Philosophy

Queenstown Hill Trail

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There was a fable once told to me about a man and his wife. Day after day she complained about how small her house was. Finally the man grew tired of her complaining and brought in the chickens to live in the house. She still complained for adding chickens didn’t help. After a few days, the man brought the pig in to live with them along side the chickens. This exasperated the wife and her complaints grew louder still. About a week later, the man brought in the cow to join the pig and chickens. A week later he brought the horse in to live with the others. All the while, the woman’s complaints continued.

One day the man got up and removed all the animals from the house. As the silence drifted down on the interior of the house, his wife exclaimed, “I never noticed how much room we had until now.”

Once my piles of grading moved from the unfinished to finished piles yesterday, I suddenly was at loose ends. The three hours until bedtime seemed unending with nothing to keep me occupied. I realized that even though I still had the same number of hours in the day, what fills them makes all the difference. Today I got to hike up Queenstown Hill Hiking Trail …and draw!

The last blog had a photo of the drawing above. (Yes, there are para-gliders in the sky.) No offense to photographers, but nothing helps me to own a piece of what I see the way tracing their contours onto a paper surface with pen or pencil. Sometimes I strongly agree with the philosopher, R. G. Collingwood, when he said that the apparent work of art is just that--a work. Art proper happens in the mind. The work of art (artwork) is to recall to the mind the meaning intended. As I draw on paper, the shapes, textures, colors, values, smells, sounds--even the feeling of the wind blowing against my skin are all indelibly etched in my mind and on my soul. The paper is a vehicle of memory for me, and a vehicle of transport to help you as a viewer to reconstruct, however imperfectly, the majesty or simple charms of God’s creations in your mind.

The hike was strenuous. My muscles burned and lungs heaved to suck in as much air as I could hold. I wove from sunlit gravel paths into dark pine covered corridors with little light and thick blankets of needles underfoot. Then suddenly the path turned sharply to the left and began another steep climb up hill. Within a hundred yards the path rose up out of the trees to the bare rock and tussock of the “hill” summit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t live in an area where hills have tree lines. At the very top of this trail, there is a sculpture by Caroline Robinson dedicated to the Maori people. It is called Basket of Dreams. It sits on an outcropping of shale-like rock. When you come upon it, you are literally walking up to it. All around you see the peaks of the Remarkables Mountain range, and below Lake Wakatipu in the far distance. I was so far up that all traces of human settlement had vanished from site.

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The best way to remember the site was by sitting on the rock outcropping below the monument of coiled steel bars and look up at it offering its form to the sky. Not that many people get to see it in person. I witnessed it on a warm spring day with the sun shining down on the last of the snowdrifts clinging to the peaks of the neighboring mountains. It was a special time. Still. Just being--with no loose ends.

Fleetingly, I regretted not bringing my camera--but then I thought that I would spend more time trying to capture the magnificence of this place and miss this place. Drawing once again helped fix the experience within me--not 100s of shots that stay “out there.” Just as the murals in the chapel at the Village of Hope, the only way to truly experience this is to travel to this place. I’ve sealed it in my memory--the proper place for such things.

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