My amazing and devastating holiday in the Australian Outback.
To spend time in the Australian Outback is to bathe in magnificence and devastation. I’ve just returned from a 3000 kilometre journey from the east coast of NSW to the far north western corner of the state and back again.
Once you’re over the Great Dividing Range the inland landscape is vast, often flat and monotonous for hundreds of kilometres.
The forces at work here are also vast and immensely powerful.
To see a plague or rabbits or goats in their millions eating everything in sight is shocking. I saw the rabbits many years ago in a similar childhood journey “out west” and now the goats have replaced them as the main feral pest.
It’s shocking to watch ancient River Red Gums die in a drought and ancient creek beds silt up with the debris of soil erosion.
To stare into the pit of a huge open cut mine or to drive for hours past laser-flattened cotton fields and paddocks full of sheep left me feeling stunned.
The huge amount of work humans have put into extracting resources from this land and altering it to suit their narrow-minded purposes is mind boggling.
And yet, these monumental human efforts are completely dwarfed by the forces of nature. In my 10 day journey over 3000 kilometres I drove through flooded farmland and over swollen rivers in the east of NSW and then into drought stricken rangelands in the far west where few plants and animals have survived. Finally, on my way back to the coastal country I call home, I drove through the alpine forests of Kosciusko National Park and witnessed the devastation caused by repeated fires. Dead trees as far as the eye could see.
The forces of drought, fire, floods and pests are playing in this landscape at a scale and intensity that overwhelms everything that humans can come up with.
The human ego wants to extract what it can from the land (even if that’s just a pleasant holiday experience) and it also fears change and loss.
I noticed the fear of change and loss coming into my mind as I drove and walked over this country that I love. I noticed the impulse to try and control the uncontrollable; to see all the problems and try and think of all the solutions. How can we fix climate change? How can we control the goats? How can we undo the damage caused by European colonisation and resource extraction?
The mind easily gets caught up in trying to find the cause of the problems, to blame someone or something and then it wants to attack.
In the past my emotional reactions to being in this landscape were strong. Sometimes there was the urge to fight — to try and blame and fix. Sometimes there was the urge to flee — to run away and distance myself from the magnitude of the problems I saw. And sometimes there was just the deadening sense of overwhelm and withdrawal.
In contrast to past journeys in this country, this one was different. While I noticed the old patterns of the ego-mind at work and felt the twinges of these old emotional reactions they were muffled echos of their past strength.
On this journey the only really devastation was experienced by the ego.
The only real loss were the stories of the identity that began to drop away a little more;
“I need to feel safe, secure and in control of life.”
“I’ve got to identify a problem, have an opinion and find a solution.”
“I need to get love, support and security from my family and my environment.”
Some fragments of these old beliefs were swept away by the endless plains, the red dust and the huge, magnificent sky. The scale of the environment and the forces of nature overpowered the stressful thoughts.
The quiet and stillness of the open horizon allowed the energy of the land, which is the energy of ALL THAT IS to fill all of “my” inner space.
Another chunk of my identity was humbled into taking a long holiday. With any luck it won’t return.
This journey has given me some precious gifts. There’s a new acceptance of Life in all of its power. The acceptance of change, death and loss is not something that many people go looking for, (I certainly didn’t) but it feels like a most profound and wondrous gift that brings great freedom.
Acceptance is not that popular. It’s not going to excite you or make me seem more attractive or worth liking.
Acceptance is peaceful. It creates more space for the gentle, powerful, kind nudges of intuitive knowing to be heard and acted on.
This journey was a wonderful trip into the dissolution of the illusion of a separate person and a more humble merging with the flow of Life and Beingness. Love has even more room to flow from the endless Source within. Love of the land, love of change and love for the crazy, innocent humans who surround and support me is swelling in my heart.