A LOVE OF NATURE
My siblings and I grew up in a rather isolated part of this country on the eastern slopes of the Great Dividing Range. On one side of our place flowed the Macleay River, in “a very old valley that wears its age & unique beauty in the spirit of its wild untamed rivers & its tall thick gum forests.” Quote taken from pamphlet Upper Macleay Hinterland Guide.
We were surrounded by this amazing environment and thanks to my parents, we were always aware of what we had. The environment became part of our DNA really. Both Mum & Dad took every opportunity to teach us about the world in which we lived and we were always ready for the next adventure.
Our parents were very encouraging to each of us in learning about the environment and would often add extra information for us about what we had found & learnt. My mother would often seem just as excited as we were and always reminded us to be grateful & to thank God for all we had. It It was here in this environment, among the hills, the mountains & the river that I found my first symbol of my own spirituality. (Not that I recognised that fact then.)
As well as being part of our enormous playground, the mountain & the hills became for me at a very young age a place where I always loved to be. It brought me much joy and a sense of freedom, whether I was by myself or with my siblings.
I had this special place on the side of the hills amongst the trees & birds where I could just go & simply sit & be & wonder. From this sacred place, I could see another mountain that seemed unreachable. I loved that unreachable, mysterious mountain which stood on the other side of the river that meandered twice along the river flats & towards and past the foot of my mountain.
I yearned to climb it but crossing the river twice & climbing the two steep escarpments were both beyond my capabilities. In my mind’s eye, the mountain seemed as if it had all-embracing arms. Arms that were capable of hugging someone. At times, I would hide & secretly wish or imagine that I was being held in the arms of my mountain, which for me meant the arms of God. It gave me the space where I felt most connected to God.
These early years of my life have stood me in good stead. I have been blessed that wherever I have found myself living & carrying our various ministries, there has always been special places where I could find expressions of God’s wonderful & varied environments whether it be in rain forests, beaches, park lands or bush tracks.
I now find myself living only a few kilometres from the Shortland Wetlands (in Newcastle). What a wonderful gift that place is! This special place is cared for mainly by volunteers. What an inspiration they are as they go about their work making a difference to our environment & to those who visit it.
It is a place of peace, inspiration, and a variety of all kinds of creatures. It varies as seasons do. It is a place where you find magpie geese, white- neck herons, white-faced herons, egrets of a number of varieties including the Great Egret & the Little Egret, ducks & spoonbills. At times one can see turtles swimming or even sun baking.
There is an education centre where school groups can come & learn more about the environment. There is an enclosed area where it is hoped to be able to help the endangered freckled ducks so they can come off that list. It is a great place to spend time in reflection, prayer, wonder, peace & for me a place where I can spend time taking photographs of this beautiful place & its inhabitants.
I am very blessed to have such an environment so close to my home & to add to the blessing, the community church that is my place of worship, has a community garden of which we are very proud. It is open for the local community to visit as well as parishioners.
Margaret O’Sullivan RSJ