Earth’s greatest treasure

In this place, I look up to the stars at night and there is nothing apart from the clouds to hide them from my gaze… the Milky Way seems an infinite cloud of light, the Southern Cross pointing as it has guided centuries of sailors, Orion’s Belt clear and bright.

I watch the moon from a fingernail of light right through to the fullness of it, and the delicious phase we call a gibbous moon. I see the sun move across the horizon with the months and then at the farthest point of winter, see it begin its journey back to the sunlit mountain behind which it sets in summer. We are halfway across as I write this and the sun sets behind ‘our mountain’.

Though we live here and bought the acres of forest we technically own, we have no sense of ownership… we are simply the fortunate tenants of this beautiful podocarp forest, teeming with species of tree and plant life.

Here are hidden species of frogs and lizards and fungi, almost extinct in the rest of the world, and rare butterflies are still seen here. Fungi in colours that are psychedelic, brilliant blue and purple and orange, green and red grow in the dense green canopy which shelters them from the brilliant New Zealand sun-shine.

Because it is spring, on distant vistas there are patches of white to be seen scrambling up to the tops of tall trees and the sun-light – the fragrant white clematis. It grows too, on some of the ancient trees surrounding our little home in the woods. The birds we feed are gathering as spring advances, and we hear the sound of the tuis bell-like call, the heavy flapping of the wood pigeon’s wings as they circle  our valley, the harsh call of the quails who visit us to enjoy the bird seed we dispense, and the soft hooting of the moreporks – the New Zealand owl – connecting with each other across the dark forest through the night. We watch the kingfisher perching on the branch where the moreporks also sit, and see him dive like lightning into the grass to grab a morsel of food – be it grasshopper or beetle.

Those tend to be the only sounds we hear, just occasionally the drone of a distant aircraft and the rushing water of our stream after heavy rain. We feel the wind on our faces, and hear it in the trees, we savour the soft spring rain filling our water tank, and keeping the forest moist and green.  We feel the springy ground beneath our feet, centuries of humus which have accumulated undisturbed.

We feel the mysterious life around us, knowing that beneath the surface the trees are connected and communicate with each other through their root systems; that the abundant life of bees and beetles, moths and grasshoppers, birds and tiny ancient species of reptile are part of a vital chain of life which has existed millennia before homo sapiens conquered the planet. We sit in the sun, and feel the warmth on our faces, and hold smooth sun-warmed stones, and feel a connectedness with the earth and with the natural life that many people who live amid concrete, steel and glass cities, can lose.

Technology has tamed the cold and the heat with air conditioning and central heating; we have tamed the seasons, with imported food bringing us fruit and vegetables from all over the globe, regardless of whether it’s summer or autumn or winter. We may even have become unconscious of the rhythm of our own bodies, of the way we once responded to the passing of the seasons and of the years, as our culture devotes itself to prolonging youthful bodies and a belief that we can conquer the ravages of age and the vagaries of climate – until a hurricane or earthquake shatter some of these illusions.

It seems to me that when we lose this sense of connection with the life which throbs around us, with the rhythms of the sun and the moon and the movements of the starry sky, and the dance of joy in a greater whole, we may lose something very precious… and that in the end, we may in Cardinal Newman’s words: ‘choke up all the avenues of the soul through which the light and breath of heaven may come to us.’

We know that we do not own these acres that we live on and look out across. We call it our mountain but we know that that is just our figure of speech. We are simply the present guardians of this patch of our precious planet. We’ve signed a covenant that we will not disturb the forest, cut down any trees, or despoil any part of it. We cherish its silent solitude, and share the seasons with it. Does this place know or feel how sacred, cherished and unpolluted it is, I wonder?

Robert Macfarlane writes in his wonderful book ‘The Wild Places’, that even on the beaches of the Isle of Skye in the remote north of Scotland, the beaches were littered with: “milk bottle crates, pitted cubical chunks of furniture foam cigarette butts, bottle caps, aerosol canisters…”

Here in this empty place we have escaped that blight of the so- called civilised world. Even the beaches on this remote peninsula are unsullied and unspoiled. We are the fortunate ones, I know, and my heart aches at the knowledge of the poisoned polluted oceans devoid of the teeming fish and life Thor Heyerdahl wrote of during the Kon Tiki Expedition, seventy years ago this year.

John Aspinall was a successful gambler, who, while stripping rich men of their money in London during the sixties and seventies, used his ill-gotten gains to establish two zoos, which are now famous for being animal refuges where he successfully bred species and returned them to the wild, a policy his son Damian is still pursuing (you can follow his work on Youtube)

Before he died, John Aspinall wrote his creed: “I believe in Jus Animalium, the Rights of Beasts, and Jus Herbarum, the Rights of Plants. The right to exist as they have always existed, to live and let live. I believe in the Buddhist concept of Ahimsa – justice for all animate things. I believe in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of species of fauna and flora that the Earth can sustain without resultant deterioration of habitat and depletion of natural resources.

“I believe in the sanctity of the life systems, not in the sanctity of human life alone. The concept of sanctity of human life is the most damaging sophism that philosophy has ever propagated – it has rooted well. Its corollary – a belief in the insanctity of species other than man – is the cause of that damage. The destruction of this idea is a prerequisite for survival.

“I believe that wilderness is Earth’s greatest treasure. Wilderness is the bank on which all cheques are drawn. I believe our debt to nature is total, our willingness to pay anything back on account, barely discernible. I believe that unless we recognise this debt and renegotiate it, we write our own epitaph.

“I believe that there is an outside chance to save the earth and most of its tenants. This outside chance must be grasped with gambler’s hands.

“I believe that terrible risks must be taken and terrible passions aroused before these ends can hope to be accomplished. If a system is facing extreme pressures, only extreme counter-pressures are relevant, let alone likely to prove effective.

“I believe that all who subscribe to these testaments must act now; stand up and be counted. What friends Nature has, Nature needs.”

In the twenty-first century, in the face of overpopulation, pollution and climate change, his words remind us of the urgency of the task. It still isn’t too late to stand up and be counted. And I feel that Lao Tzu’s words written two and a half thousand years ago, can still point the way for us all:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbours.

If there is to be peace between neighbours,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

The picture is our house in the forest


Food for threadbare gourmets

The cupboard was bare so imagination was needed. Pasta did the trick…  with a couple of rashers of bacon chopped and fried with sliced mushrooms while the pasta was cooking. I added cream to the bacon mix, boiled it up to thicken it, added a grated courgette, chopped parsley, a small dollop of mustard, and a sprinkling of nutmeg, salt and pepper. This mixture was poured over the cooked pasta, and then sprinkled with grated parmesan. It went down well !





Filed under birds, consciousness, cookery/recipes, environment, life/style, philosophy, pollution, technology, Thoughts on writing and life, uncategorised, Uncategorized

47 responses to “Earth’s greatest treasure

  1. Thank you Valerie, I love this and am in total agreement.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very grounding post to distract me from the election results tonight which are at odds with my heart. But in other homes there will be much happiness, and I am glad for that happiness. Valerie, could you check your photo, please? It hasn’t come through in my reader, or in this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Valerie,

    As nations rage against nations, I feel great longing for what you’ve found. (BTW the picture didn’t show up here). Alas, I believe we spent the cheque, overdrawn our account and written our own epitaph. We deny climate change as it happens before our eyes. I could go on, but I won’t.
    Beautiful piece…full of peace.
    Autumn is upon us here Although it’s still hot and humid, the weathermen say that the temps will drop this coming week.



    • Dear Rochelle, we finally managed to get the picture problem sorted.. it showed in my blog but not on anyone else’s !
      Thank you for your lovely words… and yes, I know what you mean about climate change etc…
      Autumn is my favourite season … I hope you enjoy it even with the chilly weather threatening – love Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

      • The picture shows up now, Valerie. Beautiful place. Thank you for sharing it. As for the weather. I’m not a big fan of heat and last summer I had a horrible reaction to the humidity. I’m looking forward to long walks in the chill.
        With much love,


        Liked by 1 person

  4. Valerie my gratitude for your words ( got the picture) has filled me this morning. I too am seeking a forest to surround me.


  5. Miss A

    Very beautiful! We owe Earth everything ❤


  6. You write my heart, you know.
    I know you know my heart–I so believe in this wonderous living planet called Mother Earth…my feet walk daily on her living, breathing soil…I feel her sadness and her pain, I feel her joy and delight. When I look up into the heavens my whole mind, body and soul soars with everything there.

    I understand those who believe in “Earth-centered religion or nature worship a system of religion based on the veneration of natural phenomena.[1] It covers any religion that worships the earth, nature, or fertility gods and goddesses, such as the various forms of goddess worship or matriarchal religion. Some find a connection between earth-worship and the Gaia hypothesis. Earth religions are also formulated to allow one to utilize the knowledge of preserving the earth. Source Wikipedia”.

    Although, I don’t believe you need a religion to love the earth, the sky and everything involved…you just need to truly listen and care as you moved about this wonderful life we have.


  7. How wonderful to live in such an unspoilt environment. If only 90% of the earth or more was like that. Nature will win, of course. If humanity doesn’t become responsible tenants of the planet, their species will be wiped out. The trouble is that this will be at a dreadful cost to other life forms as well.


    • Yes, good friend, I’m afraid you’re right … when /if we go down, we will take so many other life forms with us… as we are doing now in this the sixth Great Extinction – dreadfully descriptive words.
      On a slightly more optimistic note, I was immensely cheered on a flight to UK which took me over the back blocks of China, Siberia, Mongolia, Russia etc, and looked down on endless vistas of empty forest and landscape, and realised that there still are great tracts of the earth untouched by the hand of man…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your first paragraph reminds me of Wyoming, where the nights are so dark (no ambient light) that the sky is covered with stars. It’s so beautiful. As a Christian, I believe we have an obligation to take care of the earth, an obligation too many not only ignore but flout.

    I do hope one day to visit New Zealand. It’s on our bucket list. At the health club, the treadmills have courses that you can choose to “walk” on and a number are from New Zealand. So I get to “go” there quite often. 🙂



    • Dear Janet, so good to hear from you… I see that Wyoming is one of the places to be !
      How intriguing that you ”walk’ New Zealand… have you done the Milford Track yet????? No doubt when you get here, we will manage to arrange a rendezvous…Valerie


      • Wyoming is definitely one of the places to be but don’t tell too many people or it will get too crowded. 🙂 I think I may have done part of the Milford Track. I’ll have to write down some of the walks and let you know. Often the walks are part of trails and then one to others. If/When we get to NZ, we’ll definitely have to meet. I have some other bloggers I’d love to meet as well.

        Happy Sunday (or probably, for you, Monday.) Have a wonderful week either way.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. You live in a magical forest! It is wonderful that you have a covenant to preserve it. Your love for it is reflected in your writing.


  10. There is such beauty and wisdom in this piece Valerie.


  11. How good to know that a place this beautiful and rare has a guardian such as you holding it in trust.


  12. A beautiful piece of writing, Valerie, and I’m in full agreement!


  13. Thank you Lynne, for a beautiful comment – I’m sure as a writer – you know what a gift your comment is …


  14. I love your writing, Valerie. And your connection with the world around you. You make me homesick for what I haven’t even known in some cases.


  15. What a lovely thing to say Luanne, thank you so much…


  16. What a beautiful home to have. Your post inspires me as I strive to fight off cynicism and live more connected to the earth, doing my part to uphold the “sanctity of the life systems.”


  17. Have I told you about the book I’m reading (well, actually listening as I bought the audio format)? You must read it! Here is a quote to entice you:
    “We have learned that mother trees recognize and talk with their kin, shaping future generations. In addition, injured trees pass their legacies on to their neighbors, affecting gene regulation, defense chemistry, and resilience in the forest community.” Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World

    Can you imagine my joy when I learned that trees/forests/plants are communities that care for each other. They have a sense of smell, taste and communicate through their root systems with the help other living things in the soil.

    We must find our way back to the earth. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

    Many hugs and love coming your way…


    • Dear Rebecca, loved Thich Nhat Hanh’s words…such a lovely way of putting it… your book sounds fascinating… I’d read about the way trees communicate with each other in some report or other… it gave me a deeper sense of connection and understanding of our forest when we arrived here, and made me feel even more reverent towards the life that lives all around us lovely to share these things..
      love to you Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Colour me completely jealous! It was delightful to hear about the moreporks – though to be honest, I was under the impression that Morpork was one of Terry Pratchett’s magical worlds… (checks Google)… Well, there we are – both things are true. Ankh-Morpork, ‘a fictional city-state which features prominently in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld fantasy novels’ according to Wikipedia. And on the other hand, some truly startling pictures of morepork owls. What amazing eyes they have!

    I love that Lao Tzu poem.


    • What a delicious comment ! Thank you good friend ! – I need to explore Terry Pratchett who is new to me !
      Yes, Morepork’s are amazing, arern’t they… we have one which sits on a dead branch on a tree just outside…when we switch on an outside light which attracts moths, the moreporks soon find their way to a good meal !!!

      Yes, Lao Tzu… wisdom doesn’t date, does it !!!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Reblogged this on Paranormalogistically and commented:
    This is beautiful ❤


  20. John Aspinall expresses more eloquently than I would be able to do it my exact beliefs. Particularly today as a large region of Northern California is burning after a devastating fire summer and that so many powerful hurricanes damaged other American states and destroyed other parts of the world his words sound more than ever true.


  21. Hello Valerie,

    First, as a city dweller, I envy you the place you call ‘home’. Though living so close to nature – with nature – must obviously have its challenges, it also sounds so idyllic and romantic even.

    Second, I simply love this article. I’ve travelled to NZ more than a dozen times on business and also half a dozen times on pure self-drive holidays. It remains my favourite holiday destination.

    But you opened ups vistas that I did not know existed. For this, I thank you!



    • Good morning Eric – going to reply to a comment a reader has made on this blog written ages ago, I found your words. I feel so mortified that I missed your message. So thank you for writing so long ago… I hope all is well with you, and if you make it to NZ again – let us connect !

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dear Valerie,
        No worries 🙂 I’m guilty of missing comments too and know the feeling.
        The positive part is – your reply alerted me and I re-read your article. An eye-opener. Wonderful.
        Yes, the next time round, I’ll give you a heads up and we’ll take it from there.
        All good wishes,


  22. What a beautiful piece of writing and what a wonderful place to call home. With love,


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