I want to take you from my tiny courtyard garden to a more expansive landscape, but no less a “garden” in my view. It still needs, as all gardens do, the essential elements of air, soil, and water. And someone to appreciate it.
A recent trip to Litchfield National Park in the Northern Territory (aka the ‘Top End’), of Australia, evoked metaphorical reflections on the element of water. Of course, the actual reflections on ‘water’ were equally enchanting.
The water I want to reflect on here was moving. Moving and singing. In a vast dry continent like Australia, a trip to the Top End’s monsoonal gorges is a salve for the spirit. It serves to remind how essential water is, not just for the physical sustenance of life, but for one’s soul.
Having recently traveled to drought-ravaged areas of southern New South Wales where once verdant paddocks had become dust, it was a refreshing contrast to see the seasonal cycle of ‘the dry’ still nourished by the water retained in the sandstone from the previous wet season.
Covering some 1500 square kilometres, Litchfield National Park is an ancient landscape sculpted by water. Open woodlands cover the sandstone plateau of the Tabletop Range. Stunning waterfalls plummet from great heights into deep rocky waterholes on the floor of ancient gorges, carved out by water over millennia. People and native fauna alike, find cool respite in the pools and shady monsoonal forests at the base of the cliffs.
I sat in repose, cooling my feet at the edge of a clear pool while my companions swam. Tiny native fish sidled around my feet. I fancied feeling the thrumming of an ancient land, the songs carried by the water as it tumbled from the plateau.
It would be easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, however. Litchfield is not a place to visit during the wet season. Monsoonal rains and flash flooding make roads inaccessible. Creeks and waterholes are flushed with flooding rains, replenishing the natural sandstone reservoirs for another season The possibility of estuarine crocodiles becomes a reality. After the ‘Big Wet’, waterholes and creeks are surveyed then cleared before being deemed safe for swimming again. I was reassured the animals were relocated.
Back in Darwin, as I listened to the throbbing of a didgeridoo at a local market, I was moved by some ancient, elusive memory. It resonated someplace deep inside of me, just as the singing waters had. I felt connected – a part of something more profound, something primeval. I felt renewed.
The tree that is beside the running water is fresher and gives more fruit.
Saint Teresa of Avila