Last weekend I watched my brother play with his son and thought “Thirty years apart is far too long”. There is pain in the realisation that it has been so long. Years never recovered. Years not shared. All valuable and constructive in their own way, and all filled with light and drama and satisfaction and accomplishment. But still echoing with the emptiness of that separation, even though its an echo that is only now reverberating. We caught glimpses of each other over the years, for the briefest of moments. A swing though Devon here, a quick trip to Canberra or Sydney there.
There is a thought that if your hope is a Christian hope that Dylan Thomas’s urging his father to rage, rage against the dying of the light is nonsense. Yet we know in our heart of hearts we are not wired to die, to slow down, to be victims of time. I have always taken Dylan’s urging as my own injunction. Or put another way, old family friend Herb Money pondered that his forty years missional work in Peru was preparation for the next twenty five years work “after retirement”. These thoughts swirl around as I wonder at the next thirty years should they be gifted to me.
Bruce Chatwin travelled through Patagonia and wondered as others have done at the arid deserts in that place. Charles Darwin commented on the negative yet irresistible qualities of the desert. In his mind Chatwin introduced Darwin to W.H.Hudson who answered the question Darwin posed – why had these spaces taken firm possession of my mind? Because, mused Hudson, desert wanderers discover in themselves a primeval calmness which is perhaps the same as the peace of God.
The vast spaces of these deserts, the vaulting sky, desolate ruins screaming with the ghostly cries of families not so long vanished, and the whispering demons of drought dead dreams say nothing to me of the peace of God Mr Hudson. These places are God’s needles, his provocation. What uneasiness these vast places and empty ruins invoke. What am I to make of the time yet apportioned? And will all striving turn to dust and saltbush as it has for some in these arid paddocks? God might be in all these places Mr Hudson but he isn’t giving away any answers. I watch my brother poking around a ruin looking for “treasure” and think there is an aridness of soul that over-watches this place. Knowing that Chatwin died young at 48 in a desert of his own making only fuels the melancholy.