Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Serpentine Gorge

Written 20 September

It’s not so hot in the shade. The walk here was mostly exposed but even that heat didn’t feel too bad. It is partly due to the mid-afternoon hour and probably partly to me finally adapting to the heat and dryness of the desert. I’m about five liters in today, and even when it was 37 degrees and I was finishing a 7km hike I was doing okay.

But here, here I truly am doing okay. Well, even. The only sounds are of my breathing through my nose, of wind rustling in the trees, and of rigid, dry leaves scraping on branches. No machines. No manmade noise. No animals. Even the flies have left me in peace.

The bank of the waterhole at Serpentine Gorge is fine gravel, a hard seat but at least a flat one. In front of me two rocky grassy hills coming in from off-screen abruptly shoot vertically, losing all vegetation to reveal golden orange and red-hued sandstone walls reaching tens of meters skyward. The edges and corners of the rocks are all slightly weathered right angles as is characteristic of such compressed sediment. What is a bit less common here is the angle of the breaks in relation to me. The walls have smooth lines leading up at near perpendicular to the ground. The first thought is that they must have shifted a few degrees before the river cut down through to create the gorge. But with a bit more time and observation the overhanging rocks and lines point to a different truth – these layers of rock used to be almost flat on the ground. These gorge walls used to be sea floor before a massive upheaval nearly turn them on their sides.

The wind gusts hard. The surface of the water becomes an abstract painting and a branch breaks off a gum tree, crashing down into the colors.

Where the sun hits rock the walls glow in a way that screams New Mexico, cowboys, Canyon de Shelly, and every other related image. Where the rock is in shadow the color is somewhere between old copper and rusted iron. Bread this color is treated like a biohazard. Cheese this color would fetch top dollar.

There is only a small window over the water hole to the world beyond my reach. Framed by water underneath and sheer rock walls on each side, in a window five times as tall as it is wide, stands a triumphant ghost gum straighter than most and with an uncharacteristic silver note to the stark, white, smooth bark. Its shaded green leaves bring the second of the four colors in the picture– a muted, moderate green. The sunset orange of sandstone and the greyish-black of weathered rock cover the other two. The shaded patchwork of the four colors has no pattern inherent but the brain tends to look for one anyway. Mine assembles some nature propaganda, the Sierra Club equivalent to the Barack Obama HOPE headshot poster.

The light of the sun shines in from the upper left, over the wall. Only a fraction of the window to the valley is lit up. None on the left, but nearly the top third by the point the valley slips behind the entrance wall on the other side. The Serpentine Gorge winds its way around the right and out of sight. Just what lies beyond I do not know. But the sun is shining on it, illuminating some unseen garden paradise kept secret for nature.

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This entry was posted on October 11, 2012 by in Australia and tagged , .

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