Taking a moment - by Camille Khouri
A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend a summit on Biophilia held at the beautiful Camp Glenorchy. As an architectural writer, my report on the many interesting facts, figures and concepts can be read on Architecturenow and an article will be printed in the next Interior magazine, but there is one point I wanted to explore from a personal standpoint.
It came from a presentation by lighting designer David Trubridge. He talked about the importance of connection to the Earth, and the problems caused by humans feeling disconnected to the rest of the planet’s ecosystems. This is an integral branch of Biophilia: connection to place. If a building has a strong connection to its site - the history of the place and the people that came before, and the land, birds and trees that reside there - then that building will be a healthier, happier space to inhabit. Trubridge does this through his lighting designs, with patterns and shapes derived from those found in nature, and by creating filtered, dappled light that is similar to that found outdoors.
He talked about his adventures in far-flung areas of the world, in which he bravely leaves behind the trail and finds true wilderness. Leaving the trail means being more acutely aware of your surroundings, because you must know where you are, to be able to find your way back. At the end of his talk, Trubridge encouraged the summit’s attendees to head out into the wilderness of Glenorchy, to leave the trail, find a spot and to sit and be still. Turn off your phone before you leave, he said. Inhale and deep dive into nature.
Inspired, I did this. I found a spot among the trees, actually not that far from the path, but a place where I could not be seen and I could not see anyone else. I sat in a little clearing with my back against a birch tree. Almost at once, I felt immensely calm. Piwakawaka twittered around me. The tree bent slightly with the wind; I could feel its movement against my back. I looked up and watched the sun dance among the leaves. The wind rushed by and tickled my hair. My senses were heightened and my head felt heavy, my movements slowed. I sat for probably ten minutes, then stood and walked away, feeling peaceful, refreshed and, yes, very much a part of nature.
I have since made this my modus operandi when I go for a jog or a walk. I encourage anyone to try it. It doesn’t take much to stray from the path, to find a spot that is secluded enough to feel this connection. Sometimes it is just off the track, in a clump of trees or the side of a bank, where passersby probably think you are looking for somewhere to pee. Forget them. Sit and be still. Watch what happens around you. Take note of the way the branches bend and the water trickles across rocks. Watch the movement of light through the trees and across the ground, the patterns it makes. Take note of the animals and insects that scurry around. You are one of them.
I don’t have to go far to find a place of solitude in Queenstown, and I know I am lucky in that fact, but even if you live in the city, there is sure to be a park somewhere where you can sit quietly, without looking at your phone or working on your to-do list, and just see what transpires. If we all feel connected to the world around us, surely this will help with the many environmental problems we face today. So go ahead, leave the trail. Be still. It will be the best meditation class you ever attended.