The last time I wrote for this blog was in early December, before setting out to travel for two weeks around the South Island of New Zealand with my sister. In that blog piece I wrote about the kinds of practices I have been doing to slowly return from a place of exhaustion. I mentioned that I have been trying to ignore the “do more, achieve more, write more” whispers of my inner tyrant and learn how to rest rather than find things to write for this blog. But those whispers are hard to completely silence, and the pause between Christmas and New Year seemed like a good time to get my fingers on the keyboard and allow some of the thoughts that have been percolating over the past month to begin to find ways of expression.
My travels around New Zealand’s South Island were wonderful. The scenery is spectacular and I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit a lot of incredibly beautiful places. I saw this beauty from the air, on foot, from the windows and viewing decks of trains, and through the windows of the New Zealand Inter City coaches. I had brought books to read and things to listen to – but I found that I didn’t use either for the entire time of travelling – I was transfixed by the ever changing landscape, soaking up the atmosphere of being in a new place – or simply too exhausted to do anything except fall asleep! I was grateful for my trusty phone camera and in most places I took photos – though I was keen not to experience the whole of my journey from behind a screen.
As I look through the photos I took and remember the places we visited I am struck by what really captured my attention. The changing skyline as we moved through the Canterbury Plains into the mountainous areas and to the spectacular coastlines; the vibrancy of the colours – the greens of the grass and the blues of the sky in some parts looking almost unreal; and the changing farming use of the land – we saw dairy and beef farming, sheep farming, vineyards, orchards and many areas with deer grazing on venison farms. But what struck me most of all was all the water – in so many different forms – and more particularly the effect that the water had on me and my emotions.
My sister reminded me that from an early age I’d always been drawn to water. I had, aged 3, apparently claimed the fountains of central London as “mine” – and was hugely disappointed when travelling on the Number 3 bus from home in Dulwich into the city if ‘my’ fountains in Central London weren’t playing for me. I’ve certainly always enjoyed swimming and playing in water, and I vividly remember the glorious sense of freedom I felt when at 8.5 months pregnant I got into the swimming pool and and was able to do backwards somersaults with my legs untucked. I felt free and supported and it was as if my body simply wanted to dance with joy in that water! It was almost an instinctual movement rather than something I thought about.
When travelling around New Zealand I began to notice the huge draw that water held for me. Like many others I am energised by being by the sea. And on the three occasions that I went on boat trips while I was away it almost felt as if I’d plugged myself into the elemental mains. In addition to this upsurge of energy when I was by the sea I found that I became disproportionately upset when we were on buses travelling past stunningly beautiful rivers. I watched myself rather desperately trying to “catch” photographs from the moving bus and becoming tearful with frustration as I wanted so badly to stop the bus, get off, and spend a few minutes just sitting with the power and beauty of the water. The feeling was so strong it was almost visceral – so much so that since returning from my trip I’ve been trying to find some poetry or quotation that reflected this emotion. The closest that I have found was from what seems to be a very “Marmite” fantasy novel by Nadia Scrieva – Drowning Mermaids, Sacred Breath 1: (which I have to confess I haven’t read!)
“It is rooted deep in your bones; the water calls out to you until it causes you physical pain unless you come to it.”
So … perhaps the caption that I put with the following picture has some element of truth in it …
Since being back in Hamilton I’ve done some fascinating reading on the research of Dr Masuro Emoto who claimed that the molecular structure of water altered according to the kind thoughts it had been exposed to, or the environment it had run through. Although there has been scientific criticism of his methods and conclusions, my own personal reactions to being near water and its transformative effects on me have meant that I’ve become fascinated with the role of water in healing. From the ritual washing of Moslems before prayer, to Christian baptism, the Jewish Mikvah and the Hindus bathing in the Ganges, the cleansing properties of water have long been recognised for spiritual as well as purely physical purposes. And Lao Tzu’s famous observation “Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield…” reminds us of water’s almost paradoxical properties.
Just spending a few brief minutes thinking about water I realised that there is enough material on the subject to fill a whole book let along a short blog piece. Water exists in solid, gas and vapour form, it covers between 70-75% of the earth’s surface, and has a higher surface tension than many other liquids. Not only are our bodies approximately 70% water, but the average human cannot survive more than 3- 5 days without water. And because the earth is a closed system, with water falling as snow and rain to then melt and evaporate and fall once more, the same water that existed on the earth millions of years ago is still present today. And that’s before I even started to think about how water is soothing, cleansing, refreshing, healing and invigorating. Or about the ways that different cultures have used water for ritual and healing purposes as well as for simple pleasure.
And this in itself is a valuable lesson for me. Instead of spending hours researching and writing a piece that is scholarly and clever I have reminded myself of the purpose of my visit to New Zealand and of writing this blog. I’m here to learn how to rest more deeply. How to ‘unlearn’ some of the habits and behaviours that have contributed to me developing CFS. And one of those behaviours is to want things to be perfect before I decide they’re ready to be seen. So I shall finish writing now by simply saying that one of my learning points from being here is recognising the importance of water to my emotional and physical wellbeing. Some people find peace and tranquility in the mountains, for others it is woodland and deep forests that become their sanctuary – but for me it is water. From a still, quiet lake, to a tumbling waterfall; from a woodland stream to a wild, fierce ocean – each of these seem to touch my soul. And I believe that we all need to ways to regularly connect with our deepest nature and a sense of transcendence.
I am delighted to be able to write that tomorrow I am going away for a few days with my sister and her family to a beach house here in New Zealand. How very blessed I am!