Last week I spoke of the search for Cape parrots in the hills of Natal in South Africa. This week I continue the adventure as we descended into a patch of ancient natural forest, with all its attendant marvels of creationWe sat and watched, content in one another’s company and in the kaleidoscope of life happening around us…
Then He commanded, ‘Let the earth produce all kinds of plants, those that bear grain and those that bear fruit’ – and it was done. So the earth produced all kinds of plants, and God was pleased with what He saw.
We had spent the early hours of this autumn morning counting Cape Parrots and now we ventured into the forest itself. As soon as we entered the shadowed track the whole of life changed. Gone were the warm rays of the sun, the smell of dust, the tawny browns of grass and the panoramic vistas.
In their place was green in a hundred shades and tones; the smell of damp moss, the sparkle of moist patches, and all around towering trees, reaching to the sky. How long had this patch of forest been here? We did not know, but it was ancient and we could feel the peace of long established existence. Huge ferns draped themselves on the banks above and below the road. Thick creepers clung tenaciously to the trees or hung, ropelike, in free fall. Some were thicker than a man’s arm. Here and there, in pools of sunlight, saplings had struggled through the dense undergrowth and were now stretching up to claim their place in the forest, nourished by the rich mulch on the forest floor, and the continual dampness of the southern slope.
We stopped and settled motionless and silent, and let the forest come to us. As the threat of our movement eased, so the forest came alive with activity. Birds who made their home here re-commenced the busyness of living, whilst some, like the forest canary and the chorister robin, thrilled us with their beauty and their song. African olive pigeons flew deftly through the trees, thrushes tossed leaves in search of breakfast and a grey shrike cleaned its beak on a branch high above our heads, having finished its own meal.
Sitting quite still I watched a strange phenomenon of colour. Emerald green, there seemed to be no substance to the shape. As I continued watching the colour changed position and began to merge with a rose-hued patch below it, which had not been there moments before. I puzzled over this mystery for a while and then understood. The colours were a rainbow – the sun catching strands of spider’s web and making them glow as a prism. In this forest even the cobwebs are beautiful!
The silence was intense. Absolute peace. Even the wonderful birdsong did not break it but seemed to be layered on top of it so that under it all was silence.
From time to time the undergrowth would rustle, reminding us of a hidden life that existed beyond our sight or knowledge.
It was a place of mystery and wonder and I would remember the silence and peace when my life once again became filled with noise and action. I knew, deep in my soul, that it would become a haven for me in my mind when I need to withdraw for a moment and find peace and healing.
It has a name, this forest, an African name, but no-one knew what it meant. To me it will always be The Forest – and that will be enough.
‘Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace’. (Matthew 6:6) Once you have found this place take a photo of it with your mind and return to it when life gets hard. Record your experience in your journal.
May I find a place that speaks peace into my soul so that I can return to it in my mind and spend time there with You when life gets too busy. Guide me to that place, Abba, and let it become a place of refreshment for me. Amen.