Academic journal article Hecate

Chinese Puzzle in Seven Pieces

Academic journal article Hecate

Chinese Puzzle in Seven Pieces

Article excerpt

Although without name or form

Tao nurtures and makes all whole.

Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching1

1. By mid-morning the hire-truck, loaded with supplies and yesterday's wet things, is gunning along the Tasman Highway. Tea Cosy, a bald man who likes to wear rainbow-coloured beanies, is driving. He and his offsider talk forests while I lean against the glass of the passenger window, dulled by the ache in my legs. In this sparsely populated corner of Northeast Tasmania, we pass only logging trucks.

I fantasise about taxis. One to take me to where my car is parked, over two days' walk away.

Tea Cosy bemoans the terrain we're driving through. "It's like a slaughterhouse. All that's left are stumps. Bleeding stumps." In the cabin I move my legs slightly, testing for function. This time tomorrow the route will be uphill again, up to the Blue Tier. If I can continue.

"Forestry Tasmania's responsible for this desecration," says the offsider, a Hobart man. "The native forest around here is destined for woodchip."

Tea Cosy steers off the bitumen highway at a sign: Maa Mon Chin Picnic Area (see Fig. 1).

We jolt along a dirt track. On one side, plantation pines tower darkly over a brown mat of needles; on the other grass surrounds a lone wooden picnic table. He cuts the engine a few metres from an expansive body of water. Tonight's campsite. The men jump out, intent on setting up. The instability of Tasmanian weather means that while the sun's out, there's no time to waste.

I bundle out from the cabin like a sack of potatoes. Trekkers who opt out of walking are expected to pitch in, so I gather armfuls of our wet belongings and sling them over a makeshift clothesline between two pines. Leaving the sodden socks and jumpers to steam-dry, I limp over to the support crew who are expecting me to help erect the kitchen tarp.

"Can't do any more," I apologise tearfully. "Have to lie flat."

Tea Cosy asks, "What about your tent? Can you put it up?"

I shake my head pathetically.

"Then we'll do it. Later. Rest up."

I hobble to my duffel bag, rummage in its pockets, and extract a plastic poncho and a square of canvas. At the water's edge, I spread out my groundsheet and lie down flat on my back. Prop my legs - my poor aching legs - up against a tree trunk. Elevate or amputate.

An hour of the tree's support and I feel a faint ebbing of the pain. Only now do I notice that I'm being sheltered by a Myrtle Beech, the species that dominated yesterday's wet journey through old growth forest. This young-un is some three metres tall with tiny dark-green leaves and lovely twisted limbs.

What a place, I register with sudden awareness. So still. So peaceful. The sky above is a clean powder blue with white clouds flying in intriguing shapes. The hours pass while the men work - Tea Cosy's also the cook and he's focussing on feeding the twenty ravenous people who'll troop in later. At times grey clouds invade and rain falls, but not heavily. When it does, I shrug into my plastic poncho and sit up until the squall passes. Then lie back down. I wonder if this is how dying feels: this sensation of being spent.

It's two weeks since I left my home in Brisbane to drive almost two thousand kilometres to Melbourne. A week since I loaded my car into the belly of the Spirit of Tasmania. I remember standing on a deck of the huge vehicular ferry, gazing at the pastel hues of sunset over Port Melbourne. Flying to the island state would have been easier and cheaper but I'd wanted to experience the distance.

As the ferry ploughed across Bass Strait, I reflected on how little I knew of Tasmania. Of the Northeast Highlands - where my Buddhist bushwalking club was heading - I knew nothing at all. With bushwalks, I tended to go with the flow, leaving it to the organisers to chart the route.

At midnight when almost everyone on board was asleep, I threw on a jacket and slid open one of the heavy doors to the outside deck. …

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