That Place, Remembered

There is a group of boulders on the track between Marley and Wattomolla in the Royal National Park, Sydney. Whenever I move through that place I am overcome with a sense of ‘home.’ It is hard to describe. I will sit there and wonder at the feeling and try to name it, but it seems to defy language.

I have sometimes concluded that it’s the meandering, labyrinthine arrangement of the boulders: it is also a transitional space – there is a sudden collapse of elevation as you enter the boulders from the north, and as you fall among them you lose the view of the southern coastline and the sea. The vegetation changes; the colours and odours shift into deeper shades and more verdant presence. In a sense, one feels they are passing through a passage into another realm.

Christopher Alexander tells us that “each pattern can exist in the world, only to the extent that it is supported by other patterns: the larger patterns in which it is embedded, the patterns of the same size that surround it, and the smaller patterns which are embedded in it (A Pattern Language, pp.xiii). This is a profound view of reality and being that is rooted in complexity. Nothing occurs in isolation; life is a series of nested experiences. When we experience transition, such as I do in that place on that sandstone heath on the edge of the continent – then we come, it seems, to know our nestedness. In the fissures between specific forms there are places of potential. John O’Donohue called these Beautiful places – beautiful in their Wildness at the juncture of meaning. This is perhaps the promise of phenomenology; that freedom is always possible, in the transitional spaces; and I am at home in freedom.