Flinders Island rises daringly from the wind swept navy blue waters of Bass Straight. I had gone there to participate in a vision quest. In the six days I spent camping alone, I saw just one person pass by the remote stretch of beach over which my campsite looked. My small tent cowered behind a shallow sand dune, adjacent to a small river estuary that flowed out to the ocean.
The air was sparkling; purified by the clean Southern Ocean skies, and the palette of land and sea radiated brightly. Inland, looming over my site were the huge sloping cliff faces of Mount Strezlecki; its twin domed peak rolled off to a surrounding escarpment of lush forest. Looking out, a huge aqua bay curved toward a distant headland. On the horizon, three distant rocks peered above the ocean, part of an archipelago of such islands, as if created by Hercules flinging giant rocks from the top of the mountain behind in an ancient game of skipping stones.
Following two days of training and preparation, the first four days at my camping site I had spent slowing down, immersing hour by hour more fully into the present moment, and into this beautiful place.
As my thinking mind settled, I came ‘to my senses’ and began discerning more subtle levels of movement, sound, sights and smells around me.
Whilst on Day One I noticed the rapid fall from day to night, now I was observing the many layers of coloured gradation from late afternoon through to dusk.
Whilst on Day One I heard the nearby squawk of seagulls, now I was enjoying a fuller symphony, including the distant busyness of tiny birds feeding by the estuary and the background hum of dragonflies darting through dune grass.
Whilst on Day One I was aware of the tide being in or out, now I became more attuned to the changing effects of the tidal movement.
One of these effects was on the estuary itself. On this day I sat and watched the gradual outflow of water from the estuary toward to the ocean as the tide receded, and then settled at low water mark. A shallow pool remained near the mouth, just ankle deep.
I was acting spontaneously and without plan by now, and on impulse, was moved to lie down in this shallow pool to become part of the water flow as the reverse tide came in.
I lay down on my back and wiggled into the fine sand; it held me softly as the most comfortable of mattresses. The water was shallow, just touching my ankles, the base of my lower legs, the sides of my legs, lower back arch, torso, and the back of my head. It was fresh but not cold. The sun danced with small clouds, stepping out to shower me with warmth, and in behind to offer a cooler, more diffuse light. I closed my eyes and mouth and breathed through my nose.
I began to meditate on the soft caress of sand and water. After some time, I felt the water begin to flow slowly around me, as if satin sheets were being slowly drawn under me from my head toward my feet. The tide had begun to turn.
The line of water around my body very slowly began to rise, touching new skin cells with wet and cool. Laying very still, the water reached up past my earlobes and began filling my ear cavities. Being without rational thought but deeply present to these sensations, I don’t recall how long it took but I remember the anticipation of my ears filling completely with water. At the moment they did, background sounds became muffled, and the sounds of my in and out breaths became louder.
The flow gradually picked up pace, and for the first time I felt the ocean’s colder water touching me, replacing the estuary’s tepid bath. The water level climbed up toward my kneecaps, further up the side of my legs, my torso and temple, toward my eyes.
The water was deep enough now that my body’s buoyancy began lifting me gently upwards. The grip of the estuary floor on my back began to loosen and sand began peeling away as if slowly dissolving.
The ocean’s soft waves now generated subtle surges of new water flow over the sand bank, into the estuary, and along my body from head to toe.
My body lifted further, the sand continued dissolving and soon I was attached to the estuary floor by just a few shrinking touch points; the tips of shoulder blades, the base of buttocks, and heels. Arms waved blissfully in the current, floating near the surface.
My senses danced with the melody of water flow and temperature, the varying warmth and light of the sun and clouds, and the gentle caress of sand releasing beneath me.
My body pivoted slowly, my heels were the last to be let go, and I finally separated from the estuary floor. I floated slowly, gently upstream, like a piece of driftwood.
I gently opened my eyes. I was aware of just one thing; being one with all around me. This occurred not as a coherent thought but more as an altered state of consciousness.
I was one with nature. My collection of cells belonged here. So did the molecules of water, the river grass now caressing my back as I floated over it, the flock of birds that flew high over my head. I was no longer a fixed body bounded by time and space, and instead existed in a timeless fusion with all of life, as we all swirled around each other in a constant state of motion.
My body pushed up alongside a sandy bank on the other side of the river, and came to a rest. I noticed now that my skin had goose bumps and the lightest shiver ran through me. I lay a few minutes longer, beginning to catch glimpses of coherent thought and familiar emotions. I was in awe as I recognised the depth of connection I had just moved experienced.
Rolling on to my side on the bank and then right over onto elbows and knees, I began moving out of the embryonic womb of the water and back into gravity. My body felt heavy and my mind numb. I propped myself up enough to slump into sitting; right foot still in the water. The sun now blazed while the faintest wisp of air blew over me, mimicking the tidal flow. As I returned to a sense of my own place in the world, my lingering foot linked me to the world newly revealed.