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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Camping (07/11/05)

TITLE: A Sacred Site
By Val Clark
07/12/05


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Where do I pitch my pup tent? I’ve never made that decision alone before. There always was.... I bite my lip. I will not go there. This journey is about the future.

A middle aged woman alone; it is important I find a place where I will feel safe.

Girls skip outside a large tent. Their thick rope slaps the road rhythmically. An older woman holds one end chanting, ‘One potato, two potato, three potato four.’ This will do.

Within minutes the tent is up. The car unloaded.

After a virtually unbroken, fifteen hundred kilometre drive through the centre of Australia, in extreme heat and with a broken air conditioner, I desperately need a shower.

I let the cold water flow over me. For the first time in seven months I am as cold on the outside as on the inside. The long drive has left we weary and I sleep for several hours.

In the early afternoon I walk around, rather than climb, Uluru – Ayers rock – in deference to the desire of traditional owners, the Mutijulu Aboriginal community. The ten kilometre walk around this sacred site is exhausting. I eek out my one litre of water. A small jagged rock catches my attention. It would be good to have a souvenir, something I couldn’t buy in a shop.

Photographs and memories make the best souvenirs. Memories are all I have left.

There is no epiphany.

I return to my tent. Every available camping space is taken.

I’ve camped in many places in our wide brown land. Until today I always shared the experience with the one person I cherished above all others. We shivered in the Grampians. Had a kangaroo hop into our tent and join us for breakfast in the Carnarvon Ranges of Western Queensland. Soaked in the mining town of Burra. Experienced the utter silence of off-road camping at Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. Bathed in icy outback waters. Shared the worst bottle of port outside out rent, watching the sun set across the sea at Noosa.

Tonight, in the middle of Australia, on the eve of the millennium, I am searching for something special.

The Portuguese set eyes on this continent long before the British used it as a dumping ground for criminals. In 1606 Pedro Ferdandez de Quiros believed 'Terra Australis' would be ‘Australia del Espiritu Sancto’ — the Southland of the Holy Spirit.

Will I find that spirit in the land of the Aboriginal Dreaming? Will it reveal itself to me on this momentous night, in this sacred spot? Will it bring meaning back to my life?

Around me people are partying hard. I carry a cask of cheap wine and am accepted into a group of people sitting within a circle of home made teepees, playing guitars and singing.

At last there is no one to console me with empty words. Accept it and move on. It is the will of God.

Every day I challenge God. ‘Why did you do this to me? If you exist, show me your face so that I can spit on it. Oh, I will find you alright. You can’t hide from me.’

At midnight a bagpiper pipes Old Langs Syne. There is cheering, honking of horns, kissing and hugging.

Much later, in the silence, I wait expectantly. Eventually I fall asleep, eyes closing on an amazing display of stars, prolifically stitched across the darkest blanket of sky I’ve ever experienced. No earthly light, no spiritual revelations either.

On the first day of the millennium I visit the Olgas – Kata Tjuta – forty eight kilometers from Uluru, to watch the sun rise. Will this be my magical moment? I wait in breathless anticipation. The sun shoots its first rays of colour from behind the Olgas. Interrupting the utter silence dingo howls, long and clear, heralding the day. The hair stands up on the back of my neck.

I return slowly to the car. A jagged rock sits on the passenger’s seat. I place it under a bush. Whatever I feel on this morning of the new millennium watching the sun rise on a sacred site I instinctively know it’s not enough to sustain me.

I return to the campsite, drink black coffee and plan the next leg of the journey to – I didn’t know where. I must keep on moving. I’ve become an itinerate, a homeless one, alone and searching for answers.


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This article has been read 1120 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Nina Phillips07/18/05
That was nicely written, so sad though. Even though this person was bitter, still searching for something (God?) to fill that void. God bless ya, littlelight
Kristy Cox07/18/05
Oh my gosh ... this is so sad; and what is even more sad is the ending. No reconciliation; no hope. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6. I know you don't want a sermon here, but perhaps this offers a way to go - camping out at Faith. In His Grip, KC
Kyle Chezum07/18/05
A deep, emotional piece. Well written. Good job!
dub W07/21/05
Wow, I stayed glued to this story, so full of emotional frustration, or disappointment, perhaps "stunned" is the word I'm looking for.
Suzanne R07/22/05
This is so sad ... so haunting ... and so beautiful. (Beautiful given that I'm not the main character - beautiful as an observer of your writing!) What a magnificent insight into grief and the struggle to make sense of it all. Well done.
Tammy Johnson07/22/05
What a beautiful and heartbreaking story of the journey to healing. I am so glad you left it unresolved because that is life sometimes! God doesn't always heal in an instant - it is a process. It seems this woman is so angry she is trying to find peace somewhere other than at the feet of her heavenly Father and of course she will be left wanting. Nice, thanks.
Lynda Lee Schab 07/23/05
There is so much packed into this piece. Lonliness...uncertainty...desperation...I'd love to see this expanded to include her full journey and what she ultimately finds.
Beautiful writing!
Blessings, Lynda
Christine Sparrow07/23/05
Sad is not a word I would use here. It's deeper than that. It speaks of an internal chamber that is crisp and sharp from lack of visitation, thats all. Rightly understood, this chamber really does offer a beauty that is a rare experience. I think it can almost qualify standing next to the beauty of holiness, because it's perhaps one of those emotions that border on the broken heart of Jesus also.
It was a great way to explain some of Australia's landscape too.
Shari Armstrong 07/23/05
Nice descriptions for those have not been able to visit the Land Down Under. A unique story.
Karen Jimmy07/24/05
This is absolutely beautiful. I love our wide brown land and I love stories of her people, tough as we have to be, struggling amidst the elements to discover our meaning and purpose. Your style is lovely and I really like this piece! Good onya!
Karen
Melanie Kerr 07/24/05
I haven't been there landscape wise - but I have been there spiritually. It left me wanting to know more and to read more of the struggle and its eventual solution.