Tuesday, February 27, 2024
HomeOpinionFaithOn the Larapinta Trail

On the Larapinta Trail

Reveal Saddle, Northern Territory
Glimpses of horizon appear between the rocky outcrops. A shimmering sea, red and grand … and menacing, simultaneous and confusing. My emotions are jumbled. Scuffy the Tugboat, my childhood hero/villain, makes one of his spontaneous appearances. Scuffy the Tugboat, whose adventures down the river came to an abrupt end when he reached the mouth of the harbour and the existential threat of the “Sea with no Beginning and no End”. The frameworks of riverbanks and harbour foreshores have dropped away. All that was familiar has gone. My glimpse of my own Sea with no Beginning and no End, quickly retreats. I am high and going higher, I am looking down on to this sea, I am removed from the Sea, not in it. Ah, a sense of relief.

Brinkley Bluff, Northern Territory
The summit, the geographic view is immense. I find a rock that props up a prone and tired body. I gaze at the surrounds from this highest of vantage points. What comes readily to mind is the poet, William Blake, who said that they must ever believe a lie, who see with and not through the eye. So, what do I “see” up here beside the incomparable red hues of the ancient mountains? The “dark” side! This land has been the scene of colonial invasion, the scene of much violence, of destruction of culture, the very land has been taken by force and maintained by force; a combination of the colonial ideology, unjust law and “superior” weaponry. To be aware of history is to be in an inevitable state of ambivalence. It is to know that there is also a Black history, which can make my view from up here decidedly uncomfortable.

Maybe ambivalence is an inevitable accompaniment to an historical knowledge whenever I visit Brinkley Bluff in the West MacDonnell Range. But, in the long term, maybe not, for back in the town of Alice Springs there are people, the encouraging people, seeking to address the issues fuelling this ambivalence. They are bringing hope – they are doing God’s work.

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The Rev. Mel Macarthur is a retired Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia.

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