Chris and I take the walk

August 9, 2007

Gabi Mocatta, a freelance photo journalist, came by yesterday to gather information for an upcoming story about Windgrove. Even though it had been a month since I had last walked the land, I didn’t want to confine myself to the house for the interview as it is easier for me to talk more articulately and passionately while actually out on the land, i.e., the stories reveal themselves while the feet traverse the “song lines” (so to speak). I, therefore, took a punt and walked the whole two kilometre Peace Path—the first time since my operation.

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I could go on and tell you what we talked about as we slowly walked this great headland, but I would rather retell the following story that took place some six years ago about a man who “accidentally” visited Windgrove.

His name was Chris and he was one of three carpenters who, in l986, helped build the house I designed and lived in near Hobart until it burned down in a bush fire in 1991. He happened to be driving through Nubeena and, when he drove past the Roaring Beach road sign, he felt, he said, “a strong urge to turn down the road and see the beach”. Then, when he saw my name posted at our driveway entrance, he felt compelled again to turn in to see if this “Peter Adams” was the man he worked with in 1986.

When Chris, along with his wife June, knocked on the door I invited them in, but first asked that they remove their shoes as there is a “no shoes” policy. Chris laughingly said he would do this, but only if he was allowed to remove his leg as well as he had lost his foot and half a leg in a motorbike accident and the shoe was screwed onto the wooden leg.

Over tea we began sharing what each of us had been up to over the years. When Chris asked about the spiral he saw driving in, I described the various concepts behind the Windgrove Garden, especially the one concerning the need for each individual to personally find an inner peace. Chris and I were both painfully aware that our mutual friend Phil, who had supervised the construction of the house, had committed suicide a few years earlier.

Chris turned to me and calmly said:

You know, Peter, I died twice in the past year and I know what it means to lose all faith in life and then have the courage to find it again. A year ago I had a quadruple heart bypass and for awhile in the hospital I was clinically dead. Afterward, for months on end I was in such physical pain with my leg, broken rib cage and fused spinal column, that I set about planning my own suicide and was within days of carrying it out when June found out about it. Through her committed love, she brought me around to life again. Today, I still have to struggle with the physical and emotional traumas of life, but I also have a much deeper love for life, my family and my friends and I am willing to engage in this process, this journey I am on. My concerns are not about any ultimate destination, but just being present today of where my feet are on the path of discovery.

After so much talking, it seemed important to, at least, take Chris over to the Peace Garden and maybe do a portion of the Peace Walk. None of us were sure whether Chris would have the physical strength to make the full two kilometres, so we just agreed to go from bench to bench, willing to turn back if necessary.

Over and over again, Chris kept exclaiming how utterly beautiful everything was. There were pockets of fog and mist in the valleys, on the hill tops and up the cliff faces. The sun broke through constantly creating glistening water diamonds on the leaves and needles of the trees and magic rainbows appeared everywhere. At the Point, a sea eagle perched on a nearby branch and a wedge tail eagle spiralled up from the middle circle.

Chris was so enraptured by the vista and his own growing sense of well being that he kept pushing on. Slowly, we walked and talked and, eventually, we did the whole circuit in around three hours. When we said our good-byes, Chris added: “You have no idea how special this day has been. What you have done here is create a healing environment.”

And that took place six years ago. Yesterday, with the photo journalist Gabi and her partner Phil, I also walked slowly around the whole path and, at the end, felt renewed and “truly on the mend”. This land is a powerful, healing place. This single aspect is what I hope Gabi both felt and will write about.

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