For the city dweller, there are times when one rejoices upon coming across a building 100 years old – ah, the craftsmanship, the elegance, the gratuitous decoration! When one rolls one’s eyes at the sight of a bulldozer razing a building no more than 30 years old to make way for a modern angular replacement, which will rise higher and extract more precious square metres from an awkward block. When the council resumes a couple of building blocks and creates a pocket-handkerchief playground for kids whose feet seldom find a place to tread on other than concrete or bitumen. When homes are knocked down to make way for bigger and better roads to accommodate the ever heavier traffic.
In the Outback, one can gaze at scenes which may have been essentially unchanged for millennia, where a few days or a few decades are as nothing in their timelessness. Where the narrow tracks across the hills may well have been made by the soft feet of native animals treading that same path for decades or centuries, and gently discouraging the grass along the way. Where the infrequent rains have cut small gutters or mighty river beds over the course of hundreds or tens of thousands of years. Where hardy trees and shrubs have struggled against all odds to maintain their place in the sun. Where we can drive past rocky outcrops in the Flinders Ranges, reliably said to be more than 500 million years old.
These thoughts were triggered by this picture of my friend Jenny reflecting on an Outback scene: