Living in the middle of suburbia I often feel cut off from the wild places in Australia which have become such a major source of nourishment for me on the journey. Sadly, what I often fail to see is the beauty in suburban gardens and the small wild place that exist in my very own backyard and suburb.
Nature though has a way of taking us by surprise, wherever we may live, reminding us of its presence and of the creator.
Today, as I was pounding my regular beat around the footpaths of my suburb, I was drawn to the colours, fragrances and textures of spring. Behind, through and over the fences of suburban yards a cornucopia of roses, irises, daisies, callistemon, wisteria, jasmine and more were displaying their joy at the return of Spring in their riot of colours and their heady fragrances that filled the air.
I was drawn back to memories of spring as a child when the days moved slowly enough for me to spend what seemed like an eternity exploring the garden around the house and the bush that surrounded us on two sides. From sunrise to dusk, and often into dark, I would explore the world of nature around me. Outside the bees would be lazily sipping from the wild tangle of Jasmine growing crazily with the arrival of spring. Roses burst forth with their rich dark reds and soft pinks enticing me to pick their petals, to then rub the velvety petals against my cheek and to draw in their soothing aroma. Further afield in the bush where delicate orchids, pink trigger plants and pink heath appeared in spring, I would be drawn to pick a posy of wild flowers to take home to my mother as a sign of my love for her and my joy at the new growth and vitality that spring brought with it.
As I continued to walk today, reminiscing about years gone by in the tamed garden and wild bush where I spent my childhood, I was suddenly thrust, by a familiar high thin whistle, to another memory of place, that of the billabongs, backwaters and the river of my mother’s childhood and later retirement home. Looking around me, I searched for the source of the sound, finally to spy high above me, perched on the electricity wires, an Azure Kingfisher. Far from its freshwater rivers this beautiful bird reminded me that even here in suburbia, where we often attempt to tame nature, the wild intrudes just as God so often unexpectedly does in our daily lives.
I have returned to live in suburban Australia this year, after three years spent working in Central Australia. It has been a struggle to adjust to street lights, neighbours and traffic. But most of all the hardest adjustment has been living with the ache in my heart for the blue skies, the dark red rugged landscape and the deep quiet of the bush of Central Australia. Like the Azure Kingfisher far from water I have felt cut off from my source of nourishment. In the harsh often eerily quiet desert landscape God is strongly present to me. There, without the distractions of modern life, I cannot ignore God’s presence which intrudes into my senses through the sand beneath me as I sit in a dry river bed, the touch of a warm breeze on my sweaty face of the call of a falcon of the hunt.
I am slowly learning, here in the city, that God is present too and not just in the desert. Spring is an awakening of this knowledge as I marvel at the prolific growth and colours bursting forth in both suburban gardens and in the bush that surround the city. God is in both the tamed and the wild and is a source of water and nourishment but eventually, wherever I am, I must return to be fed by its life giving properties. Unlike the Azure Kingfisher however, I can find this source of nourishment in all of creation. God may sometimes have to take me by surprise to remind me of this fact but in reality all I really need to do is to look, listen, wait and remain open to God’s loving presence wherever I am and I will be nourished.
2011, Eaglehawk, Victoria, Australia.