#9: Healing land

Adam is a pun on ‘soil’ or ‘humus’; you can hear the echoes in the word ‘human.’ So … The Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being … The Lord God took the human and put him in the Garden of Eden to serve it and protect it. (Genesis 2:7, 15)

Bruce Pascoe has Bunurong and Cornish heritage. After the political blaming and shaming and continued lack of justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the lead up to the 2004 election, he turns to the land for solace.

There were bleak… thoughts in my head, but then I turned to the land and it took me in its arms as it always does. Most Australians might find it acutely embarrassing to talk about falling into the land’s embrace but it is our one true and lasting solace. The Farex we eat as a child comes from that land, our mother’s milk springs from it and the last thing to enter our mouth will be the soil of the grave. It will be important for us to have earned that soil’s respect and love.

Anyway, after the election fish still swam in the river … Azure kingfishers still flew like blue neon darts along the bank. The mussels had not fled to more egalitarian seas. On a sandbar baby stingrays were testing submerged flight in such studied, laborious strokes that I was awed by their innocent vulnerability to the sea eagles; creatures much more moved by the sight of unprotected flesh than by inherent beauty and naked hope.

I’d climbed a ridge where the river makes a massive turn toward the lakes and found the need to lie on a patch of ground where the sun tossed a dappled light. I watched tree creepers and sittellas, honeyeaters and robins and was soon rocked to sleep in the swaying shadows of the massive ironbark gums.

I woke staring into the branches, the sun several degrees lower in the sky and the feeling that someone had been whispering while I slept. Was it the gentle river breeze, the fantail’s wing, the fluttering prayer flags of the leaves or was it all of them? The land. I felt the spine of her pressing against mine and a mighty reassurance swept over me as it has done so many times before. You are home, you are welcome.

If we do the right thing by the land, justice and peace will flow to its people. The hard heads of politics laugh at such ingenuous faith, but how can they know it won’t work if it’s never been tried? Ω

Reflect: Do you understand yourself as being formed from the land, fed by the land, deeply belonging to the land? Have you experienced the land’s healing? Find a place where you can take off your shoes and press your feet into the soil. Walk slowly and gently, blessing the land with the soles of your feet and sensing the land’s response.

#Lent2020 © Sanctuary, 2020, quoting Bruce Pascoe, Convincing Ground. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 2007. Buy it from your favourite bookshop.


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