(M.J.E. Spirit / Tue., 14 Jul., 1998)

Spirit Dialogues

Explorations of Spirit
by Michael Edwards

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Tuesday, 14 July, 1998

      Michael: Hullo, Bivalia. It seems a while since we last met in this fashion, but in reality I see from a listing of my computer files that it is only a couple of months.

      Bivalia:[a] Good evening, Michael, my friend. It is good to hear from you once again. Indeed it is not so long since we last conversed; but from my perspective, time is not nearly as dominating as it is for you, so the interval since we last conversed does not matter. Any time for conversing is right if you feel drawn to approach me at that time.

      Michael: Well, I do; but I must admit that, as is often the case, that my desire to converse with you is prompted by a particular event.

      Bivalia: That is fine. It is often possible to use the everyday events of life as a springboard for learning insights that outweigh the importance of the event itself.

      Michael: Yes, it seems that occasionally (not often, though) a relatively ordinary event gives rise to a train of thought that brings certain thoughts to mind that I might not have otherwise noticed.
      But first, I have some rather sad news. I have mentioned from time to time in our discussions Priscilla, my mother's cat. Although she didn't live with me, she has really been a part of my life for over a decade and a half, because I have cat-sat for her many, many times. Well, she is dead now. My mother had to have her put down a few days ago, because after the vet saw her he found she had health problems that were not going to get better. In particular, she had an overactive thyroid gland, which the vet said was going to kill her in the end.

      Bivalia: Yes, it is sad when a beloved cat or dog leaves us in this world, as so often happens because their lives are so much shorter than human lives. Animals have a spiritual role to play in your world, and can assist humans who are in contact with them to grow spiritually, as the humans can help them, too. Yes, Priscilla is over in the other realms now, and she has found her way to your father, and they are both glad to be together again. But Priscilla misses you and your mother all the same; she was a most loving little pussy cat.

      Michael: Mum telephoned me to tell me the sad news. I knew she was not well, but she was not in pain yet, just a little out of sorts, and it seemed possible that my mother could get some sort of radiation treatment for her, or alternatively, some tablet treatment. But apparently she and the vet decided that these treatments were not promising, and Mum had her put to sleep rather than let her suffer pain, which I suppose was only a matter of time - a month or two, Mum told me. It's sad, but I suppose it was the right thing to do. Well, as a long-time supporter of the principle of euthanasia, you might not expect me to think otherwise.

      Bivalia: That's all right. It is part of the way things go in your world that domestic animals are placed in the care of humans, and the humans quite rightly make such decisions for them.

      Michael: Mum was very sad, and said she cried a lot. I know what it's like, because I lost two cats once who were killed by cars. It's terrible - I never felt worse in my whole life. However, I do seem to feel the pain of things in general much worse than most people seem to (as far as I can tell from appearances), so I imagine it wasn't quite that bad for my mother.

      Bivalia: It is not always possible to tell from appearances, but it is true that some people are much more sensitive to pain than others, and I would agree with your assessment that you are one of those.

      Michael: Anyway, I didn't cry, but I almost felt like it. But I went out and walked a bit outside and called on God, or Spirit, or whatever name you like to use, to send some love to her, to give her any healing that may be needed.

      Bivalia: Yes, and I can tell you it helped her - it was effective. You also asked your father to look after her, and of course he will. Those accounts you sometimes read of people reuniting with their pets when they pass over are quite true, you know. There is nothing fanciful or imaginary about that.

      Michael: Yes, I can imagine Mum gardening in the next world when her time to pass over arrives, with George on one side of her, Sylvester on the other, and Priscilla off to another angle, because in their various times they all tended to follow her around the garden - but they didn't like each other, as cats tend not to if they haven't grown up together.

      Bivalia: [LAUGHS.] Yes, I can imagine it. But you might be surprised that George and Sylvester, now both long since passed over, do see something of each other, and have got used to each other to an extent. Maybe they're not quite bosom buddies yet, but it won't be long. Animals continue to grow over here, as well as humans.

      Michael: And of course, there's Terry, the dog we had in the 1960s and early 1970s, when my brothers and I were still kids. I suppose he might have learned now that he mustn't chase George and Sylvester.

      Bivalia: [LAUGHS.] Yes, he has learnt that now. You might be glad to learn that, although over here one doesn't own animals in the way you think of it on Earth, Terry and George and Sylvester do spend a lot of time with your father, and they are all glad to be together again.
      I think you might get a few surprises, too, when you reach this realm. Not only will you meet them all again, but you have three very loving cats waiting for you, too.

      Michael: It all seems too far away to be real, and perhaps too good to be true.

      Bivalia: Yes, it may seem that way, but the time will come. I know you often feel yourself to be trapped in an endless darkness in your world, but it will come to an end. There will be many opportunities to continue growing, and the time will come when it will simply seem like waking up from a dream.
      Meanwhile, your condition, painful though it might be to you, does not seem to us in spirit nearly so bad as it might seem to you. After all, you are keeping your integrity, your vision of truth, almost completely unsullied by the influence of the world you are immersed in, and that is not as as common a thing as you might suppose.
      Just remember this. You remember, don't you, how Sananda asked you in 1993 to keep your light shining, not to lose the thread of truth (or words to that effect)? Well, we are all glad to see that you have done that very well indeed.

      Michael: It's funny: I don't quite know how literally to take the reply I got to my question on that occasion, but it's a fact that my spiritual outlook has been changing - improving, I would even say - ever since that occasion, as if that encounter with Sananda was a catalyst for great changes in my awareness.

      Bivalia: Well, you don't mean to say that surprises you, do you? I'm sure you know that Sananda often acts as a catalyst for great and wonderful things.

      Michael: I guess so. I just hope I am not a disappointment to him.

      Bivalia: I would say not. It is true that you may not have yet done many of the things outwardly in your world as you would have wished; but we here in spirit consider one's spiritual condition to be of much greater importance than such things. And you can't deny that you have opened out spiritually an immense amount in the last few years. Just consider yourself a year before that meeting with Sananda, or even five years before: a rather disillusioned, cynical agnostic, almost an atheist for all practical purposes, dedicated only to learning truth through reductionistic rational processes, limited to the parameters of thinking laid down by science. You are far removed from that now, and these channelling sessions we have done are testament to that.
      Not that I want to imply that the scientific method of thinking is in any way bad. It is wonderful in its proper territory, and completely valid. But you made an idol of it, worshipped it, refused to consider anything beyond it, and you tried wrongly to apply it to spiritual areas it does not in reality apply to, or work with. We in spirit are very glad to see you have got that in proper perspective now.

      Michael: Supposing I go back to that again one day?

      Bivalia: Supposing you go back to crawling and sucking a baby's bottle?

      Michael: What do you mean by that?

      Bivalia: I mean that one is no more likely to happen than the other.

      Michael: I hope you are right.
      Anyway, I wanted to tell you something that happened to me last night, a rather disconcerting adventure I had that gave rise to some slightly uneasy thoughts.

      Bivalia: Please proceed.

      Michael: I can't cook here yet in Healesville because I don't have my fridge here yet, and therefore can't store food. (It's taking me much longer than you might expect for my to complete my move.) Therefore I am relying a lot more on take-away food for now than is really good for me, although I do intend to remedy that as soon as I can begin cooking.

      Bivalia: You don't need to justify what you are doing.

      Michael: Anyway, last night I left it too late, because the shops close earlier in Healesville than I was used to in Melbourne. I went to the all-night service station, but their pies and stuff weren't yet hot. So the only thing to do was to drive to Lilydale, the next nearest all-night place, and one which has a bigger range of food available.

      Bivalia: Yes.

      Michael: In fact, I'm going to have to do it again tonight, because the same thing has happened, and if this channelling takes too long, I will have to ask your indulgence to break off this session for a while so I can go and get something to eat.

      Bivalia: Be my guest. You can have a break if you like, then we can resume. This isn't school, you know.

      Michael: Let's see how we go with time. I also have a reason for going back to the same place tonight, but I'll get to that in a bit.
      Anyway, I've been to this place before, and I remembered that there was a stray cat that hangs around there, which is almost feral. The people who work there tell me that the cat's been hanging around there for a year or so, and that it scrounges food from the rubbish bins and the like. Apparently there were once 2 or 4 kittens there (the number seems to be different according to different staff), brothers and sisters, but the others were taken early on as pets by passers-by, and only the one is left now. It's probably gone too far into a feral way of life to be redeemable as a pet now.

      Bivalia: Maybe not; but I admit its prospects don't look good now.

      Michael: When I've been there before, I've seen this cat, and its attention was attracted by pies or pasties I took out of the shop. I used to eat them outside the shop in the parking area before driving on, because it's difficult to eat and drive simultaneously without making a mess, and it's probably not safe anyway. The cat would come within a few yards, but no closer, and meow piteously. It doesn't look unduly thin or malnourished, but it was obviously desperately hungry. If I took a step closer, it would hiss and spit at me, then immediately meow again for food; it was rather pathetic seeing this obvious conflict of instincts showing in its behaviour.
      Anyway, I couldn't just stand there without throwing it a few titbits. Each time I threw a bit, the cat would take it up greedily and run away out of sight with it, as if afraid I would try to take it back. After it had eaten the bit, it would come back out of hiding a minute later and ask for more, poor little thing.
      Well, I remembered this last night and decided to go to the supermarket before driving to Lilydale to get some food for it. (The supermarket was open till midnight, but nothing there was suitable for immediate eating other than fruit, of which I already had some, but I wanted to eat something more.) I bought a few hearts, took them home and chopped them, and drove to Lilydale to get a couple of pies. I took only half of the chopped meat, because the full amount would be far too much, and I thought it possible the cat may try to guts it all down at once and make itself sick.

      Bivalia: More people would do acts of kindness like that if only they could see the effect it has on the spiritual realm.

      Michael: Would they? Well, perhaps they don't see it, because I asked the man in the shop if many people fed the cat bits, and he said no, the cat just catches and eats bugs. He said it casually as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world.

      Bivalia: That is sad, isn't it? I'm glad you felt moved to give the cat something last night.

      Michael: I wonder what other people pulling in thought, if they saw what I was doing.

      Bivalia: It doesn't really matter what they thought.

      Michael: Anyway, the cat was so wary it took a while to lure him (or maybe her) close, but he started gobbling the meat up pretty quick smart after he cottoned on. He must have thought all his Christmases had come at once.

      Bivalia: You have reminded him what ordinary common kindness and love are, and you have done him a great turn in so doing. Don't be deterred by the fact that the cat didn't change its behaviour or show friendliness of any sort.

      Michael: I didn't do it with any expectation of reward of that sort, and I knew it wouldn't happen. I just did it because I felt sorry for the cat.
      I was eating my own food while the cat was eating a few yards away, and was soon ready to go. When the cat finished what I had given it, I put some more down. Every now and then the cat ran away when someone came nearby, then returned a minute later. Because I wanted to leave soon, I put the remaining meat down in a pile, and the cat hoed into it, but then walked away obviously full, leaving some still behind. I supposed it would eat it later, or maybe some other cat might get it first, if there were others around.
      Anyway, none of this is the real point of this session, but it seems I just have to tell a sequence of events in the right order.
      But I still have some of those hearts left, and no fridge to keep them in. When I go back there to buy something to eat in an hour or two, I'll take the rest of the meat there and leave it for the cat.

      Bivalia: I'm sure it'll be very grateful. If you're not careful you might end up with a new pet cat.

      Michael: I don't think so. It's almost feral; and I'm allergic to cats anyway, and couldn't live with one all the time. Even just visiting my mother I used to react badly at times to Priscilla, sneezing and wheezing and getting a runny nose.

      Bivalia: I suppose that will look after itself. If the cat decides it wants to live with you, you might be surprised at the ways it might, on the spiritual level, engineer its way into your home and your heart.

      Michael: On the way to the shop, I didn't come the usual direct way along the Maroondah Highway. I took some side roads through some very lonely countryside, just because I'm the sort of person who sometimes likes to explore side roads. I'd thought of exploring some of those before, and suddenly decided to do it, even though I could hardly see anything in the middle of the night. I joined the highway again at Coldstream, just a couple of miles before you get to Lilydale.
      On the way home I decided to do the same thing again, and found yet another indirect way back home. I took Ingram Rd. out of Coldstream (which is not the road I entered Coldstream by), and made towards what was marked on my map as a very lonely little place in the middle of nowhere called Gruyere, just because I was curious to see if anything was there.
      It was a winter's night, of course, with the sky largely but not entirely covered with slightly misty clouds, but it was not especially cold. But the countryside looked very lonely and desolate under that dark sky, illuminated just the tiniest bit by a three-quarter moon behind the clouds, hardly visible itself.
      I took what my map indicated was a road that would take me to Gruyere, but in fact after a few miles it came to an end; I could see the road continued, but it had been blocked off for some reason. I had to do a couple of detours to get to Gruyere, which is not really a town, but just an area where a few roads intersect. There were a couple of things there like a school, a rural business of some sort, a few houses - but no shops. I drove round for 10 minutes or so, going in and out of some of the roads. I took a road which my map indicated went south of a main road, then after a mile or so turned west and then joined another main road. I intended to reach this other main road, then use it to come back and go home. (I wasn't going to explore round in the dark more than half an hour or so.)
      Well, I entered the road, which was only a rather narrow dirt road, and it got narrower and narrower, and rougher and rougher, as it made its way through lonely country marked only with the occasional farm. It went over a crest and went steeply downhill, getting ever rougher and narrower, and it started to seem like a very crude track into the wilderness. I began to wonder if I should keep going, thinking it might get too difficult for my car to traverse. I decided if it got any worse I would turn back; but, in the meantime, I had to keep going, because the track - it was not a road any more - was flanked by thick trees and bushes so that there was no room to turn around. It was little more than two furrows in the ground by now. I slithered down a slope for several hundred yards, looking for a place to turn. I actually went past a turning place, thinking maybe it would be easiest to continue now that I had probably come more than half way.
      I got a rude shock a hundred yards or so past this turning place when, at the bottom of the valley, I found the track completely covered by a large puddle, several inches deep and full of soft mud. I realized I could get hopelessly bogged if I went through that, so I backed up the track again to the place where I could turn, then did a three-point turn to head back up the hillside again. The track seemed like a tunnel, lit by my lights, with total blackness all around.

      Bivalia: I think I'm beginning to see what you meant by having an adventure earlier. Would I be right in guessing what happened next?

      Michael: [WITH A SIGH.] Probably. Anyway, the track generally was rather wet, and seemed to consist of a mixture of stones and clay, and in places there were great diagonal furrows across the track obviously worn by rivulets of water over the years. You guessed it; on some of the steepest bits I began skidding, and could get up only with great difficulty or not at all. When I just couldn't get up, I had to back down, then come up again a bit faster to try to get some momentum to carry me over the difficult and slippery bits. However, there was one steep place which I just couldn't get past. If I tried to, I would either slide backwards, or my tyres would spin in a patch of mud. I finally got wedged in a soft dip in the track, and could only surge back and forth a foot or so without getting out. I tried to reverse down the hill again, but the diagonal furrows caused me to go off-centre all the time, and if I wasn't careful I'd go off the track and into the bushes.
      I was cursing VicRoads and the local council by turns now (not knowing which authority is responsible for the roads in the area) for not signposting the road with a warning about the danger of getting bogged after rain, and starting to feel a bit scared, and wondering what would become of me, at 1.30 or so in the morning in the middle of nowhere with possibly no human beings around for a mile or so. This was the first time anything like this had happened to me, and I was kicking myself for entering the damned road in the first place.
      Hey, you're not saying much.

      Bivalia: I'm listening. There is a time for speaking, and there is a time for listening.

      Michael: Finally, after one of these times of almost backing off the road, I got well and truly stuck. In front of me was a pool of mud that only got deeper if I spun the wheels to try and get out; behind me was a small tree right on the side of the road, which prevented me from reversing - and I was really quite worried by now.
      I began trying to think what I could do to get out, even while wondering if I would have to abandon the car and walk miles and miles to get help. Gruyere might have only been a mile away, but there was no-one and nothing there at that hour, and I somehow didn't like the idea of knocking on someone's door in the middle of the night. (I felt sure they wouldn't like it either.) I could just stay in the car until morning, when help might be easier to get (not my ideal way of passing the night); but even then I didn't see what local people could do to help me, even assuming they were willing to try to help me.
      If there was a public phone in Gruyere, perhaps I could call someone for help, but I didn't remember seeing a phone there. Alternatively, I could walk to Coldstream, perhaps 7 or 8 miles away, which would take a few hours, and there would almost surely be a public phone there; or Lilydale itself would only be a couple of miles beyond that. (At that hour of night, even the name "Coldstream" was rather depressing.) If I did this, at least one good point was that I have a good sense of direction and would not get lost on the way.
      I was even wondering if I should find a motel in Coldstream to stay the night, because I didn't relish the idea of staying up the rest of the night after all that walking, and of course I had no way of getting home except by taxi, which would probably cost as much as a motel room, especially when I would later have to come back by taxi too. I found myself wondering if there was a motel in Coldstream, but I couldn't recall, and anyway no staff would be up all night there to receive guests. I know there are motels in Lilydale, but once again they would probably long since be closed for the night. Besides, aside from that, I thought I would probably just stay up the night rather than pay $40 or $50 for a motel room.[b] I would then have to simply call a tow-truck to pull me out, which I thought might cost me well over a hundred dollars, and I got to feeling rather sorry for myself. (I even wondered if the tow-truck in turn would get stuck in that treacherous mud.)
      Meanwhile, as these melancholy thoughts went through my mind, I tried practical measures to get out of the rut, but all the time it seemed merely like going through the motions, because it didn't make a damned bit of difference. I couldn't go forwards, and I couldn't go backwards either.
      Fences paralleled the road all the way along on both sides, on the other side of which was rolling fields covered mostly with grass: grazing country, I thought, although I couldn't see any livestock. On both sides of the road, between the roadside and the fence, there were 10-foot strips of trees and bushes.
      In a panic-stricken moment I thought I didn't even have a torch with me, but I realized there were two in the glove-box of the car, and I got the big one out thankfully. I would obviously have to go outside to see if I could find anything that could help me. I went into the roadside bushes and trees and gathered leafy branches and bits of wood and placed them in front of my tyres, stuffing them in as close as I could, hoping it would give something for my tyres to grip and get out of the rut; I then got in the car and tried to drive out, but to no avail. It made no difference whether I tried to ease out gradually or rev the engine furiously; I was still stuck there, and was hardly able to move even 3 inches. Every time I released the accelerator, I simply rolled back against that infernal tree behind me.
      Every time I failed, I got out to see if my position looked different, and to try repositioning the branches and bits of wood in front of my tyres, or to put more there. Sometimes the stuff simply got gripped by the tyres and dragged under them so they appeared behind the tyres, and I would put it in front again. Then I would get back in the car and try again: it seemed useless; but there was nothing else to do, and I wasn't willing to abandon the car just yet anyway. It seemed I got in and out a dozen times, uselessly repeating the routine I just described.
      When I did a lot of revving, I saw what looked like smoke rising through my headlight beams, and when I got outside I smelt what suspiciously seemed like the smell of burning rubber, but it's possible it was burning bark. The tyres didn't look visibly damaged, but I hesitated to let them get too hot through too much revving all at once. Besides, my revving didn't seem to be accomplishing anything more than making my muddy ruts deeper and deeper; I was effectively digging my own grave by doing this, but couldn't think what else to do but keep trying to get out. I really didn't know what I was going to do, and what was going to become of me.
      I took a look at the tree behind me. It was only a small tree six feet or so high, with a trunk only a couple of inches thick at ground level. The tree was actually split into two separate trunks from the ground up, and I pulled on the twin trunks, thinking maybe I could actually break them, or pull them out of the ground. Indeed, I succeeded in breaking one of them, and I used the trunk and branches of the tree to stuff under my front wheels. I said, "Sorry to do this to you, tree, but I have no choice; I have to do it."

      Bivalia: [LAUGHS.] Well, I don't think many people in your situation would bother to say sorry to the tree, or even think of it.

      Michael: Maybe. But I rather like the atmosphere of trees (and have spoken of it sometimes in our sessions), and it seemed a pity to pull it up, so that's why I told it I was sorry. I guess I didn't really bear the tree any malice, although I did swear at it quite a bit for being in just that position.
      I don't know what kind of a tree it was, but it left my hands smelling sort of minty, or a bit like eucalyptus. It didn't look like a gum tree, but I suppose it could have been a related kind of tree; or maybe other natives have that kind of smell too. I tried wiping my hands in the grass from time to time to get rid of the dirt and tree sap, but my hands just got wet from the dew. I was going to have to resign myself to getting rather dirty and smelly while I got out of this fix.
      The other trunk of the tree that was obstructing me was really just a stump, the rest having broken off just a foot or so above the ground. It was no thicker than the one I broke, but I couldn't break it, or budge it at all; it was obviously more firmly rooted in the ground, and the wood was obviously tougher. I thought about trying to dig it out, but I realized I would have to use my bare hands, since I had no tools of any sort, and the ground was covered in grass, roots, and so on, and I quickly gave that up as hopeless. I wondered if I could batter it down with my car (even while probably giving the car some nasty scratches (about which I was caring less and less), but in the few inches' room within which I could surge back and forth I just couldn't get enough momentum anyway.
      I noticed that the obstructing stump was not squarely behind the car, but near the right rear corner of the car. It was literally only a couple of inches away from being free of the car; but it might as well have been a brick wall all the way across the road.
      Things seemed to go on like this for an hour or more, where by turns I tried to drive out, packed stuff in front of the wheels, walked up and down the road looking for further branches, tried to pull out the stump, or just stood in the road in a dither, wondering what to do, and vaguely hoping some distant farmer might wake up and hear my engine revving and come to help me.
      The road was not only steep, but had diagonal ruts in it that threatened to trip me up if I took a wrong step. The ground was wet and slippery, and my hands stank from the branches I had been handling. I thought the section of road I was stuck in was a really nasty hole, and everything seemed to be arranged to make things difficult for me.
      There's another tactic I tried: I stuffed branches in front of the wheels as tight as I could, got in the car, and tried to make the front wheels climb up a couple of inches (and succeeded in that); then I braked hard while in that slightly higher position. I got out and stuffed small logs behind the front wheels, hoping that would prevent me sliding back when I released the brakes, after which I could then try climbing another couple of inches higher out of the rut, with the help of more branches for the wheels to grip onto. But this was of no use either, even though I tried it several times.
      At some stage during all this, the moon came out, and I could see that the country around me was probably quite beautiful, and was bathed in that ethereal silvery radiance of the moon, slightly weaker than usual, perhaps partly because it had already started to wane, and was three-quarters only, but mainly because it was coming through a thin film of misty clouds in the sky. I perceived that special atmosphere of the moon, and the whole spirit of nature around me, but was perhaps in no mood to appreciate it like I might otherwise have done. But I certainly perceived it at least, and it prompted certain thoughts. These are really what I wanted to discuss with you.

      Bivalia: Yes, this is interesting.

      Michael: I reflected that at other times I felt something of a kinship with nature, as if natural things evoked spirit for me in some way, triggered that unidentifiable longing I have mentioned to you from time to time. It sometimes seemed as if nature was itself somehow an aspect of paradise, as if it was somewhere I could feel at home in some deep way, as if it held the very meaning of life in it. Such thoughts and feelings seemed to typify the old familiar nature romanticism I have spoken of from time to time.
      I didn't feel these things now; I just reflected that at other times I had had such thoughts about nature.

      Bivalia: Yes, you have spoken such thoughts quite eloquently at various times in our sessions.

      Michael: Well, I have to tell you now that I had quite a different view of things. And not entirely because my present awkward situation distracted me from the beauty of nature. I was forcibly struck by the reality of a quite different aspect of nature, one I have also discussed with you, but which I tend to mention much less often. It was the essential alienness of nature. I wasn't at home in it at all. I was strongly aware of my separation even while seeing the tranquil beauty of hills and trees and fields bathed in ghostly moonlight. There were shadows, too, and they were dark, I can tell you. It may have been tranquil, but it was lonely, too. Let your imagination go in certain directions, and moonlight can be spooky as well as beautiful.
      I could hear nothing except the croaking of distant frogs, and it was a lonely sound. I was a stranger in their territory, and in the territory of the trees and the grass and the insects. I was stuck here in what was supposed to be the beauty of nature, yet I had nowhere to sleep, even though it looked possible I might have to spend the rest of the night there. I couldn't handle those branches without getting my hands dirty and smelling of sap, and I had nowhere to wash them. I could rub them on grass, but my hands were chilled as they were smeared in dew, which didn't remove all the dirt anyway. And I noticed a bit later that handling those branches seemed to have put dozens of little red pimples all over my palms and the inner surface of my fingers.
      If I had been stuck there for days, not hours, there would be further aspects, relating to sustenance, that would only emphasize this sense of not belonging, not being at home: I could perhaps find brackish water with a little difficulty, but I could probably not find food, and if I did, wouldn't know what was safe to eat anyway.
      I went over to a tree to have a pee and was glad I didn't have to go to the toilet for anything more than that. Nature would be quite unaccommodating of what we consider our needs in that area, and if we truly lived amongst nature we would have to adapt to what was available in the way of toilet facilities, and sacrifice what we consider to be minimum standards of cleanliness and hygiene. (To put it crudely, we would have to bog against a tree and make do without toilet paper, or soap to wash up with. [c])
      I found I didn't fit in here at all, that if I could adapt to life in the wild, it would only be with great difficulty and much discomfort and hardship. I realized that humans are helpless without their modern conveniences, and that, if they could survive at all in a natural environment without all sorts of man-made aids, they could do so only while facing unending hardship; and I felt a profound sense of nature's indifference to man's needs, a deep awareness of what I can only call alienness. There was a deep sense in which a tree or a frog or a sparrow or an insect belonged here, and was at home, that no human could ever experience.
      Just taking in the atmosphere of the natural things around me, I could feel that alienness of atmosphere. It was as if I was perceiving the nature spirits but could not connect with them in any way.
      I couldn't help wondering what the reality of nature makes of my warm spiritual feelings about nature, the nature romanticism, if I can call it that. Was it all a mere fantasy?
      Bivalia, please tell me I've got it wrong somewhere, because that feeling is one of the driving forces behind the music I want to write, and even has a lot to do with my spiritual vision, as our 250-plus pages of sessions so often testify. That vision is something I'd hate to have to give up.

      Bivalia: I can't tell you you're wrong, because you're quite right: everything you say is absolutely true. As you also said, we have discussed the essential gulf between man and nature, and whether this might represent a sense in which humanity is fallen. [d]
      But I can also tell you that things are not as bad as you have just painted them.

      Michael: Oh? How?

      Bivalia: What you described is just one side of the matter. What you call the warm spiritual feelings of longing that seem to be so intimately connected to nature are also real, and represent another angle. Your lyrical writings about nature spirits in previous sessions are a perfectly valid and true view of nature, and of the nature spirits.
      Even now, I see you asking a question about the spirits of nature. (I think we both agree that they comprise the essence of nature, of which the physical things are mere manifestations.) The question I see you asking is this: how can the spirits of nature be both alien and remote on the one hand, and friendly and spiritual and uplifting on the other? Well, it may be one of the paradoxes of life, but they can be both at the same time. It just depends on what level you look at them. Like everything in the universe, nature is multi-levelled, just as humanity is. Humans have their loving, spiritual side that longs to unite with God; but they have their dark, primitive instincts which can impel them to do the most dreadful deeds, hatch the most evil plots.
      Nature spirits do not have the same degree of free will as humans, and cannot (or at least do not) hatch plots (although I don't agree with those who say they have no free will whatsoever); but they are just as multi-dimensional as humans, and present different faces in different situations. What you see will partly depend on the situation you are in (if you had been camping in that very spot on a holiday with a couple of close friends, that scene might have felt very different to you, and much more reassuring); but it will also depend on the attitude with which you see it, the spiritual mood you are in at the time.
      I can tell you that, as you grow spiritually, nature takes on more and more of that uplifting, benevolent aspect. It is difficult to tell you why it (or anything) appears different according to your own frame of mind or spirit. I can only say that it just seems to be the way the universe works that everything in it is, in a sense, a mirror which presents to you a reflection of what is already in you.

      Michael: I have to say that at times it seems to be a very distorting mirror, kind of like those weird mirrors that used to be in the Giggle Palace at Luna Park years ago.

      Bivalia: [LAUGHS.] Quite so. Yes, those mirrors of life come in all sorts of weird shapes and sizes. One aspect of spiritual growth is to learn to straighten out all those mirrors that surround us, to learn to choose the mirrors that give us truer and truer reflections.

      Michael: So is the alien aspect of nature I noticed so acutely last night in a sense a mirror of my own separation from it? In other words, is it I who has the alienness, not nature?

      Bivalia: Yes, partly. Yet you are a mirror to nature, too, and at least a part of the spirit of nature is aware of that. It cuts both ways, you see. You are not perfect yet (at least not in outward manifestation), and are buying into separation to some degree. But nature is not perfect yet, either, and is also buying into separation; I'm sure any naturalist will tell you that amongst animals life is not all sweetness and light and ineffable upliftment of spirit. For both man and nature to transcend these limitations is part of what the evolutionary step of Mother Earth that some call ascension is all about. It's happening even as we speak. The worst is behind us now; we are on our way to God, where we will find ultimate joy and love.

      Michael: I hope you are right.

      Bivalia: You will see it in full clarity one day. Meanwhile, there is a real sense in which humanity, more than other earthly inhabitants (other animals, plants, and minerals, that is), is separate from the planet as a whole, from what you call "nature". This is not something to worry about unduly, as it is a step that humanity collectively is going through at the moment. We discussed this separation in the wake of your visit to Mt. Donna Buang earlier this year which prompted a session between us, and considered whether this was a sense in which humanity could be regarded as "fallen". During this phase of separation, humanity feels the deep need to surround itself with all manner of gadgets and technology and other man-made things, essentially to form a barrier to keep nature (or some aspects of nature) at bay, to create an enclave amidst nature, yet not of it, within which a comfortable zone can be created where humanity can live.
      Meanwhile, humanity still feels a deep need of nature, is subconsciously aware of its interconnections with nature, and feels a deep, unappeasable longing for nature that will not be denied. So people go out camping, they hike in the woods, they swim at the beach, they go mountain-climbing, bird-watching, or a hundred other things, so that they are amongst nature at least physically; yet at all times they are surrounded by man-made things to make life comfortable, and often are not really truly united with nature in spirit. They may kid themselves that they are, but what they think of as their oneness with nature is in large measure a world of their own creation with the help of a thousand man-made artifacts without which their sojourn amongst nature would be very different, and very much less comfortable.
      This is all right; there is nothing wrong with humanity doing this. It would help the growth of both nature and humanity if humanity made more effort to do less damage to nature in the course of building and using all the man-made trappings of life; but there is nothing inherently wrong with those trappings in themselves, and it is possible to even use those trappings fully and still be at one with nature.
      In time, humanity will learn to be less dependent on its cocoon of man-made comfort (without feeling the need to abandon it) - and nature will also become more accommodating of man, too. Nature is evolving just as much as man is, and what you may think of as the more hostile or at least indifferent aspects of nature will recede more and more. Those aspects belong to the physical plane, and the lower or middle parts of the astral, and as both man and nature evolve past that consciousness, those things will become less a part of their consciousness, and will manifest less and less.
      I can tell you that your vision of nature in its benevolent, spiritual aspect is real, even if not yet fully manifest on your planet. All that longing, that wonderful upliftment that you get glimpses of every now and then, is real. It is the merest hint of a world that will become fully manifest in due course, and you will see that it is more glorious than you can even imagine at present. What's more, your vision is also the remnants of memory of a realm from which you (along with all humanity) came long ago, to which you will eventually return. That's why you seem to carry with you a mental picture of an ideal world which seems to be like the physical world, but compared to which the physical world seems to fall short, to somehow not be good enough. They are the haunting memories of something too wonderful for words which you left behind long ago, and to which you long to return. Believe me, you will return to that realm; all humanity will. It is the plan God himself is working through.
      Whatever you may have felt was the "reality" of nature last night, Michael, I urge you not to give up that wonderful vision of which nature seems so much to be a part. Just try to be patient and wait for that wonderful vision to fully manifest. If you can, give expression to it in some of that wonderful nature music you want to write; that will actually help it manifest, and nature will rejoice at the help you are giving it.

      Michael: What about the terrible ecological damage man is doing to the Earth, the overpopulation, the pollution, nuclear testing, the damage to plant and animal species, and so on? Is all this a cause of this seeming separation between man and nature?

      Bivalia: Yes, it is; but perhaps not quite as overwhelmingly so as you might imagine (and I don't care what some of the greenies say to what they may see as the soft line I'm taking). The separation was there long before this damage began happening in earnest; and nature might turn out to be more adaptable to this damage than some people presently believe. Some of that damage is also the result of that separation rather than the cause. Cause and effect flow both ways in that regard.
      There is a sense in which nature sees itself as being in a similar situation as man, and throws in its lot with him. Just as man has to accept the limitations nature imposes on him, and at his highest makes the best of it and still manages to love nature and appreciate its good points, so does nature accommodate the damaging effects human activity (which originates in a reaction to limitations) causes. I think you have heard one or two New-Age types of people say that out of love for man Mother Earth accepts much of the damage man is doing to her, even though it hurts her. There is much truth in this.
      Man and nature are both in it together (at least during this phase of your planet's evolution), and both have to make sacrifices for each other. Both nature and man are hurting; both nature and man need each other, and, underneath all the seeming separation, have a deep love for each other. It will be to the mutual and everlasting benefit of both nature and humanity to recognize and accept this, and at least parts of nature and of humanity do realize this and take it into consideration.
      I know you were acutely aware last night of how alien nature seemed, how separate you were from even the things that superficially seemed beautiful. But it is important not to exaggerate these feelings. The way you explained it, it seemed as if all nature was at one with itself, and full of sweetness and light and spiritual feeling, and you (and humanity generally) alone was left out. Although there is a degree of truth in this impression, it is not nearly as strong as you may think. As I said above, nature is not all sweetness and light. I'm sure the antelope being chased by a lion (you can't deny that is a totally natural situation) doesn't feel at one with the lion, and probably feels a thousand times more alienated and fearful than you did; and the lion probably feels a degree of this too, possibly feeling desperately hungry and wondering if he's going to succeed in finding a meal in the near future. Perhaps there is much truth in the pictures of nature alluded to in such phrases as "nature red in tooth and claw", and "life is nasty, brutish, and short". No, don't get too hung up on the idea that nature is all friendliness within itself, and humans are the forlorn outsiders.
      In spite of the way the seeming harshness of nature may often seem to reduce your uplifting, sublime vision of nature to mere fantasy, you can best help nature by hanging onto that vision, by nurturing it, not by abandoning it for a darker vision that appears to conform more to reality. So don't abandon it, whatever you do. Not every human is given the vision you have; it is precious, and nature needs people who can maintain that vision, to help manifest it in full reality. It is one of the tasks you undertook to do in this life.

      Michael: I guess you're right. I'll try to keep onto it, anyway. But you and God and nature alike will have to recognize that I'll go through bad patches where I at least temporarily will lose the vision and fall for the supposedly more realistic one.

      Bivalia: Of course. That is of little moment. It is the broad undercurrent that matters more, not the day-to-day changes in the surface currents. And I am glad to see that that broad undercurrent is really quite strong, and in no danger of petering out, however invisible it may sometimes be on the surface, no matter how many little eddies there might be that sometimes swirl backwards. The eddies look much smaller to me, and to God himself, than they sometimes do to you.
      Remember this. You have reflected at times that all the evidence supports the darker vision of nature, the slightly alien, sinister aspect you saw so clearly last night - even the "Selfish Gene" view so brilliantly expounded by Richard Dawkins in that book of his that so profoundly disturbed you some years ago; and none of the evidence supports the benevolent, shining vision you have such a keen sense of. Yet, if this is so, why does the benevolent vision of nature persist so much, not only with you, but with innumerable poets, musicians, mystics, philosophers, and other thinkers? Even amongst fundamentalist religions, why is Heaven so often depicted in terms of a beautiful, garden-like nature paradise? This appeal of nature is obviously a deeply-rooted thing in humanity that cuts across religious or spiritual differences.
      Usually things that are not real do not last long in the consciousness of humanity, or only persist as scattered myths and legends. But this not only persists, but in a form of extraordinary subtlety and depth and emotional resonance. Perhaps this is because there really is a solid foundation to this vision, but it is sufficiently subtle as not to be visible to the kind of scientific, rational thought processes that are usually behind the evidence evaluation that seems to point to the darker vision.
      As I think you are aware, there truly are levels of existence and reality that simply are not accessible to this level of thinking. You should not be surprised that that level of thinking fails to uncover it, and instead finds a darker vision of things.

      Michael: Perhaps so. I hope you are right. Yes, I will probably hang onto it, because it is the only thing that gives me even a tenuous feeling of hope. With only the rational darker vision of things, I would surely give way to total despair, perhaps even suicide.

      Bivalia: We don't want that, do we? Just hang onto your brighter vision then, and don't let rational modes of thinking limit you, even though you might make full use of them with your intelligent mind in those areas for which they are valid.

      Michael: Well, Bivalia, thank you for your encouraging thoughts. I am glad I am able to converse with you in this way. Although I still don't feel sure I am really channelling my Higher Self instead of merely making up dialogues in my own mind, I feel nevertheless that this is probably the most spiritually significant thing I have done in recent years, and it has certainly significantly contributed to the growth and expansion of my spiritual view in recent times.

      Bivalia: Well, I hope you keep doing it, then. And it doesn't really matter whether you think these channellings are genuine or just a creation of your mind. It's the results that count, and if they are beneficial to your growth, who cares whether it is genuine channelling or not? You're not doing it to impress other people.

      Michael: Well, thank you, anyway. Meanwhile, I will have to go to bed soon, and I think this session is starting to wind down. I guess that stuff about nature, the feeling I got last night, was the main thing I wanted to cover in this session. Unless you have more to say, I will perhaps call it a day and hit the sack.

      Bivalia: Before you do, would you mind telling me how you got out of your scrape last night? You were starting to get onto that when the nature stuff came up.

      Michael: Oh, okay. But the nature stuff didn't just "come up"; it was the main thing I was leading up to, and, although I intended to tell you the end of the story, I was tossing up whether to do it before I discussed the darker side of nature, or afterwards; and afterwards won out.
      I think you know the story anyway, but in these sessions I usually like to relate a story in full, partly because I seem to have to do that in general, but also because if I read this years later I want to be able to learn the full story without worrying that I might have forgotten it. The fully-detailed narratives I sometimes give you in our discussions are often more for my benefit years later than for your immediate benefit.

      Bivalia: That's fair enough, and a perfectly legitimate reason for doing it. It's why I asked you to complete the story just now.

      Michael: Yes. Anyway, before the deeper thoughts about nature came up, I think I was talking about that stump of a tree that still trapped my car. As I studied the stump behind me a little further, I finally saw a possible way out. I saw that if only I could move the car 3 inches or so to the left, I would be able to reverse past the stump. Then I could reverse a few dozen yards down the road (where it was less slippery), then come up again and gather enough momentum to go right through the muddy patch. It seemed that if I just kept revving the car, surging backwards and forwards over the few inches of freedom I had by alternately pressing and releasing the accelerator, I might be able to change the angle of the car if I could turn the steering wheel just right. (I had to be careful not to do too much of this without a pause, because I didn't want to burn the rubber of the tyres.)
      Well, finally, I managed to accomplish this, and slid backwards past the stump with not even one inch to spare. (I'm lucky the car isn't horribly scratched, although it is covered in mud.)
      I backed downwards a few dozen yards, feeling as if I'd been released from prison, then of course realizing I had accomplished only the first stage. I still had to get up the treacherous slope on the track ahead of me, and realized I may still not be out of trouble yet.
      I drove forwards with what I thought was enough speed to take me through the muddy patch, and it did - just - then went forwards another couple of dozen yards. But at this point there was a very steep patch, made worse by a deep diagonal rut that forced the front wheels to one side - into another patch of mud. I just couldn't advance any further than that; but at least there was no tree behind me, and it was easy enough, owing to the downward slope of the track behind me, to slide backwards out of the mud. I reversed a few dozen yards down the hill again, and tried again, trying my best to twist the steering wheel hard to the right just before I reached the rut that forced me into the mud. But I couldn't. The rut was too deep, and kept forcing me into the mud, no matter how I turned the steering wheel, and no matter whether I was going fast, slow, or in between. I tried four or five times with no success, and realized I was still stuck on that infernal road.
      I had a new thought then, and changed tack. I decided to go all the way down the hill and see if maybe it would be better to go through the puddle at the bottom that blocked me going the other way. Maybe I could get through after all, although I was hesitant, because I could see that that puddle might entrap me far more securely than the mud patch and the tree stump had done before. But I decided to see if maybe I could find a way around the puddle.
      When I got there, I found a large tree right by the road next to the puddle; but on the other side of the tree, to the left, and just next to the fence, there was a rough patch of ground covered with grass, fallen branches, and the like. I thought I might be able to drive through there if I removed the branches, and would bypass the puddle that way. At the same time I found myself wondering why I hadn't thought of that a couple of hours before, when I started getting into trouble. And I realized why I hadn't. When I had first come to the puddle and decided to turn back, I wasn't yet in trouble, and expected to just go up the hill the way I'd come and leave the whole road behind. Because of this, at that point, I didn't even think to observe whether there was a way around the puddle; I had just decided to turn back, and that was all there was to it. Only now did I really notice for the first time that it would be possible to get around the puddle.
      Well, I did get around it with little trouble, driving carefully just in case I might get stuck in soft ground there. The underbelly of the car got entangled with branches that rattled and banged under there for miles afterwards, but I got through, and back onto the track.
      Of course I was now wondering if it would turn out to be a dead end, and I would have to go back the way I'd come after all - and the track got dismayingly narrow once or twice. To be sure, my map indicated that the road wasn't a dead end, but that was cold comfort; after all, earlier in the night, the map had failed to inform me of another road that had been blocked off. But after a while I saw it was getting wider on the whole and it turned west, and joined with the road I had originally thought it led to. I pulled onto that road thankfully, and wended my way through the back roads onto the Maroondah Highway once more, and went home. I got back at about 3.30 a.m., vowing never again to go onto such treacherous roads, especially in such lonely parts, and especially in the darkest hours of night. I must have had rocks in my head to do that, and to take alarm and try to back out only when it was too late. [e]

      Bivalia: So that was the adventure you earlier referred to, was it?

      Michael: Yes. But I guess I live happily ever after, having come out of it; or at least I go back to the normal routine of life, if not live happily ever after.

      Bivalia: It will be happily ever after for all humanity, if only you take the long-term view.

      Michael: Well, once it was over, I suppose I wasn't so upset, and at least it's given me the material over which to have a session with you. Perhaps it was almost worth it for that. It prompted thoughts which led to an interesting discussion we might not have otherwise had.

      Bivalia: This is true. That's perhaps the best way to regard it.

      Michael: Anyway, sorry to cut this off, my friend, but I've run down and reached a natural conclusion, and I'm starting to think of bath and bed.

      Bivalia: Go and enjoy them. We've done some good work tonight.

      Michael: I didn't interrupt the flow of conversation to mention it, but I did break off to go to Lilydale to get something to eat. I also took the rest of that meat to give the cat, but the cat was nowhere to be found. There were a couple of teenagers hanging about outside, and the man in the service station was outside washing all the concrete with a hose. I didn't think the cat would be anywhere near with all that going on, the way it's scared and suspicious of humans. I decided it would be best not to leave the meat there, where the man might see me, and perhaps not approve.
      I'll drop in there tomorrow on my way to my mother's and leave it there.

      Bivalia: I'm sure puss will thank you. See you later.

      Michael: Thank you for coming, and good night.


[a] Tuesday, 26 March, 2002 - "Bivalia:":
      See the first
note at the end of the dialogue for Monday, 13 June, 1994, for the meaning of the name "Bivalia", and why I adopted it in these dialogues as the name for my Higher Self. [Back]

[b] Saturday, 8 February, 2003 - [Discussion about the possible need to find a motel room in the middle of the night]:
      I think the situation would have been even worse than I described in the dialogue. I think I was a bit out of touch with the cost of things, for a start: motel room tariffs vary widely according to location, but I think $40 or $50 is very much on the low side as far as estimates go, for almost any location - even allowing for some inflation since 1998, when this dialogue was written. It appears, however, that a motel room in that area would have been at least double the price I mentioned here.
      The next piece of bad news awaiting me (if I had had to resort to doing this) would have been that there are no motels in Coldstream - only two in the more distant Lilydale.
      I was very relieved when I finally got out of my fix and escaped, without having to resort to walking close to 10 miles in the dead of night to a distant and expensive motel room. [

[c] Friday, 6 July, 2001 - "(To put it crudely, we would have to bog against a tree and make do without toilet paper, or soap to wash up with.)":
      It now occurs to me that this is a slight exaggeration, or slight oversimplification; it ignores the undoubted fact that people who lived "close to nature" in olden times had all sorts of techniques for making life more comfortable, or at least more tolerable. I'm willing to bet that toilets of a sort (admittedly, not flush toilets) are millennia old, and that soap and some kind of toilet paper or other cleaner predate modern technology by just as long a time. And if an ecological crisis forced us to live like that once again, no doubt much of the knowledge for improving life would be resurrected, or rediscovered anew.
      But once you start doing things like that (things like constructing toilets, or making crude substitutes for soap or toilet paper), you are already beginning to step on that long path of modifying or adding to nature that ultimately leads to the kind of technology we have now, which (or at least the misuse of which) some blame for the currently looming ecological crisis. But, regardless of how much or little technology itself is to blame for the crisis, we really have no choice, it seems to me. I have my doubts as to whether human beings would be capable of surviving at all, without any technology whatsoever: not even bows and arrows, not even knives, string - nothing. We simply don't have the strength, speed, agility, fur, teeth, claws, and so on which most other animals have, which enable them to live without technology or artifacts of any kind. It's as if our very biology predestines us to rely on technology, and on the brains that are required to create technology.
      Thus the scatological comment I made, although crudely oversimplified, seems to make the valid point that nature itself, unmodified, is quite unaccommodating of the standards of comfort or cleanliness or convenience that we humans consider essential for a decent life. [

[d] Friday, 30 March, 2001 - "... essential gulf between man and nature...", "... a sense in which humanity is fallen.":
      Although I dislike, and refuse to use, some of the more extreme distortions of the English language that political correctness and gender-neutral or inclusive language cause, I usually try to avoid needlessly setting gender limitations or perpetuating gender stereotypes - and I think my Higher Self, in these dialogues, has the same view: very inclusive in general outlook, but unwilling to use distorted and self-conscious language. Nevertheless, here and on several occasions later in the dialgoue, he used the term "man" here as a generic term, rather than humanity - as did I myself a couple of times. And this was even in places where "humanity" could have been used just as easily and idiomatically - and indeed, the term "humanity" appears in the dialogue more often than does "man" in the generic sense. I think I hardly need to point out that "man" is purely generic in this context, and is intended to cover all humanity - as surely should be obvious from the context to anyone reading this, except perhaps those preoccupied with a supposed gender war, and who think there's some sort of campaign to use language to increase the dominance of men over women. Needless to say, if such a gender war does exist, and if language is used to further it, neither I or my Higher Self had the least thought of this in having this dialogue.
      I can only presume that "man" was sometimes used instead of "humanity" (by both of us) for the sake of variety: overuse of a particular word can sometimes become monotonous and obtrusive, and variations on it, when completely natural and spontaneous, may enhance the writing.
      Later, Bivalia also used the pronoun "him" to refer to "man", thus: "There is a sense in which nature sees itself as being in a similar situation as man, and throws in its lot with him." This may be another reason why the term "man" cropped up: it uses the personal pronoun "he" or "him", whereas "humanity" can only use "it". Given that human beings generally are very much alive, and therefore so is humanity, it seems more appropriate to use a more personal-sounding pronoun than "it", which would sound quite unsuitable in such a context. Yet you cannot use "he" (or "she") to refer to "humanity" without being grammatically wrong; so using "man" and "him" seems a very natural way around the problem.
      Those who are determined to see some sinister agenda in the occasional use of gender-specific language will not be dissuaded by anything I say, and I will not try to argue this any further. I just added this note lest anyone who reads the dialogue think for a moment that my Higher Self or I are being sexist in a way that doesn't seem to fit in with the general spiritual outlook these dialogues expound.
      (And I think the use of "man-made" a few times hardly needs comment at all - or needs only the afterthought I'm now giving it. You can't say "human-made" without sounding contrived, and in some contexts there is no other synonymous word or phrase that sounds natural (terms like "manufactured" not fitting in well at all). In my opinion, objecting to "man-made" is almost on the level of insisting on calling manholes "person holes", or objecting to words like "manage" or "mankind". It has to be faced that, historically, the word "man" has a very well-established generic sense applying to all human beings, that grammatically it does command the masculine pronoun, and that the English language, for better or worse, is still full of such references. There is a limit beyond which I am unwilling to continue trying to purge all such references.) [

[e] Friday, 30 March, 2001 - [Apropos of the incident of being stuck on the lonely road]:
      For anyone who's interested, and who knows the area, this incident took place on Cahillton Rd., Gruyere - or rather, the lonely track which is effectively a southward extension of Cahillton Rd.
      Healesville, where I live, is about 10 miles north-east of the Melbourne suburb of Lilydale, which is on the outer eastern border of the metropolitan area. The Maroondah Highway passes out of the suburbs through Lilydale, and goes on through the wine-growing area of the Yarra Valley to Healesville. Just outside Lilydale, the Warburton Highway branches off the Maroondah Highway and runs a winding path due roughly east through the Warburton Valley to the town of Warburton, perhaps 20 miles eastwards. The Maroondah Highway runs due north a mile or so and leads into the small town of Coldstream, and then turns first north-east, then east, then north-east again, to lead to Healesville 10 miles or so further on. So the Maroondah Highway and the Warburton Highways run roughly parallel and eastwards for some distance, and separated by a blunt-ended and gradually widening wedge about 7 miles wide - and the area where the incident I described took place is located in the rather lonely area in between the two highways.
      There are various roads within this area, one or two being made roads, and the rest dirt roads. The location (I wouldn't even call it a town or village) of Gruyere is located around the intersection of the two main roads within this area: Killara Rd. runs eastwards, beginning out of Coldstream, and another road begins there and goes off soutwards, forming a T intersection. And Cahillton Rd., an unmade road, comes from the north and intersects with Killara Rd. half a mile or so eastwards of the T intersection. It continues southwards for about half a mile, then narrows and leads into the lane I described, which then turns westwards suddenly some hundreds of yards further on, until it meets the southward road leading from the T intersection another few hundred yards further on.
      Today, I had occasion to pass fairly close to this area, and I decided to revisit the track Cahillton Rd. turns into, just to see what it was like now, and to see what it brought to mind relating to this incident. And I was quite astonished at what I saw. Cahillton Rd. didn't merely "peter out" into the lane I described, but came to a very definite dead end, from which the track then continued. It immediately looked non-navigable, and I decided to stop the car there and get out and walk down the track. As I walked down the hill, I was utterly surprised that I had ever even contemplated driving down there in the middle of the night, because I could see that it was barely even deserving of the name of a track, as I described it in the dialogue - I would have thought "footpath" would be a closer description. To be sure, I think a car could possibly force its way through (ploughing through a few bushes along the way), but there is no way I would want to actually drive through there in broad daylight, never mind the middle of a winter's night.
      I am left wondering whether the track had simply become more overgrown in the nearly 3 years since this incident had taken place (I had not visited the area again in the intervening time), or whether it was more or less the same back then, and the darkness and faint moonlight filtering through the thin clouds had simply caused me to overlook many of the details of the scene, and perhaps caused the track to look wider and clearer than it in fact was. I think it may be a bit of both: I am sure I saw at least certain parts where everything was more overgrown; but I also think perhaps the darkness did also play tricks on my eyes and made the road look safer than it really was.
      I walked all the way down, and the distance was less than it seemed on that lonely night. (You could easily walk from the top of the hill where I left my car today to the point where the track turns westward in five minutes or so.) And once again I felt the wildness and loneliness of that area, albeit less acutely. I saw insects in the air, and kept hearing rustles in the grass, and wondered if they were merely little lizards, or perhaps even snakes which I should be careful to avoid. (To that end, I made sure I rustled through grass and twigs noisily to warn snakes off, remembering that if they are not cornered they prefer to run away from humans than to attack.) There was no doubt: that area had a certain spirit to it, and I could perceive it, although of course it seemed different and less threatening in broad daylight on a lovely sunny autumn day.
      There were dollops of cow dung on the ground, and I could smell a faint smell of cattle, although I couldn't seem to see any actual cows nearby. The fields on both sides of the road were empty apart from grass, and obviously used for cattle pasture. The sides of the narrow path were still lined with trees on both sides, with tangled bushes between them, so that the whole formed a long, narrow thicket stretching north and south between two empty expanses on either side. The width of the path and its border of trees on either side was perhaps little more than 10 yards. There were blackberries in some places, too, which I didn't remember seeing three years ago. Whether they had sprung up since then, or whether I just didn't see them during that moonlit night, I don't know. However, I would certainly have felt them that night if I had blundered into them - but I suppose in the area where I went out of the car there were probably no blackberries.
      I couldn't get over the way everything looked quite different, and for a moment wondered if I had mistakenly come to a different lane from the original one. But no, I was able to see features of the surrounding area that made it certain it was the same area. I wondered whether my memory of that earlier incident was less reliable than I had believed (finding memory less than reliable being a possibility, in life generally, that I feel rather uneasy about), or whether it was just because I was now seeing things in daylight and in a different frame of mind; I also realized that things could have become quite a bit more overgrown in three years, and perhaps I was underestimating the degree to which that can change the entire appearance of a location.
      I walked to the bottom of the hill, and it only took a few minutes, and the distance was much shorter than it seemed on that night - only a few hundred yards, in fact. I looked for that puddle in the middle of the track which had originally prompted me to turn back: because the weather has been dry recently, I didn't expect it to be filled with water; but I thought I might see the depression in the ground, with rough tyre-tracks leading into it. To my surprise, I could see no sign of it, nor even of the track itself. The track itself seemed to utterly disappear and was replaced by thick bushes and undergrowth.
      I then looked for the rough area on the other side of a tree there which I had eventually used to skirt around the puddle, and to my surprise I couldn't see that either - in fact, the entire area's geography just seemed entirely different. I could see that one or two trees had fallen down, and broken branches were scattered around; and I didn't remember seeing a fallen tree three years ago. But I said in the dialogue that there was a tree next to the track near the big puddle, on the other side of which I had finally driven, and it is clear that this was the tree that had fallen, and I suppose its bulk hid many of the features of the landscape that might have helped me to recognize things better. And a lot of undergrowth had sprung up and obscured yet more details. It is obvious that I have underestimated the power of growing grass, bushes and trees to complete transform a landscape, even within a mere three years.
      I was interested enough to continue walking to see what things were like, and the turn to the right (westwards) occurred very shortly after the area where the tree had fallen. The lane improved at this point, and perhaps five hundred yards on joined the main road that branched off Killara Rd. southwards at Gruyere. The wayside was filled with blackberries, which seem to be endemic in that area; it reminded me of Stirling, in the Adelaide hills, where for a couple of years I lived as a child, and brought back memories of long childhood walks, and picking blackberries, from which my mother cooked the most delicious tarts, served with cream.
      As soon as I reached the main road, I turned back, and paused at the bend, where the lane now turns northward. I saw a path leading off to the right, and decided to follow it for a short distance. After curving around a few bushes (and a sign warning that the blackberries in that area had been sprayed with herbicide), it went off southwards in a more or less straight line. It continued to go between fenced-off fields on either side, with trees and bushes occurring only in the thin strip between the two fences, but now it was a very rough foot-track indeed, covered with tree branches, blackberry sprays, and fallen bark and twigs. Once again I felt the overwhelming presence of natural forces, and felt a bit out of place. I was conscious of the need to watch out for snakes (not knowing if in this earlier part of autumn they had yet started to hibernate). The field on my left was empty grass-covered pasture, and the one on my right contained neat rows of hundreds of trees. I couldn't identify them, but they were obviously being cultivated on a farm. This track led up another hill, and I decided to turn back after a couple of hundred yards. It would continue on for several miles, because my street directory, although not covering the area I was now in, did show a dotted line a few miles further south, close to the Warburton Highway, and displayed it as a continuation of Cahillton Rd.
      When I reached the main track, I continued northward, and once again passed the area where the tree had fallen, and where the puddle had been, and I lingered a little and examined the area more closely. I wanted to try to determine where the puddle had been; surely a few years' growth of bushes couldn't completely obscure that. And I found it wasn't completely obscured - but it was totally transformed. I came upon a sudden area amongst all the shrubbery and blackberries where there was a low-lying patch of completely different plants, a roughly circular area perhaps 15 or 20 feet across. I don't know what these plants were, but they were straight and thin, two or three feet tall, with deep green shiny leaves, and look like water-plants of some sort. Nearby I also saw a fringe of tall, thin reeds or rushes of some sort. Obviously this was where the puddle had been, and it would still tend to accumulate water because of being a low point, and these water-loving plants had obviously gathered there in a location which probably becomes quite swampy in wet weather. The appearance of this patch amongst the more native-looking shrubbery and blackberries (which are not native) was quite delightful, and seemed to have a spirit of its own.
      Anyway, I continued up the hill, and tried to locate the area where my car had become stuck. I couldn't: I saw no sign of the small tree I had broken off, and saw no signs either of the especially steep, treacherous section of the track where my car had kept skidding. No doubt three years' rain had created many more ruts in the surface and transformed its topography out of all recognition. I had a powerful sense of the way nature could, in time, obscure almost anything that man can do to the landscape.
      Well, I made this little expedition on foot partly for nostalgia, and partly to see how things looked three years further on. And of course it brings to mind that so often we live our lives separate from nature, cocooned from it by our modern comforts, and we lose our sense of connection with it, probably heightening that alienation we seem to have from nature, as discussed in the dialogue itself. I don't deprecate the modern comforts, and I like them as much as anyone does, and I don't think we should necessarily abandon them. But, in spite of the ambiguous feelings I have about nature, as discussed in the dialogue, it reminded me that it is good sometimes to get amongst nature, to try to draw close to it at least for a little while occasionally. There is no doubt: in spite of that alienation, there is also a deep, subtle connection between humanity and nature which we cannot always explain, which will not go away now matter how much we obscure it, and which will keep coming back to haunt us year after year, even if we ignore it most of the time.
      And I thought readers of the dialogue might be interested to read of my second visit to the area and the thoughts it prompted - which is really my only reason for writing this footnote. The dialogue itself seems to cover the important parts of my feelings about the relationship of humanity to nature, and this note is little more than an afterthought, a by-way I wanted to record here. [

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