Saturday, September 29, 2018
Obviously we have settled into the more relaxed pace of northwestern Australia as I realize it has been more than a week since the last blog post. Sun and sand and heat and the rhythm of the ocean will do that!
One quick story from Michael who we met at Kooljaman when he asked to use our air compressor to inflate his air mattress on which he and his girlfriend were going to the spend the night on the beach hidden by a rock formation. He asked how we liked the rooftop tent and I mentioned that it was good protection from the 12 species of poisonous Australian snakes. His mate, he recounted was sleeping by the side of the road in his swag (sleeping bag and personal belongings). Apparently a snake snuggled up beside him looking for warmth. When the friend rolled over in the night, the snake bit him – fortunately not a deadly one.
Indigenous culture goes back between 40,000 – 60,000 years in Australia but suffered from European colonialism as in Canada. A revival appears to be happening in Broome or at least in some of the indigenous families here. A highlight of our time in Broome has been the Cultural Indigenous boat tour with Bart Pigram. Of mixed ancestry including aboriginal and a Scottish Canadian who seems to have been a bit of a rogue Bart embarked on his own personal revival 10 years ago. From his father and his father’s 6 brothers, aunties and local elders Bart learned the Yawuru language, and by listening to the oral history of his people learned his history, stories, songs, ceremonies and sacred places.
Ten of us sat under cover on a catamaran that cruised through Roebuck Bay while Bart gave us the Yawuru names for important people, places, flora and fauna. My question, “what makes a place sacred?” elicited a long and thoughtful response. Sacred places, he said, are where ceremonies happen or where there is art, or which are associated with stories and songs. Some sacred places are only for women, others are only for men. Same with songs and stories. Not everyone has the right to a particular story. There is a reverence for the sacred whether places, stories, songs and traditions.
Have we lost that reverence, I wonder, that sense of the sacred, something that calls from us a response of awe, mystery, gratitude, perhaps the recognition that there is something/someone, some creative intelligence that is greater than our own?
The Dragonfly Café in town not only makes great English Breakfast tea but they present it with style. A bamboo tray has 3 circles, one for the pot with proper tea leaves, one for the cup and another tiny one for the milk, not cream (!). A spoon lies parallel to the long side of the tray. The pottery is turquoise. Ahhh…. Beauty increases the pleasure of food and drink.
Many afternoons find us sitting under the awning attached to the side of our truck, not at the campsite but on the north end of Cable Beach accessible only to 4WD vehicles. This afternoon most of Australia was rivetted to the national AFL footy finals, similar to the Grey Cup, which meant that the 15 km beach was almost deserted. Geoff ploughs into the surf while I wander in up to my knees, and devour books about one every 5 – 6 days. (Geoff: What we didn’t do was pay $90 for a short camel ride along Cable Beach, an iconic Broome touristic attraction
Broome is ideal for stargazing. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the west and the outback north, south and east, there is not a lot of ambient light. Greg Quick, who chafed against the academic study of marine biology (sorry Erin!) became a pearl diver where he learned about the moon’s influence on the tides, and later worked in the outback sleeping under the stars in his swag. So began his love of the movement of the stars, planets and the earth. He is a self taught practical astronomer who shares his knowledge and passion in a dynamic nighttime presentation. Using lasers he pointed out constellations, planets and the brighter stars. With about 10 very large telescopes for viewing we each looked at Saturn, the crescent Venus, Jupiter and its 4 moons, the rosy tinted Mars and open clusters of stars.
Greg’s “aha” that he shares is that our language and therefore our unconscious understanding of the universe is that it is the moon and sun that rise and set and that our earth remains fixed. We may “know” this is not true but we probably don’t give it much thought. By the end of his captivating presentation I had a very different sense of the movement and rhythms of the universe. Not that I understand it, but that I look at the heavens differently now, with a better appreciation of cycles and patterns.
Tomorrow (Sunday, Sept. 30) we leave this part of paradise to begin our adventure south.