Maureen and Richard Oborn had donated to us for many years, connected financially and via stories in our newsletters. But their engagement went to another level after visiting our Boolcoomatta Reserve in South Australia, and seeing how donor funds are put to use.
We were at Boolcoomatta reserve for effectively two full days in the first week of June. We were conducted around the reserve and shown the on-ground differences at various locations and how these were being addressed to restore the landscape to a pre-sheep station state.
For city people such as us, this was revelatory. Our perceptions of countryside before this visit was of green stuff growing out of brown stuff amongst rocks. We were somewhat better than this actually, but to be shown the detail that Reserve Manager Kurt and his wife Andrea saw when they looked around them effectively reduced our knowledge to something close to this.
Some years ago, on a visit to Malaysia, a Malaysian friend said that it must be a relief to come to a country where you could actually see decent vegetation. Without denying it, we replied that it was lazy man’s vegetation as you didn’t have to work hard to see something. We contrasted this with desert vegetation. Our visit to Boolcoomatta put the missing meat on that particular conversational bone for us. The adaptations in vegetation and animal life to survive in this environment is to be wondered at.
Asked about the most vivid impressions of our visit, for Richard, it would be seeing a bush with decent growth on its lower reaches where it would normally have been eaten out by goats or sheep. There was a symbolic significance about this for him.
Maureen would nominate the way Andrea used native ingredients so effectively and tastefully in her cooking. You can read about these things, but to see them in use was quite another thing. We've both been motivated to restock our own garden with local rather than more conventional plants.
Both of us have been left with something like awe at the vastness and quiet of Boolcoomatta. We had a taste of this many years ago in the outback of Western Australia, and memories of this flooded back during our time on the reserve. Without being too dramatic about it, there's an almost spiritual, vast, quiet feel to the land.
Finally, but far from least, we were touched by the warmth and care we were extended by all the Bush Heritage staff who shared the trip with us. Most especially Kurt and Andrea, and their daughters Geri and Maia. We came away feeling as though we'd joined the Bush Heritage family.
Richard has written the poem below. Brief though this experience was, we both feel changed for having gone out there.
Flat land …
To the horizon and beyond.
Age-old as time.
In the mill of unendingness
Even rocks are ground like chaff
With little enough remaining
Leaving the dust of this work as a levelling unfixed filler.
A land so old the stories have all been told
Where it seems to have become all that it will become.
Until it rains and it stirs again
Giving the lie to this appearance.
What was unseen is now life
pushing inexorably back
and claiming its place.
The means is patience.
In this the unendingness being
as the means
of the sure return of times as before.
Shape yourself and endure
Survive as you will if you can.
This is the final truth.
Maureen and Richard travelled to Boolcoomatta as part of our Bush Legacy Circle – a group of supporters who've made the profound commitment of leaving us gifts in their Wills.