25th November 2009
The desert retreat, "The Sands of Time" September 22-27 at Lake Mungo N.S.W. experienced a full range of weather patterns from a bone shaking storm soon after our arrival spiked with thunder and lightening to driving rain, icy cold winds, dust storm and mild sunny conditions. The delicate environment, renown for severe wind and rain erosion in an amazing way would treat us to a full display of natures might.
Plans were modified so that sheltering from a persistent wind, from behind the dunes on the eastern side of the lake, known as "The Walls of China" we were able to join in a Desert Eucharist. Sharing bread and cup we listened to Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones being read aloud above the noise of the wind. Following this with the only companion being our cut lunch we dispersed to find a position overlooking the dry lake bed for a period of lone reflection.
As we parted we asked the "Companioning God to bless us with strength as we walked the ancient lake and dunes."
A summary of my experience that day follows:
I pushed forward against the wind
that was becoming a gale.
I sheltered on the windward side
of a small gully,
a gully carved out by the winds of time
and still a corridor for dissolving
the mixed sand of clay and quartz
as part of the Mungo Lunette.
The sky had turned red
and I was desperate for protection.
I sat down and crouched, lowering my head.
This, I thought, must be the most desecrated,
shredded, power blasted place on earth and
who was I, to be doing here ?
Over ages and ages, like a maniac loose without mercy,
wind and rain stripped antiquity bare.
Battered ‘light houses' in the desert,
tough pinnacles of sand and clay
like candles on a cake
dotted the surrounds as far as eye dare see.
The wind was howling and howling and
there was no protection because
across the dry lake bed
the whole desert was now moving.
Particles of grit hit,
stinging my face,
invading my eyes, my hair,
my clothes, my bag,
the food between my teeth.
As far as the human eye could see,
there was no relief,
no way of stopping this monster,
or of reinstalling this beautiful shoreline,
once home to a people, wild forest with fauna and fish.
My pen scratched the paper, I could not record it.
The screen on my camera in red letters said,
"No memory". I could not capture it and
I knew in my heart a voice that said,
"Life itself is a mega movement of
unstoppable proportion" and
the screen in my heart said
in red letters, "Your bankrupt, now out of resources!!"
Then like the Desert Fathers and the Psalmist
I wanted to cry, "O God come to my assistance,
O Lord make haste to help me" and
in that moment I knew who I was.
I watched in amazement three dots in an eerie sky
Three crazy swallows already tempered through a grueling migration now came from nowhere into full view recklessly flying over skeletal remains.
Into the howl of the gale they darted
Further and further, up, up and against,
a quick right and a diving decent.
Another roll and catching a back draft
they are super propelled and driven away.
But no, they rise and up up against
unstoppable currents they frolic and
they laugh at my humble dismay.
They taunt my lone perch in that lonely gully
"Surrender your arrogance,
your self focused display", I heard them say,
"You are called to rest,
to trust the flow of the Creator's gale and
to soar and to soar over skeletal remains" and
I recalled Ezekiel's vision and
the goal of the Desert Fathers.
It was not the annihilation of the will
but an attitude to life,
a life open and united with God's will.
Then I let go to surrender and
I knew who I was.
Ted Curnow, Lake Mungo Retreat September 2009