KayDee wrote a wonderful post the other day about her love of the outback. Although I was not born in Australia, I love the outback too. It makes me feel Australian.
There are many things and behaviours that people from Europe or Britain or America consider to be characteristic of Aussies.
Surfers, utes, blue heeler dogs, shrimps on the barbie, the Crocodile Hunter, beer- swigging, chardonnay-drinking, vegemite-munching.
Most Aussies are coast dwellers. We live in urban environments. Sydney (where I live) is a typical of most cities around the world – busy, crowded, hustle bustle, multicultural. But is it truly indicative of what it means to live in Australia or be Australian?
One place is.
Look at that rock. Uluru in Central Australia.
I have stood there looking at it, feeling the red dirt between my toes. Hearing the spinifex crackle in the wind.
I felt my heart soar looking at that rock, ancient, immutable that has probably stood there for tens of thousands of years. It is the closest I have ever come to feeling the presence of God.
There is a reverence in the air that sweeps right out to the horizon. There is a preternatural knowing.
People who are not Australian say it is a young country. That it has no history to compare to that of Europe or Britain. My own father even quips on occasion that there are public toilets in Glasgow, Scotland that are older than Australia.
All those people are wrong. Australia is an old, old country.
Out at the rock where the sun turns your hair blue-gold there is a quiet certitude, a sigh like heaven itself is shifting.
There is a story there ingrained on the grasses and the dirt. As you walk you learn the story, and you smile because it is as if you knew it all along.
At night there are cool winds that sweep the smell of the umber dirt into your nostrils. Stars and ghosts dance. Birds fly into the swollen dark mirroring the call of their brothers breathed centuries before.
You might never have been there before looking at that rock pushed up like a gift from the centre of the earth. But when you finally make it you will understand without a word being spoken. There is such clarity of light there that the world appears without flaws. There is a recognition of what it is, a far-reaching sense of familiarity.
Uluru. One of the reasons why Australia is called the Great Southern Land.