Thursday, September 14, 2017

CP 283 A most wondrous painting...

CP 283 A most wondrous painting…
Friends, it is now well over two months since Rose and I hit the road with Fred and Inta Gollasch. Actually, that isn’t quite the right way to put it. If we have hit anything it’s those memorable places in Australia’s centre and west, many of which are somehow lodged in the nation’s collective genes. We have travelled vast distances. We began at Ayers Rock – Uluru (The dingo took my baby, It’s raining on the Rock), then the Olgas, then Kings Canyon and Alice Springs (Stuart - the Telegraph, the Ghan). Off along the MacDonnell Ranges to Hermannsburg and places like Standley Chasm and Ellery Big Hole. Follow that with the Devils Marbles and on to Barrow Creek where the Backpacker murder took place. You will no doubt recognise many of these place names because they are deeply etched into the Australian psyche and folklore. They are part of the mystique which embraces us.
To continue, Mataranka (We of the Never Never), Katherine Gorge, Litchfield (waterfalls, swimming), Darwin (Bombing, Cyclone Tracy, crocodiles), and Kakadu (Ubirr art site, crocodiles).  Off into WA, starting at Kununurra (The Ord River Scheme, crocodiles, Argyle diamonds). Down to the Bungle Bungles – Purnululu, then down to Hall’s Creek, Victoria River Crossing and Fitzroy Crossing. We’ve been through Broome (Cable Beach, pearls), and the Pilbara (Karijini, Tom Price – iron ore, red dust) and Exmouth (More cyclones, Turquoise Beach). Currently we are at Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef. We still have a bit of travelling to do and the WA wildflowers are between us and Perth.
On the way we’ve seen ever-changing landscapes, flora and fauna, and met fellow travellers from all parts of Australia and all over the world. They were young and old, grey nomads and young families, backpackers and youngish European professionals. Some had been on the road for 5 years, some go north every year for 4-5 months, and some overseas people were on the 7th or 8th trip to this country. A couple of times we have camped along the road but mostly we have stayed in caravan parks. Park facilities were occasionally suspect, but the people have invariably been friendly. We have always felt safe.
You might notice that I’ve used almost no adjectives! There’s a reason. Everywhere we met people I’d ask what they had enjoyed or appreciated most. As Macca would say on Australia All Over, ‘We heard stories so grand, of this vast timeless land.’ Probably the most frequent adjective we heard was ‘gorgeous’, followed by ‘gobsmacked’. Others included stunning, awesome, (by the younger set) amazing, breathtaking, gosh and wow. Much of what we saw Rose and I had seen on earlier trips but it was fresh and gripping in new ways. For Fred and Inta, everything, absolutely everything, was first time.
Inevitably we asked each other whether there was one overwhelming sight or place or experience. For Fred G it hasn’t been one specific thing but more about colour – the blazing sun on the red rock in the ranges and gorges, white gums against that fiery red background, the birds, the honeycomb striations in the ‘Bungle beehives’, the remarkable fresh green tips on the burnt spinifex after rain, or the turquoise waters of the West Coast, the colours of the reef fish. For Inta G, the spectacular unfolding of new vistas around every corner, and over every hill or sand dune, have kept her spellbound. Add to that the vivid sunsets, the brilliance and variety of the flowers of trees and bushes and midget shrubs, the birdlife, the wildlife. For Rose it was the never-ending variety on which she could feast her eyes and renew her spirit as the journey has unfolded.
My initial answer was to single out one place, one caravan park, on the edge of Lake Kununurra, for its peaceful stillness in the early morning and early evening each day. It was about birdsong and bird flight, sunrise and sunset on the surrounding hills, the occasional freshwater crocodile gliding silently by – serenity and tranquillity, restfulness, gentle conversations, drawing breath, a quiet ale.
One day a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that there was something else which had imprinted itself in my heart, and given me endless joy, day after day after day. And this was? Well, it was simply the way the vistas of the Outback, in their stunning variety and beauty and life, were forever overwhelming Fred and Inta. If their whole being were a canvas for a great artist, then he was painting a kaleidoscopic masterpiece for which words are both inadequate and superfluous. Those two have been experiencing the creation without being able to process it all, or even needing to process it at all. It’s been enough to simply be in it, to see the glory of it, to know the sacredness of it. More than that, their delight and joy and wonder at the marvel of creation became delight and joy and wonder in their Lord and God whose word spoke it into existence. Each day they have known fresh revelations of the creator, and though these impressions may have left them speechless, this in itself has become their praise of the Lord. They will never be the same. They have themselves become a wondrous revelatory painting…
Two comments…
First, something ugly. Just once I received an appalling answer to my query about what was most impressive. “You have no Mexicans and no blacks!” Obscene! Awful.
Secondly, an overwhelming sense of privilege about being able to do this travel, especially against a background of refugees streaming out of Myanmar, flooding affecting 41 million people in Asia, Mexican earthquakes, hurricanes impacting the Caribbean islands, Cuba, Haiti and Mexico, not forgetting the USA. We are so rich as a nation, as are many of us personally, overflowing with daily bread, even as some of our politicians tell us we are getting poorer and rush to cut back aid (and compassion) for the suffering and displaced and poor all over the world. It has sometimes felt self-indulgent and selfish. If Jesus were to address me directly I would…? This has to be changing me too.

Peace. Fred