Towards the end of the Mindfulness half-day workshop, we were asked to go for a walk in the retreat's gardens: to allow our attention to be drawn to whatever it naturally was drawn to, for just so long as it held our attention; to observe it, and to notice how we felt, and to alternate those noticings between external and internal.
Are the gardens at the retreat particularly special, or is it mostly in the noticing? I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it, but I looking back I think the beauty was, indeed, largely in the noticing.
The trees. The evergreens, robustly alive, some with new tips of lighter green or even yellow. The deciduous trees, some with the last of the autumn yellow and reds, some hanging on to their dry brown leaves, some stripped to bare bones, showing off the beauty of their bark, and the exquisite, abandoned nests.
The seedpods and berries. Orange and red berries. Karo pods burst open, black berries shining. Seedpods of all shapes and sizes, standing upright om stems, dangling loose in the breeze.
Leaves. So much variation. Serrated edges, smooth edges. Wildly varied vein patterns. So many shades of green that I feel a severe lack of vocabulary.
Lichen on bench seats, moss on the path under the trees and where the bush path met the lawn, a row of bricks mark the line between wild and manicured, and the moss declares its intention to reclaim its space by filling the six neat, round holes in each brick.
The birds. Fantails and sparrows, twittering and wittering. A tui streaking past, some urgent business to attend to. A pair of blackbirds having a domestic dispute. The row of mynahs sitting on top of the old round barn two paddocks away.
And the ruru who got up early to fly down through the trees to sit on a low branch just a couple of metres away from me and tried to stare me down. For ten minutes we stood, eyeballing each other. Each time another bird came near, the ruru's head swiveled around to assess the situation, then back to me. As the moments went by I felt the awe and joy welling up through my chest, my throat, my blood, until I knew with absolute certainty that I am much, much bigger on the inside.
When another human crunched along the gravel path, the ruru gave me one more suspicious glance and flew off back into the darker place in the garden.
I will hold this memory of bird and joy in my heart. I will strive to live as it does: completely present in the moment, yet alert and aware of endless possibilities.