For me, Christmas is irrevocably linked to summertime, swimming, salads, smoked ham, chicken and turkey (all served cold), prawns and other seafood, and too much brandy trifle. My blogging friend, Svasti, has written a blog post that captures joyous summertime essence of what Christmas means in Australia. Please read it here.
Living in Central Australia means that we have what many would consider a very unusual Christmas. We don’t often spend it with families – our families live 1500 km and 3500 km away from us. Usually, we spend it with colleagues and friends…
Mr AnthroYogini is a ranger and works on a remote national park. Thus, we have a house in town (Alice Springs) and a house on park. Remote parks have their own little communities of rangers and their families. At Christmas time, these ranger communities become surrogate extended family for each other. In the past, we’ve had incredible fun and incredible feasts at Owen Springs & Ormiston Gorge. This year, Mr AnthroYogini, the one remaining AnthroBambini and myself went to Watarrka (King’s Canyon) National Park for Christmas. Watarrka is about 350km from Alice Springs. Watarrka is pronounced Wot-ah-kuh.
Thus our Christmas was an evening gathering of rangers and partners. Watarrka has a good supply of vegetable gardens and chickens, and a number of yoga-practicing vegetarian rangers (they want me to move down permanently and start teaching yoga), so the array of food we had was diverse. There were delectable salads, cold meats, and several veggie dishes. There were even fiery chilli prawn kebabs. Several days later, we were still all sharing the food.
There was Kris Kringle as well. Kris Kringle is where you buy a present anonymously for someone else. Usually, the names are drawn out of a hat. Hilariously, someone had found a c.1980 aerobics LP and a 1984 aerobics instructor book! I love them. We share stories, we recall the year, discuss plans for the future. We solve the problems of the world and shake our heads at those we will never solve (like coal-fired power stations or the incomprehensible fact that the ranger houses are still run from diesel-powered generators despite the abundant solar energy supply).
As a backdrop there are whispering desert oaks, dunes all a blossom in wildflowers after the good rains, the birds, the sky, the stars. And the canyon. From the windows and backyards of the ranger’s houses -which blend incrementally into the surrounding sand country- Watarrka is always inviting the eye to survey the latest shifts in light, its planes and edges. Its deep, dark clefts.
In the days that follow, there are walks, more impromptu socialising, pondering the waterholes in the Canyon, the wondrous opening of Spinifex leaves after rain, the purple-blue clouds of a passing storm. The smell of rain on red sand dunes. There are no distractions from what is: people and landscape.
Christmas on remote parks is one of deep community. It is raw and simple: about people, place, and connection to both. The spiritual peace and recharging effect of remote Australia often invokes pathetic clichés involving timelessness and emptiness and lame references to Aboriginal spirituality (which doesn’t exist in the way that white people understand spirituality). I will say this: if you’ve read and felt the deep spirituality in The Snow Leopard or can relate to Jack Kerouac’s experiences in the wilderness in The Dharma Bums, if you’ve ever spent extended periods hiking with good friends, then you will understand spiritual authenticity of Christmas in remote Australia.
This is kriya for my spirit and heart. I am blessed.