The Way

Etched into a rocky hill on Skyros is the path a river cuts when rains run in flood from the high ground. In summer it is a dry cleft rising sharply in a series of steps, formed by boulders, tumbled or revealed by the torrent.

As you walk up the dry bed from the sea, an almost bare cliff soon encloses you on the left with its height. And on the right, a slower rise harbors shrubs and dry grasses baked by the sun.

Climbing the gorge you enter into a deep stillness. Perhaps the cliffs and rising land absorb the sound, for it is like walking into something you can feel, something you are called to stop and listen to. With less bombardment from the world of sound, the other senses open to receive the subtleties of shape and colour in the rocks and contours of the giant steps. There is nothing here that humanity has directly shaped. Only the sun and wind, the water and power of growing things have sculpted the rounded rocks, have cut the groove in the earth. Only from this web of interactions have things emerged.

Into that web, through it, within it, I walked and sat in the quiet of the molded rocks. There was no sound of the sea, of people, or even of the wind. Silence enough for me to gradually become aware of a small live thing speaking to me. It was a woody-stemmed herb, which through the shape of its gnarled and twisted stem, spoke of its existence. Clinging lustily to the very edge of a midstream rock, where scant soil had lodged, it’s stunted wonderful shape sang to me. It’s silent voice informed me how its tiny form held fast amidst the torrents, and in the beating heat drank slowly from the rock, conserving, as with love, each hard-won drop.

And in its song, it told me too, of how it bore within itself, something of all that touched its life. Still as the silent air, yet it danced. For in its twists and curling stems, there were the movement of the rushing waters, the dryness of long summer heat, the hard unyielding of the rock, and still quiet of the gorge itself.

Then in that silent song, in the unmoving dance, it opened my full opened eyes to see the Way. This small plant had joy in its adversity, radiance in its dryness. It clung to life without a fight, it’s very body shaped by the forces that might have destroyed it. Can I too tread that narrow edge between the opposites? And can you walk with me? For this is a trackless way.

Copyright ©2001 Tony Crisp

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved