Story telling from Australia
Broken Hill is on stage two water restrictions with the looming threat of stage three by the end of the year. Gardens can only be watered twice a week, between the hours of 11pm and 6am, and any rainfall has been frustratingly sparse and localised; some graziers are carting water while others have near-full dams.
The situation was made worse by the release of too much water from Menindee Lakes but the town has been here before. They’ll get through. A new bore, coupled with a new desalination plant, will supply water over the next couple of years, while everyone hopes and prays that the coming El Nino weather pattern won’t be as bad as forecast.
Out in the desert, wildflowers equipped to survive suddenly bloom after the briefest shower. There’s good news in the shape of a new solar plant too, one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. I’ll tell you more about that in a future post.
I’m writing this post on the train from Broken Hill to Sydney, after a weekend visit that renewed my love for the place. As we pulled away from the station I caught sight of my reflection in the window, smiling at wedge tailed eagles that circled on desert thermals. Further out kangaroos and emu grazed in nervous clumps and tall gum trees marked the line of a sandy creek bed. Yes, I’m biased. I love Broken Hill and its surroundings.
There was beauty in the smiling faces of people gathered to celebrate Jenny’s 80th birthday; in the sun glinting on the surface of the swimming pool – open for the first time since its long winter closure – and the initial shock of cold followed by the rhythmic cut and slice of arms and legs, sun warm on my back. There was beauty in the cheery hello from John in the cinema as we raced up the stairs, choc tops in hand, to catch the start of Last Cab to Darwin, a kind and gentle film that celebrates life in The Hill, never mind that it’s ostensibly a film about death and dying. There is no life without death, no death without life.
The weekend wouldn’t have been complete without a Friday night footie match and breakfast at the Silly Goat, yet still there wasn’t time to reconnect with all the friends I wanted to see. I walked the empty streets one night while Clyde was at a board meeting and spent a special evening reflecting on life and death with a dear friend while a full moon glowed in the sky outside. We didn’t make it out to a creek bed but we did drive out of town to watch the sun go down and the moon rise.
So here I sit on the train to Sydney, a journey of some 13 hours, with time enough to remind myself that life itself is a journey, not a destination. The final destination for all of us is death – and whatever might lie beyond – and I’m in no hurry to get there. For now I’ll enjoy the passing scenery as it slips from red earth and blue sky to greener pastures further east. I’ll move to a better seat if I can, to escape the endless chatter of excitable tourists, and if there’s no free seat I’ll simply keep looking out of the window, watching the world go by.
With no mobile signal for most of the journey I’m forced to set connectivity aside. What a blessed relief. And yes, I recognise the irony in later needing the internet to post this blog about relishing the lack of connectivity.
Clouds reach to the far horizon under a sky so big it’s impossible to see from one side to the other, clouds that darken with the promise of rain as we approach Condobolin. Paddocks clad in yellow rape brighten the horizon near Parkes and black night gradually closes in as we near Sydney, but not before beams of light break through the darkening cloud, conjuring up sudden unexpected memories of Sunday school hymns from decades past.
My suitcase is packed with Lynne’s unexpected gift of several kilos of quandongs – tiny, sharp tasting bush plums that will make tasty jam or chutney. They’ll keep in the freezer while I take a six-week sabbatical from blogging to re-connect with family and friends. I’m going to switch off as much electronic gadgetry as I can.
I’ll see you when the dust settles.