a pelican and a place to stand

Two of the reasons that I have grown to like running are that it gives me uninterrupted time to think (it’s really, really hard to play with the phone and check out facebook while running), and that it’s a great way to explore new places.

On the weekend I was in St George, hanging out with the folks from the Uniting Church Presbytery of the Downs (a regional gathering taking in Toowoomba to Queensland’s western border…quite a vast space!), and discovered to my delight a quiet running track along the edge of the Balonne River.

It was a pretty hot weekend, so that meant running had to happen very early, before the sun made its presence felt. I’m not a great early morning person, but it’s hard to deny something special about those first minutes of light each day…and so it proved at the Balonne.

A place to stand

My first day I ran the length of the town stretch of the river, ending up at the weir that holds back the waters – keeping a reasonable body of water even in the midst of long and widespread drought conditions currently impacting so much of Queensland’s west.

As I stood on the weir, I looked downstream. Here’s the view:

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There’s not much water to speak of, and the dryness is evident in the country side.  It’s stark, almost depressing.

And then, from the very same spot, I turned to face upstream, to see this:

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It’s a view filled with life and promise.

It occurred to me, that so often from the very same place, we can see such contrasting views depending on which direction we choose to face.  It’s perhaps the optimist/pessimist or glass half full/half empty question.  Which way do we choose to face? What do we choose to see?

In the organisation I work with, we are faced with many challenges, and the temptation to allow those challenges to hold us captive can, at times, be overwhelming.  Standing on the weir at the Balonne, looking upstream, I was reminded that in spite of the challenges there is always something interesting, even special to see….depending on our willingness to take a different view.

A pelican

pelicanOn day 2 of my stay in St George, I ran again.  And followed much the same route.

And found myself once more crossing the weir, enjoying the early morning sights and sounds.

On this day my attention was captured by a lone pelican, skimming over the water (unfortunately a little to fast for me to grab a photo!).

Now let’s think about this for a moment.

I was in St George, roughly 500km west of Brisbane. A long way from the coastal bays, beaches and harbours that are home to so many Australian pelicans. What was this majestic bird doing in St George, surfing the early morning breeze over the Balonne River?

It turns out it’s not an unusal sight. Pelicans often find their way into remote Australian waterways. The famed Lake Eyre – so often dry for years on end – attracts tens of thousands of pelicans within weeks of floodwater arriving to fill the lake. Nobody knows how the pelicans know there will be water, why they suddenly take off from the coast and head inland just as the floodwaters arrive to fill the salt pan.

What we do know is that when there is water, when there is the hope and safety that comes in such a place, the pelicans find it. And here on this stretch of the Balonne, surrounded by thousands of square kilometres of drought affected farmland, this lone pelican had found a place of hope and peace in the early morning sunlight.

And once again I thought of the church, the organisation I work for. And how we spend so much time and energy trying to figure out the right strategy, the right way to be a part of the modern Australia.

Perhaps the answer is right in front of me. Perhaps in our local communities what we first need to emphasise is creating places of hope and peace, pools of deep water in the midst of the dry.

Perhaps that’s all that is required. And those who are searching will always, in the end, land in a place that offers peace and hope.

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