How to make sense of the beauty of nature on New Zealand's South Island. That is what I'm about at this moment, as I look through the window of our AirBNB accommodation bedroom at the clouds hanging over the snow capped mountains.
I can admire the people here on the South Island. Especially their plucky approach to facing the challenges of the natural environment. The Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes of the last few years, and the 'weather bomb', as they call it, that has hit them in the past week, closing roads and disrupting lives.
But its magnificence is another thing.
Yesterday my travel companion Bernard had a word that described his experience of it. Rapture.
I had a mixed reaction to that. What comes to mind is the end of times event from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. According to the prediction, Christian believers who have died will be raised to heaven and those still living will meet them in the clouds.
That doesn't help much. This kind of thing is the preoccupation of those who belong to some very weird branches of Christianity.
But it's a different story when I seek out its various dictionary meanings. A feeling of intense pleasure or joy. | A state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion. | A mystical experience in which the spirit is exalted to a knowledge of divine things.
I wonder where Bernard got this word from. It turns out that it's from the Australian writer Robert Dessaix, describing his experience of the sublime in the highest mountain passes in the world, in northern India.
'All I can see is snow and rock. I am thrillingly unhoused, yet snug. I am nothing, I am the whole world. The desolation is complete, the rapture not just beyond words, but thought. This is what abandonment means.' (The Saturday Paper, 1 Nov 2014).
We stayed in Arthur's Pass last week, the day before it was hit by the 'weather bomb' and isolated from the rest of the world. Then on Friday we drove through Haast Pass on Friday, on a beautiful sunny summer's day.
Were those experiences of the South Island mountain passes rapturous? Not exactly. But they do give me some understanding of what Dessaix is getting at.
We all have our particular moments of rapture. Their intensity varies, but they are still rapture.
For me during this trip, it was the orange rain clouds at sunset in Christchurch on the night of our arrival (some would see an allusion to the end of times meaning in the Book of Revelation!). For Bernard, it was the mirror reflection on Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier on the West Coast.
Being rapt is about being stopped in our tracks. Being suddenly able to see more than the mundane. A glimpse of what the divine is for us.
You don't need to be an afficianado of the Book of Revelation to experience rapture. Or even conventionally religious. It reaches many cultures, including youth culture. This is the Urban Dictionary's definition of rapt: 'Australian surfer slang, means excited. "oooo dude im so totally rapt".'