Fireground, Adelaide Hills

Nana's Sunrise

Nana grew up at Terka. I can show you where the house was, way out in the country next to a little church... although the farmer who owns the land now has cleared away the last stones of the ruin. When I was a little boy she told me how she rose early in the mornings to do her homework.

Her teacher wanted her to chart which of the hills far to the east the sun rose between each morning. As a child I would imagine her looking out in the frost each day, and I would look to see where the sun had risen to the east of our farm.

I guess I was in my middle teens at Nana's house in the city, when my cousin, with the world weary wisdom of a twenty year old, sighed and pronounced that she did not believe in God. It was said with the tone of God being old hat and foolish, and a depression I could hear, but not name. Her life was harder than I knew.

Nana replied more in surprise and concern than with any sense of reprimand.
"How could you see the sun rise in the morning, and not believe in God!?"

I've always remembered. Now, with Nana long dead, reduced to a leathered shell of a body apparently empty of mind before she finally died, what can I say? University degrees and theological study, cross cultural experience, parish ministry.... with all of it there is still not much more to be said. What interpretation will I give the simple, profound moments of life when the sun rises and falls? It all seems to boil down to such a decision.... and how much the decision is ours remains a question. My cousin has lived through hell... she remarked around the same time at New Year, that "at least this means one less year to live." What choice did she have to make, I wonder, in her interpretations? And how much did the shock of her world-weariness and fatalistic despair at such a young age help and inspire me to look for another meaning? The thought of not being able to see the beauty of a sunrise always fills me with a kind of horror.

April 27 2002


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