Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Time In The Outback

 As we drove towards the vast horizons of the Australian Outback, time became more and more arbitrary.  Our lives no longer focused on the numbers on our wrist watches; instead, they began to revolve around the sun.  
Our mornings didn't begin with the loud buzz of an alarm clock or the first ray of light, but rather with the predawn shrill of the black cockatoo.  We never found ourselves lingering on the hard ground, attempting to sneak in a few more minutes of shut eye, because we knew that our time to explore was limited and that as the sun rose in the sky it would bring with it the discomforts that we had begun to associate with the Outback summer sunshine.
As the first rays of sun are cast across the arid land the desert, landscape comes to life.  Snakes and lizards sit on flat open spaces and rocks, warming themselves in the early morning sun.  Wallabies and kangaroos gather around billabongs for a final nibble of the tender green shoots and a sip of water.  Birds that roost in the small wooded areas of the desert fill the air with their calls and songs.
It is during the early hours of the morning that we were able to leave the gullies and washes where trees could grow and explore the non-protected areas of the desert floor.  Early morning is the time to climb undulating hills and ridges, to use our raised vantage point to observe the contrasting shapes and colors of our surroundings.  The wide open spaces allow us to feel the texture of the air and to absorb the absolute stillness.
As the sun climbs higher in the sky the golden glow of its rays turns to a searing force that slowly drains the earth of its color and beauty.  We learned that when the suffocating heat of the summer causes the sun baked desert to provocatively dance before your eyes it was time to seek protection.  It was during the hours of extreme heat that we continued our Outback explorations from the comfort of our air-conditioned vehicle, exploration that would last for hours on end, because we knew what awaited us outside our protective enclosure.  We would continue our drive until just before sunset.
There is something magical about a summer sunset in the Australian Outback.  It is a time when the sun-baked, white-washed landscape is renewed with color, as it takes on an orange-redish glow. The silence of the heat is broken with the constant hum of the cicada and the territorial disputes of the kookaburra.  Life slowly returns to the area as dusk brings relief from the sun's brutal rays, though darkness will not be enough to completely remove the heat that envelops the land.

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