From the Goldfields
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
This tree is a big old blackbutt, Eucalyptus lesoeufii. It might even be a survivor from the time before every growing thing in the Goldfields was chopped down so the gold-fever-maddened diggers could dig. More likely it sprang from a seed, not long after they gave up on this patch of local ground and moved on.
Here it is, a century later, in full and flagrant flower. It delights my eye, and also all the bees and birds for a mile around. None of its blackbutt cousins are bothering to blossom so extravagantly at the moment, but this individual is letting it rip with nectar, pollen, and countless, grooved gumnut caps that look like nothing so much as soft-serve icecreams, in miniature.
In the bushland park, I walk the same tracks, with minor variations, every day. Sometimes I look at the clouds or the bare blue horizon, sometimes at the pea-gravel path, sometimes at the trees, where I know there must be a bird, from the sound of it, though I rarely spot the actual chirper or whistler. I have favourite trees in the park: a salmon gum of particular elegance, soaring above the scrub; another gum, of drooping habit, that draws designs in the dust with its dangling branches; a storm-beaten tree gone wildly asymmetrical, battered by lightning strikes. But I can’t say I’ve ever noticed this particular tree until today, when the brightness and spread of its cream-covered canopy grabbed my eye and drew me off the track, the better to make its acquaintance.
A couple of times in my life, I have had the chance to stay for more than a bare year or two in one part of the world: long enough to get a feel for climate, not just weather; for culture, not just fashion; for Country, not just geography. Kalgoorlie is one of those places.
Yet even here, even after these years, there are still surprises, like this big old blackbutt and its sudden profusion of blossoms. According to the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. In order not to live with the habit of contempt, part of my mind, part of my heart must always be willing to recognise and respond to something different, something new, something unexpected around me.
Entropy is physics, and means that everything in the universe, from white-hot stars to ageing human bodies, everything is declining, slowly, inexorably, to an eventual death. But creation, which is of the Spirit, and is not subject to equations, creation continues in defiance of entropy. Creation means that every living thing, every tree and every living eye and hand, can at any moment come up with something that has never been before, and never will be again.
I pray for God to give me, every day, the capacity to be startled by someone or something, to be awakened for someone or something. God, give me the curiosity and the courage to stray from my accustomed track, and to be enchanted by your latest surprise.