Another year has come and now almost gone, and if you’re like me, at this time of the year, you find yourself getting a bit reflective about your life. What’s been achieved in the year – and what hasn’t; births, deaths and marriages; the high points and the low points.
Of course, there’s a double trigger – not only the transition from one year to a new one, also the celebration of the birth of a child whose first cradle was an animal feeding tough, but who went on to change the world. Both these events make you think.
Talking of triggers, these past few days have found me pre-occupied by the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. I’ve been pleading with my American friends to make as much noise as they can to encourage their President and their Congress to bring in much stronger gun controls. Otherwise, America, as I see it, runs the risk of gradually sliding towards social chaos. Someone has already suggested that the solution is to arm all teachers with guns! Another proposal is to station an armed guard in every school. An American friend heard an interesting retort to that: “Rather than putting armed guards in schools, put teachers in gun shops!”
Another American comment: “Schopenhauer said all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Gun control is a no-brainer, but we’re not at the third stage yet.”
In the births, deaths and marriages department, the birth of my second grandchild, Pierre, has been a source of great joy, but tinged with the sadness of my wife, who died 21 months ago, not being here to celebrate with me. It’s also sad to report yet another death due to heat exhaustion, this time a 14-year-old Scottish boy who collapsed while bushwalking with his father two days ago in Cape Range National Park (see picture) near Exmouth in Western Australia. He was taken to hospital, but died shortly afterwards. The temperature was about 40°, and the pair had been walking for about four hours with little water or shade.
I have no marriages to report, but maybe 2013 will be a better year in that department.
Have you read Kings in Grass Castles by Mary Durack? I’ve just finished it, and can recommend it. It tells the remarkable story of the Durack family, who migrated from Ireland to Australia starting in 1849, and who formed a major force in the development of the Australian pastoral industry, first in the Goulburn (NSW) area, then in south-west Queensland on Cooper Creek, and finally in the Kimberley area at the top of Western Australia. Fortunes were made and lost, as they came to terms with droughts, floods, interactions with aboriginal people (sometimes appalling, sometimes heart-warming), enormous distances, disease, etc. Some of the properties they owned were bigger than Ireland, and paddocks as big as the county from which they had emigrated!
A high point of the year for me has been – yet again – the opportunity to take people on trips to the Outback. I never tire of visiting the Outback, making new friends in the process, and catching up with some of the wonderful people who live in remote parts of the country.
Thank you to all those who have encouraged me by reading this blog, and especially those who’ve made comments. In closing, another quote from Schopenhauer (and please excuse his non-inclusive language; I’m sure he meant this to include you grrrls too): “A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.”
May your Christmas be joyful, and your New Year a good one.