After a rather strenuous trek for my unfit body, my heavy backpack and I reached our destination: Lake Waikareiti. I couldn’t have been luckier with the spot, not a single soul made an appearance in the whole time. Delightful solitude!
I took my clothes off and started walking into the lake. I stopped and faced its immensity. Water surrounded me in all directions. A feeling of euphoria and ‘rightness‘ invaded me. Having such a place all for myself felt truly blissful.
Although I had brought my tent, I spent most of the time at the DOC’s Hut located right in front of the lake’s shore. The living room was equipped with a fireplace, running water, a bench, and a table. Basic but sufficient. When sitting at the table I faced a huge window with a panoramic view of the lake. Maybe ‘basic but sufficient‘ was an understatement?
The idea behind these days was to catch up with myself and reconnect with Nature. To do so, the basic premise was not to use screens, technology or clocks. The focus was on following my inner rhythms and what felt right at each particular point in time, practising mindfulness. If I felt like eating, I would eat. If I felt like sleeping, I would sleep. If I felt like having a siesta in the sun… Well, I had brought my hammock for a reason, right?
Just myself, my mind and body, my diary and my book. I spent days reflecting, writing and reading by the light of a candle, sanding off my Pounamu (Maori’s name for ‘greenstone’), looking after the fire taking time to understand its mechanics, contemplating the lake, swimming naked and, in general, keeping my senses open.
Not having a clock was an inspiring experience. It made me pay attention to the sun and its location, finding myself constantly wondering what time it was. It was interesting to acknowledge this pattern within my mind, especially one of the days that was totally cloudy… And now what? I spent the whole day totally lost about what time it was, not the slightest clue!
What surprised me was the effect this had on me. Suddenly, the days became endless. For whatever reason, the lack of a clock made the concept of time meaningless – it did not matter anymore. I spent loads of “time” reading, reading and reading, and the day never seemed to end.
There is nothing to hurry about when there is no time.
Preparing a cup of tea took around an hour (I assume), as the only way to warm the water up was to put it on top of the fireplace. This, however, did not feel like a long time. It simply was what it was, there was no need to label it. “Just wait and enjoy the cup of tea whenever the moment comes”. It somehow tasted even better, as I appreciated it much more.
These long days were very enjoyable, not boring at all, and laid the foundations for mindfulness and taking things easy. The total silence also helped, just disturbed by the animals, waves of the lake and other natural sounds. I could not help but think of Eckhart Tolle’s words: “Silence without, peace within”.
There was a “eureka moment” – I was looking at the lake through the window and I suddenly felt a rush of rightness. For me to this is a very important feeling that I pay close attention to. Things clicked on my mind. As cheesy as it may sound, a house like this became my dream. It just needed an edible garden on the back, a library, a doggy, and maybe a partner who understands what I am talking about.
Observing the lake, suddenly, things like the USA elections felt meaningless, intangible, irrelevant, even surreal, in front of such a crystalline reality. This was the real thing. When did we all go mad?
On a similar trend of thought, I found myself reflecting on a situation that had happened the week before. My colleague had come back from her only vacation in her whole year. This idea of not having another vacation in the rest of the year struck me as strange, probably looking at it through the optic of my own life. My own confusion confused me – ‘That is the life that most people live in Western countries, why do I struggle to get my head around the idea?’
A few weeks of vacation and then back to a job that she detested… How can millions of people live like that? My reflection was genuinely non-judgmental, just pure confusion. Although I could understand it from a rational point of view, there was something that didn’t, and doesn’t, make sense in my heart about such life-choices.
I also acknowledged the falsehood of my experience at the lake. While rationing the food, I soon realized that my experience depended on a few cans of food that had been bought at the supermarket. My connection to Nature ultimately relied on the capitalist machinery that I was rebelling against. This made me sad. I wouldn’t be able to survive by my own means as I didn’t know how to hunt, fish, or forage. Neither I would know how to collect dry wood, or even how to make a fire without a lighter.
Nonetheless, I must admit that coming back to the safety of the hut, with the soft light of the candles and the cracking noises of the burning wood, had an enchanting effect that felt almost poetic.
This experience planted a seed within myself of a different future, of a dream. A future more connected to Nature, more real, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This is what I will achieve one day.
Rodriguez’s lyrics never made more sense…
“And you can keep your symbols of success
Then I’ll pursue my own happiness
And you can keep your clocks and routines
Then I’ll go mend all my shattered dreams”