The Sweep of Australia continued

“Do you come from a land down under
Where women glow and men plunder”

. . . . .— ‘Down Under,’ by the Aussie group, Men at Work

A man, a camera, a rock. Norm Jackson on location with Uluru/Ayers Rock, “the largest rock in the world.”

A man, a camera, a rock. Norm Jackson on location with Uluru/Ayers Rock, “the largest rock in the world.”

By Norman Jackson

I became an Aussie on June 4th, so now I’m a Yank, a Frog, and a Sandgroper, with three passports to prove it.

Living on this planet without harming it. When Margo and I heard the Dalai Lama was going to visit Uluru [a fissured sandstone “inselberg,” or “island mountain” in west central Australia, 208 miles from the nearest town of Alice Springs], meeting him there shot to the top of the bucket list: neither one of us had seen the ‘rock,’ and being there with him, we thought, would be amazing.

We weren’t mistaken.

He stopped off enroute to Perth to see the mountain, and we sat on the grass with a couple of hundred others, listened to a short talk about his welcome from the Aboriginal custodians of the land, and savored his usual infectious chuckle. I’m wont to say, “Any guy who laughs like that has got to know something!”

As a volunteer photographer for Reconciliation WA (Western Australia) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reconciliation-WA/794550013904599), I’ve been doing what little I can to help healing occur between all the people who live on this magnificent island, although I’m sure it’s not much. First People’s culture is so deep, so spiritual, so true, and so special that I’m sure I’ll never understand it, but at least I try. We need their wisdom, since they’re the only people who know how to live on this planet without harming it.

"Spotlight"

“Spotlight”

“Outback Morning”

“Outback Morning”

“Ancient Beast Grazing”

“Ancient Beast Grazing”

You can see more images at https://www.flickr.com/photos/normanjackson/sets/72157654208683848.

Monumental effort. The next photos are from a trip to Broome that my wife, Margo, gave me for my birthday. It’s a small town on the northwest coast of Australia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broome,_Western_Australia for starters. There isn’t much to see in Broome, but its fascinating and terrible history ‘mérite le détour’, as a Michelin guide to Oz might say, if there is one. During the latter part of the 19th century, Broome was the world’s major source of mother-of-pearl, used for buttons and other artifacts, but its prosperity came at a terrible cost of human suffering. At first, Aboriginal people (particularly pregnant girls, who were thought to have superior lung capacity) were ‘blackbirded’—taken into slavery—to dive naked, without gear or protection, for the oysters whose shells were the source of the precious commodity. Later, when slavery was outlawed and diving suits were invented, Indonesians or Japanese were given the dangerous task. The graves of many of the latter can be seen in Broome’s Japanese cemetery to this day.

“Stele”

“Stele”

We went there in the ‘dry,’ our ‘winter,’ but one can still imagine what it’s like in the wet (your winter) and what a hellish place it must have been to settle. This country is rough, it’s tough, and it’s forbidding; and it does take men who, as the song goes on to say, are ‘six foot four and full of muscles’ to master it — unless you’re one of the First People. All you need then is the stories your grandfather sang to you. But since I’m not exactly built like that and didn’t have an Aboriginal grandfather, I’m really grateful for all the monumental effort that it’s taken to make my new home what it is today.

"Collusion"

“Collusion”

More shots of this are at https://www.flickr.com/photos/normanjackson/sets/72157656156347531.

Cultural flavours. Fabulous place, this; love it. Apparently one in four people you meet on a street wasn’t born here, so I feel right at home. Still enjoying the climate, with just enough cold and wet to be interesting; the food and its wonderful mix of cultural flavours; and, of course the wine, which is right up there with any I’ve tasted. And the folks are amazing: relaxed, easy-going, and open. We even thank the bus driver when we get off.

Of course, flying back home the last time I had to watch ‘Australia’ for the third or fourth time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfI4hK9I2k0. I first saw it on a plane coming here in 2010, an incredible coincidence, and in spite of the fact that most other Australians hate it, it’s gotta be my favourite film.

After 30 years of being a Frenchman, it’s wonderful just to shuck all the courtly bullshit; dress in shorts and a tee shirt and wear sandals; and eat some exciting, fresh Asian fusion food with lots of chilli. My God, the place couldn’t be more different from France! What a delight! Sometimes people ask me: “Do you have any regrets about leaving Paris?”

“Yeah,” I say: “That I didn’t do it sooner!”

Think I’ve found my happy place…

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  • Steve Buck November 18, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I belatedly join the chorus of praise for great photos Norm, particularly of the big rock. Awesome

  • John Carr November 12, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Norm: I’d love to be able to second your comments about Australia’s “First People.” They are I am sure well intended, but I do wonder how much of a model Australian Aboriginals can be for earth’s now 5 (or is it 7?) billion and counting.

    • Norm Jackson November 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm

      Well, for starters, they don’t mine coal, frack for gas, or take more than they need of anything they need to live from the environment. They are always careful to leave something for others, and not take it all for themselves. They have a tremendous respect for this planet, knowing that they depend on it for their survival, and believe it’s their duty to care for it. They’re a Not For Profit kind of society, if you will.

      If we (and we passed the 7 billion mark several years ago) don’t start adopting a similar approach to this planet, we may well drop back to your 5, probably MUCH fewer: IMHO Mother Earth is going to get very cross with her children and kick us out of the house quite soon, relative to the time we’ve been around.

      Sure, I don’t believe for a minute that we all have to start eating witchety grubs or making knives out of mussel shells, balga gum, and sticks, but I do think we’ve got to take a philosophy lesson or two from First People of all continents. There are probably a few things we could learn from some folks who used to be able to call the U.S. ‘their land’, for that matter?

      Just out of curiosity, why can’t you “second [my] comments”? 🙂

  • George Snider November 10, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Amazing photos! Thanks for sharing.