I have a bruised and bloodied ring finger on my right hand, after an accidental jamming in a car door. It is not a pretty sight, and the throbbing was relieved early by numbing ice. Trauma in the body is a great reminder of the way trauma can turn up in the mind too. A sudden impact can often lead to swelling of feelings and blood rushing to the head followed by numbness. Feeling self-pity is often not far behind. I am taking this injury as instruction and a reminder that accidents happen, and we all need someone with an ice pack once and a while to ameliorate pain and discomfort.
This week is Reconciliation Week and I have to say it is not something I have ever been able to get my head around completely. I do not know what Aboriginal people need to reconcile with non-Aboriginal people – I have always seen this as a week when whitefellas can use the prompt to make some amends, pay the rent or at the least do some learning about our past. I have been on the road and in Central Australia, mainly in well known landscapes with only the barest of attention to First Nations. There were other signs though, the number of young ones in training and in jobs, more dual signage in language of places and flora, artists and art celebrated in public places and premium menus with bush tucker. When I come again, I hope all the leaders will be locals and the custodians of the stories, food and landscape will be so common that the temptation for the exotic over ordinary will have disappeared. The outback is not like the cities and just like my injury the accidental encounter might jar and disturb but, in a few days, will be healed and not much would have changed. You need to stay longer to get the real impact and not just a temporary disruption, so I pack up my city thoughts and quick-to-judge views with my belongings.
The overall feeling, I have is of gratitude to Anangu for sharing the centre with us all. It is a radical generosity that is quite overwhelming. Sharing the land and the sky is an incredible gift. They have watched and endured generations of whitefellas climbing up Uluru and when I overheard people complaining about the cost of going into the park, I was genuinely shocked. I wanted to say – such a small amount of rent to pay – but my words would not come out. I have more work to do in my reconciliation practice.
Treating this time as a pilgrimage and meeting people along the way where they find themselves and find me has been a challenge. I am out of the practice, possibly a consequence of these COVID times. To live as a pilgrim celebrating life and taking practical steps towards transforming injustices and violence, has not been so easy for me recently. My failure to call out complaints about park fees just one of this penitent’s claims, and my swollen finger is hearing my confession, as I clip on this keyboard. The absolution arising is: vulnerability is a consequence of risking yourself, and sometimes that is painful.