… or ‘How I learned to love the Rock’
While Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park may be the most iconic tourist attraction in Australia, many visitors may get so caught up in the ‘tourist trap’ that they miss what the magic of this sacred place is all about.
Out here nothing changes, not in a hurry anyway.
You feel the endlessness with the coming of the light of day.
We’re talking about a chosen place,
You wouldn’t sell it in a marketplace.
— Shane Howard
I’m standing in the supernatural silence under the NW face of Uluru. Around me, a thick corpse of mulga trees and bloodwoods standing over lush undergrowth.
This watering hole is mostly dry except for a small pond at the base, and I find myself looking up at a massive wall of rock towering over where I stand.
The approach to this section was sunny and windy, with birdsong smattering the soundscape. Here it is silent and still. I stand in this place reverently and open my peripheral senses in order to be completely present.
I watch a small marsupial munching on the plentiful ground cover, obviously unthreatened by my presence.
The silence is broken by the approach of tourists, noisily stomping through along the trail. I watch as they approach the dead-end of the walking trail, look around for less than 5 seconds, before stomping off again. My little mouse friend re-emerges after having hidden during this brief interlude. The calm to this natural cathedral returns.
Further along the walking trail that circumnavigates this iconic landmark, I’m listening to the wind and watching birds come and go when a distant whirring noise emerges. A dozen or so young and able tourists pass me on their Segways. I notice the disruption as they noisily pass, and wonder if any of these people have taken the time to stop and enjoy the tranquility, or if they have seen anything of the vivid life that flourishes around the Rock. These two-wheeled menaces disappear, and suddenly the birds and lizards are back.
I come to a place where some signs have been erected indicating a sacred site, and asking for us to not take photographs, so that the sacred Dreaming stories (the various features of the rock face) are not ‘recorded’ out of place. Ahead of me, a woman takes a photo; perhaps she has special permission from the Anangu Elders who are the custodians of this knowledge; I doubt it.
I have no Aboriginal lineage whatsoever. My ancestry comes from the Mediterranean. However, I still consider Uluru to be the most sacred place on the planet. I’m not sure why, but I am in awe of the majesty and mystery of this place.
So I’m also curious as to why these transgressions by tourists annoys the hell out of me. I remind myself of the Dreaming story I’ve learned about the Mala men, and its teaching of patience and compassion for the mistakes of others.
So wise, this large rock in the middle of nowhere; so wise.
With western eyes and serpent’s breath,
We lay our own conscience to rest
Entering into nearby Kata Tjuta’s ‘Valley of the Winds’ the next day, I muttered a small consecration to myself as I walked into Men’s sacred place. Walking silently and reverently as I clambered over the difficult terrain, I could hear many sounds flowing with the wind: the howl of a dingo, the cry of an eagle, and the songs of other birds.
Every step I took I found myself in awe at what all of my senses beheld before me; wondering and imagining what it would have been like to enter into this other-worldly realm 60,000 years ago.
As I gazed upwards at the monolithic domes that made up the “many heads”, there was still a part of me that wanted to climb up the rocks and stand atop of them.
What was this deep desire to climb up a sacred site for? I’ve heard many say that it’s something an inherent masculine trait; others, that it’s part of the white-western mindset to conquer or dominate nature.
Whatever it is, I cannot deny that I want to climb up these kinds of places. And yet, also burning within me is a powerful repulsion to desecrate a sacred site, and an irrepressible reverence for this place.
As I looked up at one of the large rock domes, I could see small caves high up. I wondered whether the Anangu people ever attempted to climb up Uluru or the domes of Kata Tjuta. Had they even been able to?
Perhaps the sacredness of these places came from the mystery, the not-knowing of what was up there.
With this veil of not-knowing, one’s imagination would run rife… as mine was doing right now. I imagined young men being initiated into manhood by scaling the face of the rock to sit in a high shallow cave and pray for days; or that beneath the rocks was an ancient, prediluvian city, evidence of some grand civilisation lost to time.
It seems to me that mystery and sacredness go hand-in-hand. Trying to prove God exists, or prove the literal truth of a sacred text seems anathema to this idea.
What if sacredness is feeling a meaningful connection to not knowing the answers?
We carry in our hearts the true country,
And that cannot be stolen
— Midnight Oil
Whatever the case may be I feel impelled to stop trying to contemplate and analyse what it is I am experiencing out here. There is no mistaking the fact that the ever-present stillness of this land, dominated by the sights of these monolithic, deeply ancient natural wonders, are doing something to my psyche, my body, and my soul.
I feel at peace with all the troubles, all the angst, and all the anxiety of not knowing what is coming for me.
I recall the work of David Tacey in his book Edge of the Sacred: Transformation in Australia. In it, I was introduced to the idea that the Australian psyche is trapped at the edges of the immature Ego by remaining at the edges of this continent; travelling and living in the ‘Red Centre’ brings us back to our Id, the true nature that dwells in the centre of our Being.
Uluru (and nearby Kata Tjuta) is like the Heart of this land. When you’re out here, it’s hard to escape it. How can we not take a moment to also be in awe of what stirs within us in the presence of such wonder? How can we ignore the resonance to something deep within each of us (except maybe by constant, infernal chatter)?
Is this why these ancient rock formations were considered so sacred by the Anangu people?
Did they too consider these questions as they woke to the sight of these places?
Was sacredness, and the mysteries of life, something which helped keep them connected to the ecology of their country?
This place changes you somehow. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t been moved by the presence of ‘the Rock’. The stillness and silence in the heart of my country stirs something within each of us.
And that can only be a good thing.
I honour and give many thanks to the Anangu people, the traditional custodians of this land, and to the many tireless custodians and workers who preserve the wonder of this place today and protect it for future generations. Palya!
[//]:# (!steemitworldmap -25.345153 lat 131.026632 long “We carry in our heart the true country” d3scr)
Originally published by Petah Raven on .
Exported from Medium on August 1, 2018.