Autumn 2011 #2
Euphoric would be the only worthy adjective to describe the first day of Bugger’s rehabilitation. Thankfully she never stopped working altogether, but I had taken to making trips around the house slowly and in reverse to minimise the nerve-shattering cacophony issuing from some part of her mangled transmission. So it was pure bliss, unadulterated ecstasy, to select high speed and launch headlong (feet first?) down our drive and into the wilderness of suburbia once again. A handicapped re-birth! Fitted with a pair of brand new motors nothing was out of reach for B4 and I. Busses, shops, the post office, a few hours at our church office, what a fabulous day! I caught myself laughing out loud mid way over a zebra crossing. (Embarrassingly, I think it may have been a quizzical look from a fellow pedestrian that brought this to my notice!) My first day back on the road had – to be frank – something of a virginal quality to it (an allegory that falls technically short of the mark!) The second and third days of liberty were no less rewarding with an overnight train journey to visit our children (and attend a medical appointment, but who care’s about that?) On the fourth day I actually stayed home, but family came from near and far to celebrate a birthday. And today, day five in our emancipation, I preached in our church. (Yes, I spoke in public! A big, fat sound system in a quiet auditorium makes it quite possible to do what I can’t often manage in day to day life). This freedom is like a lungful of fresh air. Or, more potently, like a draught of cool water.
We live on the Murray River; famed of late for its demise. In recent years this once-great river has actually failed to reach its mouth, ecosystems have collapsed, and grand century-old river gums have died along hundreds of miles of its banks. But not this year. Floods have swept the country and the river runs full to the brink. Just beyond the hills beside our home is a sight more astonishing still: a vast body of water that was not there six months ago. Last summer Lake Hume languished, as it has for years, at well under ten percent of its capacity. Now it brims with three million megalitres of water, five times the volume of Sydney Harbour, its twin tributary rivers backed up for over 40 kilometres. Growing up on Sydney’s tidal foreshores I am used to water that stays reasonably in its place. You can expect the ocean to be there when you visit. In contrast this sudden appearance of a gigantic fresh-water reservoir is both wonderful and worrisome – not unlike the sudden independence that B4 and I have been indulging.
Euphoria, fun though it is, is a warning, and exhilaration cautionary. The thrill of my escape to freedom betrays a deficit in my internal world because I was not, in all honesty, content in temporary confinement. It’s a fine line of course: there is nothing fundamentally wrong with excitement, or with busses, or trains, or adventure; just as there is nothing intrinsically superior in seclusion. Indeed, family and church have been the only things to have drawn me out of the confines of the house in a fortnight, and I dearly love them both. Such things – all things – are always a matter of the heart.
I know I am making an enormous fuss over two measly weeks, but bear with me a little longer. I survived my two weeks quite well: I didn’t go stir crazy, I didn’t contract cabin fever. Survival, however, is not my goal. I am not satisfied with endurance. If I aim to thrive and flourish in whatever lies ahead, then there is work to be done in my internal world. I cannot spend my days waiting for the drought to end, the river to rise or the dam to fill. I won’t become captive to freedom. I will have to learn more of the art of silence; more of the meditation of the desert. There is another image that is neither lake nor harbour, a spring of water not subject to season or environment:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”