Saturday, 9 April 2016

Cape Dolphin

When I look up to the blue sky;
the emptiness of what exists is clearly evident to me;
and I do not fear the doctrine of the reality of things.

When I look at the Sun and the Moon;
enlightenment  arises in a distant manner within my consciousness;
and I do not fear spiritual dullness and torpor.

When I look to the mountain peaks;
the immutable object of contemplation is clearly perceived by my consciousness;
and I do not fear the unceasing changes of more theories.

When I look down to the river below;
the idea of continuity clearly arises in my consciousness;
thus I do not fear unforeseeable events.

From The Song of Joy.
Milarepa (11th cent Tibetan ascetic)
Taken from the chapter: “A Mystic In The Tibetan Mountains”
Meditations on the Peaks, Julius Evola.

In the Falklands, on that bleak rock, moribund South on the way to the Pole, landscape takes on a new import. It moulds your outlook; flat and panel- beaten, looking out over hundreds of square miles of bog and rock, the eye and mind are drawn into an endless tapestry of untamed wild. And yet, sliding into the frozen seas of the South Pole, life rallies in one final defiant mardis gras of celebration; an elaborate veil of exultation before its fragility gives way to the mechanical grind of ice sheets, roaring auroras, the excoriation of sand and the plaintive cries of sea birds, lost and ranging like the radar of a solitary albatross. Bleak & empty to our human eyes, how rich the Falklands must seem to a weary seal or seagull, washed up from the endless desert of Antarctica.

And opened out, being exposed to the sky like a tablecloth of dainties, the Falkland landscape is raw, humble, enduring. With no extravagance of trees for cover, nothing is exempt from the violent vicissitudes of climate. And it is violent. Volatile. At times remitting, and in those periods of forgiveness I could say all is forgotten. But there are reminders everywhere of the immediacy of the winds, rain and hail. The low- growing shrubs with their tough exteriors; the tough hides of seals and penguins; the rocks polished, each like crystal gems uttering showers of wizened novellas. Even a calm day conceals such austerity.

There is no protection from the caprice of the open ocean. She may fall silent for a day. Then, return in foam and lace, mauling like a bereaved phantom, squalling and throwing up monsters from her restless belly. Her hair is fronds of strangled kelp, waving wildly as it writhes on rocks; sometimes she will tear it out and lash it on the exhausted and drenched chest of the panting shore. Here and there, she has teased the headlands with a sharpened salt finger & gouged out over time wondrous caves, gullies, channels and blow holes where the sea rears up and spews out of the ground. The timescales are torturously long, like a lover toying with her prey. In this way, the land has succumbed to this gentle coaxing and opened up, cracked and corroded, falling deeply into the sea in a hopeless act of surrender and joy. Here and there, broken boulders lie on the shore and become habitat for the wildlife; children of Father Land and their Mother, Mor. Rock cormorants nest in garrulous and impossible cliff fractures, their ceaseless tides of movement matching the erosions of ages past.

Viewed from a distance, this erosive force looms as a far more pervasive power. Looking across Falkland Sound, a 10 mile stretch of water separates Cape Dolphin from an area of uplift forming the unapproachable mountains of West Falkland. In the Sound, whales play. Their spumes of water glisten in the setting sun, and contrast as ephemeral plumes of white mist against the dour mountainous shadows of the background. Following the land mass along to the North, a jagged group of mountains terminate further out to sea; the Jasons. They have evocative names like Steeple Jason, Elephant Jason and Grand Island. For they are temples; amphitheatres where one might meet the gods. The most North- Westerly point of Falkland, the Jasons were often the first encountered artifacts of Falkland as explorers risked the rip tides and death currents approaching form Patagonia.

And as an imprudent afterthought, scanning the horizon yet further north terminates in a stubborn nub of rock known as Eddison Island. Taken together, the distant view of the mountains presents a panorama of jagged and various forms like so many loose teeth brutally dislodged by the pugilistic vengeance of the sea. As the sun moved round and began to set sharply over West Falkland, the line of rocks, each unique in character, came alive and rose to prominence, shining briefly but eminently in full relief. They then sank into hollows of exhausted depression and merged morosely with the ocean’s horizon as an act of acquiescence. Until tomorrow.

And everywhere is the penguin, roaming the landscape like a dislodged ghost. Neither fish nor fowl, huddled on rocks against the poaching wind. Guarding the kernel of life- eggs, fulfilling a duty of endurance out of the arms of the sea. Until she can return. Megellanics hide in burrows and stumble sometimes miles out of their way along ancestral paths to their colonies, even when time and erosion have forged quicker, more direct paths.

The Quartzite sands lent  purity to every beach on Falkland. Crystalline and swept clean, their open arms welcomed even human visitors, rare though they were. On the strandline, kelp formed a neat line of visual contrast to the sand. It was only the opaline vibrancy of the sea that prevented the eye being deceived into black & white monochrome. But even the blackness of kelp could not resist the restless, bleaching rays of ultraviolet, so intense at the South Pole. This, due to the thinness of ozone. And coupled with the onshore winds, basket kelp would wilfully yield and turn at first grey, then bone white, and take on a lightness of spirit it seemed, where it would frolic and dance, rolling along the shore line in laughs. Finally undergoing an act of transcendence, it became transformed as though sanctified. It had become a new creature.

Scrutinising the convolutions and contortions of the fronds of basket kelp was a fascination for me. In fact, the microscopic world took on immense properties with such a featureless horizon. I studied the intricacies of sponges, fine flowers and adaptations of plants, the meticulous structure of shells, bones, barnacles, rocks and lichens. All of nature was exposed, revealing her private secrets to me. This small world seemed to be uniquely mine. Whilst others trod this wonder underfoot, she spoke secrets to me of how she mysteriously clings to life here, how she arrived in this place, how she has unfurled and filled every niche over eras. Nature herself whispered occult findings in my ear, like echoes of the sea in the turbinating conches of shells.

This was exemplified perfectly by the discovery of Landfeld. The minitiarised landscape was a diverse wilderness of small stones, hardy plants and lichens which to an untrained eye was just a barren moonscape.

“If you could walk here miniaturized, as though in forested fairy glen;
And maybe see the damage done, you’d never walk in boots again.”

Camping at night by the beach at Cape Dolphin was spectacular. Sat by the fire, giving off giddy embers to the graceful night in hallelujahs of driftwood flame, we enjoyed a simple meal, drank a precious bottle of red wine, and sang Auld Lang Syne. I went down to the sea which had reached high tide. In the black, her frothing jaws opened and closed like the teasing of a menacing shark. In the distance, the tormented growls and barks of restless sea lions from across the cove betrayed the presence of their newly born pups. The shore was littered with the ancient bones of penguins and whale strandings.

Back at the warmth of the fire, we looked up at strange austral stars and were rewarded with firework showers of meteor storms, until we could not think of any more wishes to wish for. Just past midnight, the ISIS satellite slowly groaned over the sky in starry salutations. It was preceded by four intense flashes of penetrating light which briefly scorched the sky. We just could not explain it, sinking into hysterical imaginings of alien spacecraft. This added yet another layer of unreality to the theatre. And as a final reassuring crown to the evening; the far east horizon began to glow with cresting crimson light as the Moon rose through thin luminescent clouds in triumph over the whole scene. We collapsed into a chaotic but glorious sleep, punctuated by the sound of wild sea lions defending their young. 

North Utsire

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