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Our World is a Wonderful Place.
I'm watching, we're watching, them: southern right whales, four of them, out there splashing, gallumphing, walloping the water. A mighty spectacle, not seen before, not by us. It's dramatic, exciting, a rare moment as these huge creatures journey up the coast seeking new waters where they will spend the summer, breeding.
We've been called to find them by a brief mention on the radio. Excitedly we follow the vague information not knowing exactly where we should be heading. Eventually we track them down, minute splashes out in the bay, perhaps two kilometres away. But we can get nearer. Out along the track to the surf beach; lots of wetsuited surfies roiling in on breaking wave tops, black bodies splashing in foaming water.
And beyond them, not far away now, the black and white-suited right whales roll and frolic in their own surf show. They're close together, hard to count; maybe three, perhaps four; huge bodies, like submarines, up to 17 metres in length; giant tail fins hover above the water, disappear, surface again, spurt funnels of spray, plunge and roll revealing distinctive irregular white patches and enormous wide mouths encrusted with barnacles.
They are in no hurry to move away. "They've been there all morning," says a surfer.
Through binocular eyes we observe every movement. We're captivated - for an hour or so. We're enjoying this magic moment, this freedom to do what we enjoy, what we need to do; this life, this flowing beauty; these rare moments as we travel on, enjoying the freedom of ocean's roiling currents; the movement of companion spirits around us; waves of watery delights, nearby rocky shores, sandy beaches; our fellow travellers in this life; the people on the dunes over there watching us through their binoculars. Perhaps they think we can't see them because they're so small. We see everything every time our eyes rise above the surface. "I'm watching, we're watching, them. This world, our world, is a wonderful place."

It's great living in this quiet little cul-de-sac on the eastern shore of Hobart, overlooking the Derwent River. The only thing is, I can't have a pet here, as my villa is one of six and rules are rules. Anyway, I like to travel a bit, but lately, things have changed, all of us in this group have a pet to share. He's a little bit shy yet but I'm sure he will become more friendly as time goes by and he gets used to us.

He's a lovely little wallaby and he's been living here with us for a few months. He spends most afternoons in my back garden, sleeping under the tree in the corner that I call the New Zealand tree. I don't know its proper name, but it makes a comfortable shelter for him, out of the sun and rain. I leave carrot sticks and bits of celery for him occasionally, I know I shouldn't feed him, but I figure if its only occasionally he won’t become dependent on me.

He's quite small, about half a metre tall. He's grey on the back and a pale yellow colour on his belly, he has faint stripes on his sides that show when he's grooming himself. He looks so soft and small and defenceless as he crops the grass on my lawn watching me with dark shiny eyes. He's quite relaxed as long as I keep still, though I do talk to him quite a lot, I think he likes the sound of my voice. It's with reluctance that I decide I must go inside now, and as soon as I stand up, ever so slowly, he is immediately alert and heads down the garden to the gap under the fence. “Don't go," I say, “I won't hurt you." He stops and regards me from under the rhododendron. I don't mind him going, really, as I know he'll be back. He'll either go next door or up to Edna's, she lives in one of the back villas.

It's great having him around. It amazes me that he would have had to come through another cul-de-sac and down quite a lot of footpath in the first instance. What a game little fellow! or maybe she's a girl.

I guessed he was from country where corners are rare and hills non-existent. Along the straits he was so close to my rear end I could hardly see him in my wing mirrors. But when we came to a corner he fell back a hundred yards. An incapable fool in his shiny, high rise, chrome plated, overrated European four-wheel drive. I was driving the unit’s main rescue vehicle. A white, slab-sided, five ton truck with aerials, ladders and lights on the roof, logos on the side panels. A very distinctive and memorable vehicle, the only one of its type in the State. The big engine hauled us up the road at a reasonable, legal speed, so I was not holding the fool up. Also I detest tailgating. I was tempted to dab the brakes and slow to a crawl through the real windy bits, but sanity prevailed. I just maintained my pace along the road I knew so well.

Then on the downhill straight just before Liapootah, he roared past. Must have been 20 k over the limit. At the end of the straight, the road curves to the right and begins its long, winding ascent to the central plateau. Naturally the fool slowed to negotiate the curve at about half the safe speed and I closed on him rapidly. I had no intention of passing him unless he pulled up, but it looked like he thought he had a race on his hands. So we proceeded up the hill. He crawling around corners and zooming along the straits. I closing and braking, then falling behind as he floored the pedal. At the top of the hill, the road runs through undulating forest country. There is a sharp right hander by the canal, which needs to be taken slowly, but it is mainly an easy drive. Easy, that is, until you get to the long descent down to the Nive River and the long ascent the other side. It is steep, and it is windy, and I knew the fool would creep down and crawl up. But I was not worried. You see, I knew about the Fourteen Mile.

This is a gravel road that cuts across to the highway a few kilometres from Derwent Bridge. It is narrow and has lots of curves. No speed track and you are likely to meet log trucks, tractors or fishermen towing boat trailers. So you go cautiously. But it is still a heck of a lot quicker. At the junction, I slowed and swung onto the gravel. In less than half an hour I was back on the highway and heading for Bronte Park. This meant I was heading back towards the Nive valley, which I had bypassed by taking the Fourteen Mile. Two minutes later, the fool came round a corner. I can still recall the look on his face. There was that darn great rescue truck he had passed nearly an hour ago. He knew it had not passed him. He thought he had won that race. And here was the darn thing. Not only had it got in front, it was coming back. I raised a solitary finger in salute.

As humans we are continually in a race

A race to grow up
A race to compete
A race to complete
A race against time

Animals race in the face of a storm

Farmers race to harvest their crops
We race around the world
Bus stops
Planes to catch
Appointments to keep

Our whole life seems to be a race

Suddenly we are older
We do not race as before
We begin to reflect

"Will it be slow and steady wins the race?"

Our farm is located deep in the valleys of the northwest. We are miles from the highway, and further still from the nearest town. Visitors are rare, and so are luxuries, but we are comfortable. For years our evening entertainment was reading and the radio. Then in ’76, we had a good crop and so had a bit of money to spare. So we got a TV. Now all these hills around the place make reception a very iffy thing. There is a repeater tower on the mountain to the south, but a darn great hill stands between it and us. The image on the screen, or I should say images, were blurred, fuzzy, wobbly and doubled. The sound was good, so it was normal to turn the set on and just listen to the news and weather and not watch. It got a bit frustrating when the finals were on though. Then there were special occasions like royal visits that the wife likes to watch. She used to get so cranky when she could not see who was chatting to whom, and what they were wearing.
I bought a fancy high gain arial to try and improve reception, and had to climb the old macracarpa by the house to get maximum height. That improved things a bit, but not much. Just made both the images a bit sharper. I borrowed a mate’s set to see if that would make a difference. Didn’t. One salesman tried to sell me a 75-foot tower, but it would have cost a fortune and he could not guarantee good results. So I told him to keep it.
Then it was that special day in November. Now I ain’t a gambler. I seldom even buy a raffle ticket, except for the big one the fire brigade run. But I do like to have a couple of bob on the Melbourne Cup. Doesn’t everybody? And I always listen to the race. Take the tranny out on the tractor if necessary. This time it was raining and I had been working in the barn. Getting close to three o’clock and so wandered into the house and turned on the TV. Usual flickering and rolling picture as the commentator described the mounts, read the odds, and waffled. I thumped the side of the set in frustration. The picture went crazy and the sound died. Darn aerial wire had come loose. I swung the set round and knelt behind it to put the wire back. Over the top of the set, I could see the reflection of the screen in the mirror over the fireplace. Out in the kitchen, the wife was making a cuppa for us to have while listening. I could see her as she went to the fridge to get the milk. As she opened the fridge door, I managed to get the wire onto the terminal, and was holding it there while trying to turn the screw with my thumbnail. In the mirror was an amazing sight. A single, clear, sharp image. No fuzziness. No wobble, No blurring. The wife closed the fridge door, and the old familiar rubbish picture returned.
“Hey love, open the fridge door again will you?"
"Just do it. It helps the picture."
"Don’t be daft."
"It does I tell you, come and see."
Sure enough, there was the track and all the people and horses in brilliant clarity. Then the fridge door closed, drawn shut by its magnetic seal. The double images returned. Now the wife is pretty quick on the uptake, and she rushed back into the kitchen and opened the fridge. Crisp, clear picture.
"You’ve got it," I cried and stood up.
Fuzz returns. 3 horses became 6. I knelt again and returned my thumb to the wire. Clarity restored. So we saw the race clearly for the first time. She, standing holding the fridge door and watching through to the dining room. Me, kneeling behind the set viewing via the mirror.
We still don’t watch much. Just turn on for the news and weather. But, if there is something special, I get turn the set and sit on a stool behind with finger on the wire. The wife opens the fridge and holds the door with a length of string to the dresser. She can then sit in comfort and I don’t mind if it is only for a short while. One day I might see if these satellite set-ups are any good, but there will need to be something better to look at than the rubbish they show now.

It seems to me, life is a jigsaw of I finding out and adding to. Faith itself is built that way.
If we put a piece in the jigsaw from every gem of knowledge we receive, every happiness and every blessing, the pattern represents our faith.
Every positive in one's life is recorded by a jigsaw piece. Every person who influences our lives in a constructive way is recorded and every friend who has contributed significantly or sustained us by that friendship. Every good deed or endeavour for the welfare of other, every joy of success achieved in our jobs or recreation and the love we receive and give is faithfully recorded in some way as divine hand decides. An indelible memory,such as finding a wildflower, is part of the picture being built up.
The border of the jigsaw is the easiest part to complete and consists of our childhood background and our biological and inherent characteristics that necessarily influence and form the basis of our lives.
No one can escape one's environment so faith is what one builds up. If faith is in what we know (the late Revd. Browning) it is based on experience and knowledge and is distinguished from hope by that definition.
A child who dies young has a small jigsaw. Adults have a medium sized jigsaw and gifted and great people have much more to record: many successes it and achievements such as a doctor of medicine and a person of great charity like Mother Teresa of Calcutta whose picture probably has only a few spaces to be filled in.
A space represents a deprivation of faith or the remaining ie. unfulfilled part of one's life. No sin or evil is ever recorded: everything we have done wrong or badly has no place on the jigsaw of faith by definition. There are spaces for all suffering, trauma and deprivation but the spaces are part of the incomplete picture. No one can interpret accurately the character of the unfinished work of faith. The Lord places the pieces as he sees fit and only He sees the final result in entirety. We may see it ourselves at the end of our life and at the beginning of the new.
The jigsaw of a criminal would have many negatives but pictures can be painted from both the positive and negative aspects and the image or picture here may be no less clear: it is not for us to say. Perhaps every last piece will be filled in at the time of his death.
The starving child in Africa may have many spaces and gaps in the border of his jigsaw before he receives food, comfort and care. As the child's health and happiness is established the inside of the jigsaw gradually builds up and some border pieces are inserted by almighty and merciful hands to replace some of the misery.
Mental and physical suffering and sickness create empty spaces in the jigsaw. If it is acute or chronic the Lord may only deliver us at the time of our death. But in promising to restore our health to us (Jeremiah 30:17) and joy in this life (Luke 10 25/28) His intention is clear.
Sometimes the restoration of a sadness or broken heart takes half a lifetime but when He heals no scar is left: He restores every hurt perfectly and unconditionally.
As our life advances the jigsaw of our life is taking form, pattern, image or picture. Where there is great achievement much of the pattern will be filled in; where there is great love or charity the eyes and face of the Lord may be very clear in that person's jigsaw of faith. Where deprivation and suffering is acute Christ's eyes or compassion may show quite clearly against a negative or incomplete background. The pictures are never to be seen complete: no one knows the full extent of another's difficulties in life. Many pictures will be vague in some respects. Those who have not met the Lord may still live well; have a colourful and strong optimism and so do much that is good and useful. Perhaps they will see Christ's face late in life even His face in the snow when it may become clear at last.
The jigsaw at the end of one's life may be entirely different from someone else's, it may have few pieces to fill in or many but the Lord intends, I believe, that any remaining negatives will be restored in the next life, the whole to be the basis of the new adventure of eternal life. Are we perfect at that moment?
His face, even to believers may not be clear. The jigsaw of one's faith in life is ever an impression as many things affect our lives outside of faith. In dying perhaps it is only the saints who do not open their eyes at the moment of death. The eyes of an unconscious person may open suddenly at the exact moment of revelation. Even to the faithful the extent of the glory must be unexpected. Some like me who believe they have seen His face may need to walk across the fields towards Him. It is not a question of whether we see his face or even when we see
His face but that We shall see His face.

The Pieman is a river really grand
which twists and quickly flows
where enormous forest giants stand:
I wonder where it goes.

On tree-clad banks, just standing there,
I am amazed to find
an earthly paradise and treasures rare:
Blackwood and Huon Pine.

The huons here are ages old, and tall,
yet hang their branches down
to trail in swirls, their leafy fingers small
in water deep, yet never drown.

These forest giants enhance my love-affair:
I stretch my arms around them;
I feel their gnarled timber with fingers bare;
I love this priceless gem.

From a pile of weathered wood, rough sawn,
I choose some huon pine;
a magic fragrance, honey-sweet, is born
when cut from grain so fine.

From the benchtop, shavings curl in yellow strips
down to the floor below
and I'm tempted to taste with my lips
- the nectar of the woods, you know.

My table's fashioned with swirling grain
.and spotted bird's eye flecks:
on forest floor for centuries has fain
this sensuous golden phoenix.

From forested river side my table came
into my lounge today:
a transformed miracle aflame
- to satisfy my play.

Written on a trip to Antarctica in 1996

Iceberg free floating
crystal whiteness deeply carved
emotive beauty

Huon River scenes

Majestic they move
the river still, mirror-calm
two black swans gliding

Clouds filling the sky
clouds patterned in the water
cloud beauty moves me

Motor bikes roar past
a dog erupts in frenzy
stillness then returns

(a dog's point of view)

When my owners were in a great fuss of preparation for their BIG TRIP they decided to take me with them, and so they have asked me to write the Christmas letter this year. In case you are wondering, this is Sam [the Dog] and I am writing this by thought transference, as my paws are too big for the keys. Our trip began with me loaded in the car on top of the mattress, and HE has decreed "never again, we'll buy a rooftop locker for the mattress before our next trip" It was fairly comfortable, and I took things one day at a time. The first night was terrible, in a metal locker on my own mat in a boat which rocked all night, I was glad to see them the next morning, and to get back into my car. I am not a water dog! It was good staying with Felicity and I was allowed to sleep on my mat outside her door, and there were lots of walks in the park. Next stop was at Castlemaine, where there were two friendly dogs, and a good run around the garden. People at St Arnaud were very kind, and let me sleep on my mat in their shed. My owners forgot the mat, but got me a new one. Adelaide was exciting [lots of cars and trucks] and Port Augusta gave me a run on the beach and a meeting with a nice female dog. Lots of miles later, I put my paw on my owner's shoulder. It worked, we stopped and had a run, but we went on again! After Coober Pedy, my owners thought they would show me the Dog Fence - some fence it was! More photos, and then I calmly walked across the "cattle grid" and christened it! There was a most exciting smell, which I wanted to follow, later we saw a dingo feeding from the roadkill. Two days later we got to Alice Springs - what fun! There was dog show on, and lots of large and strange dogs paraded in the Caravan Park. Some kind cousins gave us their house for two weeks, and I had my own yard, and the company of a little female dog named Barbie, lots of water in the swimming pool and sunshine to sleep in.
Next stop was Tennant Creek, my owners had a great time driving around and taking photos: we went to their old house, but it was guarded by two Mamalukes, and we all talked loudly across the back gate with their owners. HE caught a train in the night, but he didn't take me! SHE got me up the next morning before sunrise and we drove to Katherine, where we had to find MM, then he took us to a cattle station where we stayed two nights with me on the front porch and having runs down to the river. There were some Very Strange smells near the river and we didn't stay long, there were lots of nice dogs, and some beautiful big trees.
We had a walk in the park at Darwin, and SHE insisted on taking me into the sea at a nearby beach, it was very warm and salty, and as she washed me all over, I was licking the salt off for days! The caravan park was nice and shady, and the dogs were kept close to their owners. On Sunday, we raced into town, and my owners went into this building where lots of people were singing. They forgot to wind down my windows, so when they came back I was given a walk and lots of people patted me and said "Good Dog -what is he?" [My mother was kelpie and my father was possibly a Queensland Heeler, and I'm told I am a very handsome dog]. My owners kept going to National Parks and had to leave me locked in the car, on guard, with the windows partly down, but there was lots of shade, always.
I really don't know how they would have found their way each day without me! I stood on the mattress, and watched the road all the way. There were not many trucks, but lots of 4 wheel drives and caravans. We went west after another stop at Katherine, and another two-day halt was at Hall's Creek. We went for an early drive, and two dogs kept getting in front of us, and making a big noise. As it was Sunday again, I was left in the car twice, while they went inside to do some singing.
At Broome we had to camp in a park which welcomed dogs, they were everywhere - don't know who made the most noise, the dogs or their owners! We went on to Sandfire, which had a little zoo. There were peacocks, geese, a camel and a Brahmin bull. A very kind man from the caravan next to us gave me a bone from their pork roast dinner - YUM! I made short work of that. Breakfast the next morning was fun, because SHE went to buy groceries and I had a good scrap with the petrol-station owner's dog! We were well matched, and I could have made a meal of him if I hadn't been dragged off to have my breakfast instead. At Port Hedland where even the pigeons are copper coloured, they insisted that it was my privilege to swim in the Indian Ocean, and they both got into the waves to show me it was safe. Barking was no use, I had to get in and swim! Oh well there was lots of clean sand to roll in after! There were also some horses being exercised, and they didn't mind swimming - to each his own! Two nights inland, much better smells, cattle and some sheep. Kalgoorlie was a good stop - lots of shade and sunshine while HE cleaned the car and put the spare tyre on. No dogs, but a very feisty orange cat! He spent some time on the roof when I was there, but always came down for his owners, who seemed very fond of him. Good long walks with HIM and someone called Brian.
Across the Nullarbor was a long way, and one night I was most uncomfortable and made a mess in the car. I tried to tell them but SHE just said "Good DOG - go to sleep." Well, SHE had to clean the car in the morning while HE took me for a long walk. I'm happy to say that was my only accident, the Nullarbor is not treeless, there are millions of trees.
It was cold and raining in South Australia, and we headed for a farm at Robinvale, where there were two dogs and I was very well treated, although my owners tied me to a long lead just in case we all got stroppy. We went out to afternoon tea, and I was tied up next to two other dogs, but the scones were yummy. Sunshine and good smells - oranges, lucerne and a river nearby, I was sorry to leave. One night at Kerang where I had my own yard, next to a friendly little dog who reminded me of Barbie. A couple of nights at Kyabram where I had my own yard and shelter, then down to Melbourne to Felicity again [I believe she has two cats inside that door, but I never got to see them] and THE BOAT again! My documents were all in the wrong bag, but they let us into Tasmania again.
Tell you what, I'm glad to be home in MY yard, MY shed, near MY beach again!

Where did you go, brother crow?
You express the melancholy of my thoughts
and carry it away in the wind
so I can go on
without the heavy burden of sadness.
Come, brother, come back,
for without you
I shoulder the whole burden and drown
in the quagmire
of my misery.

The skies weep for me.
They weep for all the suffering in the creation.
And in that weeping I am comforted.

Blow, ye winds,
and blow again,
for the dust is heavy
that conceals the treasures
buried in my mind.
For centuries and centuries they have lain hidden
protected by my fear
of what may be revealed
when the familiar cobwebs are gone.

give me courage
to BE!