It was a wonderland! Do you remember arriving somewhere new and feeling overcome with a beauty that was foreign and exquisite?
When I arrived in Vancouver on January 1 some years ago, snow blanketed the city. An unforced smile filled my whole body as I stared with wonder at my new home. As the taxi made its way through the city to the west side, I was certain that this first experience was to be followed by many hours of utter delight.
Even after the snow was gone, the trees and the horizons drew me in. I love trees. In Vancouver it was conifers which stole the show. Who could look past the striking mountainside stands summer or winter?
But I missed Gum trees.
I’ve had years now to ponder both my longing for Eucalypts whilst I lived in Vancouver. I feel grounded and I feel I belong when I walk through a Eucalypt forest or stare out the window at the rainbow lorikeets feasting on the flowering gum trees growing in my neighbours yards.
Eucalypts are part of my family. In some sense they sustain me. Is it too much to say they are part of me? At the very least when I am not with gum trees, I feel, not that I am missing them, but the beautiful, asymmetrical drooping gums are missing from me (as the French would say).
I know this to be true in a deep subconscious way and I am beginning to learn to know this in a conscious way. Recently I spent time on Wakka Wakka Country listening and learning from First Nations folk who shared their stories and wisdom. Bunya Peoples’ Aboriginal Corporation have created the Bush University. General Manager Mr Paul Dawson said, “It’s about reconnecting people with place”.
I think my culture has forgotten that place does matter, not because of some sentimental attachment, but because human beings were created to be part of this world, interdependent with all other creatures and plants. But not just any plants and creatures, those in our neighbourhood.
When I’m with the Eucalypts I’m reminded I am part of a whole. I am not of myself a whole. What if Apostle Paul’s vision of the body of Christ does not just include the human family? What if I really do need Eucalypts to be well… to be whole?
We Acknowledge Country to acknowledge and pay respect to First Nations peoples as the Traditional and ongoing Custodians of the land. I am beginning to experience that Acknowledging Country is learning to listen to First Nations wisdom and culture which prioritises connection to people and country and embodies a deep understanding that our very lives depend on it.
Recently at Theology on Tap I heard Greg Manning ask, might Acknowledgement of Country be a spiritual practice? That resonated for me. Acknowledging Gubbi Gubbi people and country draws my attention to a way of being in the world which humbly accepts that I, like a gum tree are one small and precious part of the large and precious body that is God’s world.
Place does matter! Acknowledging people and land is one way God is inviting me to remember I am part of a body.
Director – Identity & Formation