Oh my gosh! It was so cold! I stood in the early morning air and pulled my old, comfortable, black sweater tighter around me. I was, needless to say, completely unprepared and underdressed for this experience. But then again, that just seems to be the way I operate. I usually get so excited about an event, I don’t always think things through or plan as effectively as I should. This morning was no exception. I was freezing…and yet at the same time, I couldn’t stop smiling! This moment…this dark, bone-chilling moment…was the culmination of a dream come true.
I had arrived in Alice Springs, Australia, on Friday, September 02, 2017. I had dreamed for years of seeing Ayers Rock. I have always been an earth person. I know that some people (some people?) may think I’m a little crazy, but I swear I can look at mountains, hills, and boulders, and actually see them moving. I don’t just mean blades of grass ruffled by wind or leaves on trees tussling with the breeze. I can sit for hours and watch the earth breath as it inhales and exhales in slow modulations. There is a pulse to the earth that seems to vibrate with my own soul. I can find absolute beauty in rock formations and believe I am glimpsing the universe when I stare into the fissures and fractures of stone. Maybe that’s why I love crystals and keep a collection of amethyst, quartz, jasper, and pyrite with me at all times. When I can touch the crystals, I can feel the vibration of the earth even when I am trapped in my home or at work. I can find God in a small pebble, in a grain of sand. So, of course, Ayer’s Rock was always a place that I fantasized about visiting someday, and now that dream was being fulfilled.
I woke up on Saturday, September 03, at 4 am feeling very excited and very alive even though I had only four hours of sleep the night before. Although, I knew I was going to be out late on Friday night, I still couldn’t resist the opportunity to see the sunrise over Ayer’s Rock this morning. I quickly showered, dressed, and then left my hotel room. My room just happened to be in the back of a resort of small, well-space-out cabins. I stepped through my doorway into completely obscurity. I was surprised that the resort didn’t have a lot of outdoor lighting. In the dark, I made several wrong turns as I tried to navigate the many different paths that lead to theaters, museums, and restaurants. Eventually, I found my way to the front lobby as several people were already boarding our tour bus. I don’t know if people were excited or cold but either way everyone was moving around and talking enthusiastically as we climbed aboard the vehicle. Once we were underway, the driver, a large, sweet, young man, told us the history and legends of Ayer’s Rock, the Maori people, and the outback. I really loved hearing that the Australian parliament had voted to change the names of treasured monuments back to the original names that were created by the Maori, the native people of Australia. Ayer’s Rock now only refers to the general area. The rock itself is known by the native name of Uluru.
Once we arrived at the site, all of the passengers gathered around tables that held large hot water urns, coffee, tea, and cookies. In the freezing morning air, it felt good to hold a cup of coffee in my cold hands. I sipped at the hot liquid as our guides encouraged us to fill our pockets with packages of cookies in case we got hungry throughout the day. Once I refilled my foam cup with coffee and stuffed my pockets with treats, a young female tour guide walked over to me. “If you are ready, you can go on up to the viewing area. Just follow the path,” she said. I stared in the direction the woman pointed. It was still completely dark! I couldn’t see anything beyond the generated glow around the snack tables. The tour guide then pointed as she said, “There…just follow the lights.” I looked again in the direction she was pointing and noticed small twinkling red and green fairy lights that were positioned on the ground just a few feet apart. The lights were so small, so subtle, and placed so far apart, I hadn’t noticed them at first.
Now, while the majority of the tour group stayed gathered around the snack table, I took a deep breath to calm down my racing heart. I nodded my head, thanked the guide, and then sat off in the darkness, following the blinking lights. Even though I was stumbling forward on rocky ground in the pitch darkness, I couldn’t help feeling the magic all around me. I was on sacred ground according to the Maori. And even though I lost track of the lights and wandered off the trail several times, there was an energy that kept pulling me back in the correct direction again. It was a long hike up to the viewing area, but with the gentle help of the fairy lights and the energy of the outback, I finally found myself at the bottom of a flight of steps.
I grabbed the rough plank rail and started to climb up to a large wooden platform. I soon stood on the platform and turned around slowly. I was surprised to find that Australia was just as beautiful in the dark as it is in the light. Then, to the south, I noticed a large dark formation rising up in front of me. Uluru, I sighed as I sensed where the rock resided even though I still couldn’t see it.
Soon, the top of the wooden viewing area grew crowded with other pilgrims. I smiled as I listened to their excited voices and laughter. I heard Asian, English, French, Australian, and American accents all around me but I couldn’t see faces, but surprisingly I still felt the companionship and security of being with other people from all over the world. The darkness, the energy, the stars, the moon, and all of the many people around me made me feel completely connected to the universe in a way I had never imagined before.
I stood there, shivering in the cold air, but did not feel uncomfortable. Surprisingly, I have never felt more contented anywhere I have ever been, even though I wished I had paid more attention to the environment. I should have thought more about the weather. I knew when I planned my Australian trip for late August/early September, the continent would be transitioning from winter into spring. Also, areas located further north or further south of the equator were cold . The time of the year and location should have made me aware that there would be a chill in the early mornings, even though the days would be warm. But in my excitement of coming to Australia, my sense of direction and knowledge of geography had completely deserted me. I have always been the type of person who jumped into an experience without planning or thinking it completely through first.
And suddenly I realized I wasn’t the only one…
As I stood in the dark, freezing but happy, a young man approached me. Out of the shadows, I heard his deep, English accent as he said, “I see you didn’t know it would be cold either.” I glanced around us and compared all of the bulky, parka-heavy shadows compared to our two lean forms. I suddenly realized the man was dressed in shorts and a thin t-shirt. As we watched all of the people moving around us in heavy coats, we laughed and talked for a moment about how unprepared we were for this moment. Then, slowly, over his right shoulder, I suddenly began to see a soft glow breaking up the darkness. I stared in the direction of Uluru and watched excitedly as the shadow of the sun slowly began to kiss the huge rock formation. Uluru began to grow and stood out against the dark sky like a shadow of God. As the sunrise grew stronger, the rock began to change colors, from black to light brown to golden to red. I was fascinated by all of the colors that suddenly began to glimmer and sparkle across the surface of the monument. Uluru continued to shimmer as it breathed slowly in and out. I could feel the soul of the rock as energy waves radiated out and the formation glowed and change shape in the approaching sunlight. The visible energy of Uluru resembled ocean waves; it looked like heat rising up off the land; it portrayed an upcoming dream sequence in a movie. Uluru was natural magic.
As the sun now shined across the outback, I walked down off the platform and followed a trail that lead to a fenced viewing area situated closer to the rock. I leaned against the fence and stared at Uluru as I watched it breathe, alive and well. And I knew that despite the cold, despite stumbling around in the dark, I too was alive and well. And as I watched the energy filling the air around Uluru, I realized that I had been blessed with a dream come true.
And it didn’t matter that I was dressed in a black sweater while most people were wearing parkas. And I didn’t care that I had tripped and stumbled up the dark path. It didn’t matter that I was there alone while other people were with friends and family. Looking at Uluru I realized I had been fortunate to experience a dream come true. I took a deep breath in and captured the energy of Uluru in my heart and soul and knew that no matter what happened I would be forever bonded to this magnificent land.
And it would be forever a part of me.