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The Catlins is a place of total serenity and solitude. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The Catlins is a place of total serenity and solitude. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Special places are gems to be treasured, writes Joss Miller.

One of my most enduring memories was watching a sunrise over the sea at Hinahina Cove on the Catlins coast.

From here an extensive bay sweeps northwards towards the Nuggets and southwards into the heart of this amazing region with its wonderful beaches, estuaries and native forests.

From a high vantage point on a prominent headland the early morning light was stunning in its clarity and beauty. Large waves swept gracefully towards the base of steep and rugged cliffs with their journey ending in what sounded like distant thunderclaps.

Myriad bird sound could be heard from the surrounding bush while sea birds hovered and dived across this great expanse of ocean. The air was fresh and invigorating and the entire scene for a few brief minutes had an almost mesmeric effect. A place of total serenity and solitude. The reason for being there, however, was rather more mundane — to fish. But that is another story.

Literature and poetry not surprisingly contain many such reflective pieces.

The Great Irish poet W.B. Yeats while living in London would often reflect on a place he would regularly return to in Ireland and captured in a poem entitled The Lake Isle of Innisfree containing this final verse:

‘‘I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core.’’

A New Zealand surgeon, Lindsay Rogers, served with a British medical unit during World War 2, working with Jugoslav partisan forces and seeing action in various areas including Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia.

Conditions were harsh and life brutal. There was much bloodshed and tragedy. After the war he wrote a book entitled Guerrilla Surgeon in which he gives an account of his experiences during this time.

What is notable is how often he reflected on his earlier life during those dark days and how these positive memories helped sustain him.

He ‘‘recalled the happy days of his own youth growing up in New Zealand’’ and that ‘‘no other country had the beauty and possibilities of New Zealand’’. He would affectionately recall the time he worked at Lochindorb in South Otago and ‘‘the long road from Tapanui to Pomahaka’’.

C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia series, was transfixed as a child by a painting of The Golden Valley which seemed to him heavenly. This perception was further reinforced on subsequent visits by him to its location in west Hertfordshire, England.

Judith Graham entered the Dominican Order at Dunedin in 1957 to train to be a nun but left the order in 1967 having found the life unduly difficult and restrictive. She later wrote a book entitled Breaking the Habit telling of her experience on that life path.

Sometimes, to help lift her spirits, she would recall a visit she once made to Moke Lake, near Queenstown, where ‘‘I felt as though I were in some remote planet with the reflections in the lake, the stillness, the huge bare mountains and the green valley.’’

All of these accounts represent unique and inspiring experiences of special places imprinted in memory that time can never erase.

These are gems to be treasured. Moments of perpetual beauty and tranquillity where the mind and body can be uplifted and replenished. Such special places and memories forever enrich our lives.

  • Joss Miller is a retired Dunedin lawyer.

 

Comments

'Song in the forest', by Peter Hooper, 1977, is a futuristic novel of the South Island, influenced by Thoreau. Mystical in tone, a journey through lowland forest, across the Divide, onto the East Coast.

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