights here before moving down to the hut and its relative comparative comfort. She spent the rest of her 6 weeks there, being close enough to nature.

Down the hill again to the main track, turn left and straight away, we come to the jungle shrine. Here there is a seat and I suppose on the altar, a collection of quirky and poignant things. An old cow bone which I found when I planted some trees here. This was the commencement of the shrine as I placed some rocks to make makeshift shelter for the bones. There are some broken piece of pottery, bent pieces of wood, reject glass beads and even a piece of gold foil. I like very much, the Japanese word of wabi sabi. This word is the basis of Japanese aesthetics. It means the profound in the ordinary, the aesthetics of imperfection and the subtle beauty of nature. Here visitors are invited to mount the dais, sound the gong, a fortuitously found hub cap, and to extemporize on their jungle thoughts. For example, to quote a visitor, "I used to walk up to your big silver front gate and think that whatever lay beyond it was a mystery, now that Iíve had a look, I now know that the mystery is even greater!" Yes, I like the thought.

I suppose I have my own ritual here and this is what it is. There is some raised ground and visitors and invited to take to this make do dais. Most of us live in a normal and regulated society alienated from the natural world. What I suppose I'm encouraging to do is to stand on the dais and attempt to think nothing for a minute or so but feel the strength of nature and the jungle around you, and then when ready, to speak freely and spontaneously what ever thought comes into your head. I'd like to call upon the god of the forest, Silvanus to inspire. We are now in the jungle and jungle rules prevail. This is the challenge, can one speak truthfully and without self-censorship a flow of natural thoughts. Surely now is the time to say whatever one likes. If it makes things any easier and if there is a likelihood of it being some form of confession maybe there could be some rules such as discretion about what is said, or perhaps it could be agreed that whatever is said is a secret, or stronger still, whatever is said or happens, afterwards, we pretend it just never happened. That moment in our lives is erased and we pretend it just never happened. A pure heart is an advantage as I'm sure that protects us from ever saying anything too bad. This may seem a harmless game but it is really a step into the unknown, to speak the train of unbridled thoughts. Me, if I take to the dais, I think that Iíll keep my thoughts to myself though!

We leave the shrine and continue on up the gully. Right beside the track is the very attractive RC464 with its high buttresses.

The next spot has a statue of the goddess Pomona and another seat. This goddess I found broken and abandoned at the local tip but I glued her back together and have taken her to what I hope is a pleasant and safe place and with her benevolent powers restored. A drink is offered with a natural rock chalice from the clear water from a permanent spring. More broken pottery, this time from a local artist who made these cups for the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games.

The track now turns hard to the right and gradually ascends the slope until a lookout is reached with a view over the valley below. In a crevice in the cliff behind the lookout is another cow bone. This bone has the word "GOMPA" painted on to it. This bone was found when I planted the GM tree beside the lookout. Spare a momentís thought to the days when one hundred cows lived here, so I was told and they needed to graze so high up on this rugged hill side for grass. Obviously one cow died from the effort and this is all that remains. Circumstances change, and the forests are returning from the trees I've planted and the natural regeneration. The word gompa is a shrine dedicated to the Buddha. This was painted by a Japanese lady who visited here a couple of years ago. She worked as what she called was a yoga coordinator in a zen monastery and had also studied in India. She was of a very abstract nature. For her, beauty was found at every turn of the path and every twist of a leaf. When she walked the path, at suitable places as reverence to the beauty of nature, she painted a Japanese character in watercolour paints on leaves, rocks and anywhere. Upon seeing the cow bone, she prostrated herself in deference to the lost life. On it she painted the word, I suppose as an attempt to somewhat redeem the situation. Never has my walking track been so greatly revered! Maybe we linger here and take in the view to the north and overlooks the valley we have just walked up and across to the trees and caves on the other side.

A little care is needed next as the track is now narrow and above a small cliff. The track goes around the spur of the ridge to the western slope with a view down to our home far below.

A little further on are some fig trees [Ficus virens] which are an incredible site growing over rocks. These are the same species that are growing over the Hindu/Buddhist temple at Angkor Wat in the same magnificent and even grotesque way. A closely related species to this tree, was under which the Buddha received his enlightenment. They are considered the most divine of all trees because of the closeness of their branches reaching to heaven and their roots holding to the earth below. Some of the roots are drawn up so high, they are what is called aerial roots and the distance between branches and roots, heaven and earth are almost touching and our human purpose of bonding the higher to the lower symbolically fulfilled.
Just beyond is a human face in the cliff. The face looks rather severe as it looks down on my farm below. On each cheek was painted a reverential Japanese character which unfortunately are now invisible due to the ravages of time.

Another cliff and some over hanging rocks with a ledge upon which I place my rock. This is my art in the making, the quirky placement of rocks. There can just be seen, another Japanese character. This could until recently be still understood. I was told that it says, "thank you". I am grateful for the thought and the appreciation of my track.

On now to a large seat made from the wood from a giant tree that was growing high above here. This tree was so large that the cross cut saw that cut it down had only an inch on either side to work with and so the process was very slow and difficult as the story was told to me by the old man who cut it down in his youth. Eventually the tree was felled and speared down below to here. We canít help but dwell on human folly. The effort to cut the ancient forest, the effort to grow bananas on the steep slope, the effort to keep it free of weeds for grazing cattle, the lost battle due to the persistence of the invading weeds and declining fertility, the supreme battle to attack the weeds and plant a new forest while staggering over these giant logs and the effort to keep the weeds in check until the young trees can stand alone. We sit on the seat and ponder!

Down the hill to the right, is the impressive RC364.

Further on and to another seat. Looking up and tied into the fork of a shrub, we can see a rock in the shape of a severed head. Visitors are invited to take a piece of chalk and enhance the features to perhaps make it clearer as to who it is who is represented here. In the middle ages, severed heads of criminals were placed on stakes for their shock value and to help maintain law and order. He now has a chip off his nose from when the cows knocked him down the hill while in a different location. It was quite a struggle to find him in all the lantana and rocks below and to carry him back up the hillside to this safer location.
The track turns into a slashed tractor track again before entering through some more rainforest. When we do, I'd like to take you just off the track. Here is one of Gympie's famous and notorious Gympie Gympies, one of the stinging trees. This is the large leafed shrub species, the most notorious of them all! If you look it up on line, it is described as being the world's most deadly tree. It is claimed, and I also have been told probably an apocryphal story of people dying from shock because of being stung. Yes, I can certainly attest to the powerful sting and have been stung many times. I can remember, the sting stayed with me, in a mild form for nine months. At the moment, it is looking very green and healthy with beautiful pink fruit. This fruit is edible but you need to rub off the stinging needles before taking a bite or else it sort of has a tingle to it, something like the old sweet called, Fruit Tingles. I cannot help but mention the name of our local town Gympie. Of course, everyone knows it is the name of this stinging tree but really, the aborigines who gave it this name, were saying that the tree had the devil in it. In fact, the name is Gympie Gympie, which for aboriginals, is plural for having devils in it. This means that our good town of Gympie actually means devil. Does that explain anything?

A bit further in a nook in the rock beside a seat is an object I found from here which I will leave unnamed. My suggestion is to pick it up and look at it closely. It looks as though it has been deliberately shaped. If you are here with me, I will tell you what I believe it is and you will probably agree and Iím sure that you cannot but ponder upon the passage of time and the changes it brings.

Through another planted forest on the right and on to another seat where there once was a view down to the house below which is now hidden from view because of the growth of the trees. I was told that this forest was cleared during the war for bananas in an attempt to increase production. You cannot but wonder as to the work involved and how difficult it must have been to grow bananas on this steep, rocky, dry slope. By the time I owned the property, it was a veritable sea of lantana. With effort and persistence, the forest has been re established and the lantana shaded out and all the rocks and landform can now be seen again. An interesting tree grows here in a piece of adjoining rainforest and that is a tree called, Lignum Vitae. [Vitex lignum-vitae] It means tree of life, named after the more famous South American tree. This is a very slow growing tree which has durable wood. In the clearing, I discovered an old unused fence post cut out of one of these trees. It must have laid there since the forest was cleared. For me it is most interesting, so just a few weeks ago, I picked it up and have carried it back to my shed. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but it is something to wonder about. Rainforest timber fence posts are most unusual.
In the next piece of rainforest, there is another interesting tree. It is an Axe Handle Wood tree [Aphananthe philippinensis]. This tree is about as large as they get but it has an immense fire scar on the top side of it. This would have been caused many years ago when the forest was cleared below and set alight. The fire would have raced up the hill and through this rainforest severely damaging this tree. Somehow the fire didn't kill it but the huge scar can still be seen and the tree will never have any worthwhile wood in it because of this damage and a long term indication of the clearing and intense wild fire all those years ago.
Further on with views away to the valley beyond and back towards my house before down the hill and past older plantations of pines and GM, across a little pedestrian bridge and on to the driveway and then returning to the house.

One day, I decided to do a walking meditation myself but this time, the objective was to have a one-pointed concentration, that is to count the number of steps. The answer; 4077 [factors 3 cubedx151]. I'm sure that there must be something meaningful in that! Um, I wonder.......

kungsleden
16th Aug 2018, 01:27 PM
Very nice! :2tsup:

Bob Whitworth
18th Aug 2018, 11:49 AM
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onetrack
18th Aug 2018, 12:29 PM
How nice it must be - and how lucky are you - to actually be able to own a farm-sized piece of land with nice trees and native vegetation on it.
Most of the rest of us struggle along on small patches of urban concrete jungle, with inadequate room, inadequate trees and natural vegetation, and an inability to be able to purchase even a modest-sized piece of farmland, due to the property-pricing greed that exists in this country - and which has extended to "hobby farms".
I never cease to be amazed at the number of advertisers (well, "dreamers") on Gumtree looking for a reasonably-priced patch of bush that they would like to purchase - and then mention that they have $50,000 to spend.
Good luck with that, $200,000 seems to be the start price of any modest-sized patch of bush with trees on it, that's within half a days drive, and has some form of services, in my neck of the woods.

Bob Whitworth
18th Aug 2018, 04:45 PM
The first photo is of the shed not long after it was sort of completed and the sawmill moved in. The twin rainbow just sets the scene. The walking track is taken from left to right across the face of the hill in the background.

Photo two.The dreaded Gympie Gympie Stinger with fruit.

Photo three. Me and the Hoop Pine that has grown into a loop growing in a HP plantation.

Photo four. The hut.

Photo five. The Giant Water Gum with the Fig growing over it.

Photo six. A small party inside the cave.
Photo seven. On the walking track close to where the Rusty Tulip Oak was cut.

Photo eight. This is an interesting photo I got from one of my neighbours and shows the land just after it was cleared. This photo is actually next door as the boundary is on the ridge just to the left of the photo. The walking track looks down into this next valley.

Photo nine. This photo is not actually on the walking track as it is of a large GM that was cut here and shows how big they can get. It would have only been about 90 years old.

Photo ten. The house and the hill behind the house with the same shape. This photo was taken during sunset in winter when the sun sets in its winter position and so naturally the rainbow on the opposite side is over the sun's summer sunrise position, behind the mountain top.

Yes, truly, I live in one of the most wonderful places on the planet.