Posted by: Jan | 1 May, 2013

Going home another way

Sydney Airport 15.4.13
I’m going home. Am I wiser?
Like the Magi (who were warned in a dream) I’m going home by another way.
Bound to be doing so, because this journey has spun me round the world. The ticket that took me, and the flights that it entailed, were probably the least interesting aspect (because all this flying after years of abstinence has challenged my carbon conscience – and because planes are cramped and airports are banal). But I am very grateful to Wellspring Community, who paid for the ticket, after inviting me to speak at their Gathering in Sydney, because this journey has enabled me to see so many good people and beautiful places, and to learn so much.

Pause for two poems written on one of those many flights – within Australia.
Flight to the Centre
Palm upward to the sun,
this land
is like a human hand:
wrinkled and worn,
burnt by the sun
and scarred;
with unique fingerprints,
and life-lines that run
for a thousand miles and more;
life-lines that have run
forty thousand years and more.

Slow shadows
Clouds like a flock of white sheep
wandering across a land
with little grazing.
As we fly above them,
their slow shadows
look like shallow lakes,
surprising a land
where rain is rare.

For me, on this visit to a continent I never thought I would see, there were many surprises, and refreshment for body, mind and spirit. Much of this is down to the Wellspring Community, and the hospitality of its members. I stayed in eight households and at Campfire in the Heart, a retreat centre at Alice Springs, and experienced the hospitality of people who opened their homes, and their lives, willing to talk about national issues and their local community, their faith and what it meant to belong to Wellspring; there was the hospitality of laughter, of listening, and of space for silence. Thank you, Cherry and John, David and Lynona, Margaret and Neil, Keith and Helen, Margaret and Clabon, Jill and John, Peggy and Jim, David and Sue, Marie and Andrew. And – what’s more – there were all those conversations at cafe tables and kitchen tables. Thank you, Janet, Janelle, Doug, Marion, Linda…

Creative encounters went beyond the Members and Friends of Wellspring, and included many people who share its concerns (in the Community’s own words) for:
Justice and peace – both locally and globally
Spirituality and worship – in an Australian setting
Reconciliation – between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians
The environment – promoting sustainable living for all creation
Ecumenical and inter-faith issues – sharing truth and building trust.

Why did the Wellspring folk invite me, when I know so little about their huge, diverse, ancient and in other ways very young country? I am a Member of the dispersed Iona Community and Wellspring is a younger sister (having been in existence for 20 years). Our logo is the wild goose, a symbol for the Holy Spirit, possibly from Celtic spirituality. Their symbol is the windmill, seen in many places in the Outback, drawing up vital water – living water. Wellspring is also a dispersed community, which in Australia means scattered across a whole continent. They don’t have a gathering point like the Centres in Iona, but they do try to meet for discussion and mutual encouragement in biennial Gatherings.

So in March I set off to meet them – to bring another point of view to their chosen – and vital – theme of The Common Good. I was invited to give three keynote addresses at the Gathering in Easter Week, but to arrive early and visit Members of Wellspring in the places where they lived. That’s what I did, travelling from Perth to Adelaide to Brisbane, to Newcastle (NSW), to Sydney, Canberra, the Blue Mountains and Sydney again for the Gathering, then afterwards, briefly, to the Centre – Uluru and Alice Springs. Glimpses of many different places – some of which prompted blogs on this site.

And there’s so much more I could have written. Not ‘What I did on my holidays’ but poems in passing, images that took me by surprise, questions, quotations, moments of gratitude and wonder. And the obituary of a fly called Alice.
This may be the last blog (I’ve begun it at the airport, as I depart). But there are things I’ve learned, pictures in my mind, conversations I can’t forget, glimpses of a journey that goes on:

life-lines that run for a thousand miles and more;
life-lines that have run forty thousand years and more.

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