On Friday 15 August, nine intrepid ‘pilgrims’ set out from the Dongara Uniting Church to follow a trail around the Irwin River and estuary. The weather was glorious and the setting magnificent. Our planned route included trekking across the bar, but this was adjusted as the river mouth was open. Having the Shire bus to help transport those not able to walk the full distance meant the whole group could instead move together from the lookout on Church Street to the boardwalk in Ocean Drive. We were delighted to have Jess Rowe and her daughter Sue with us and our friend Viv, who had walked with us last year, as well as several first-time pilgrims.
‘Water For Life’ was the theme of the event this year, celebrating the wonderful and amazing qualities of the gift of water for this water-dependent planet. A pilgrimage booklet was available for every person, with text extracted from the book Downstream From Eden by David L Knight. This booklet also contained portions of some of the psalms and wisdom writings from the Bible. Further reflections came from a book of modern Psalms written by a New Zealand woman. At each of seven ‘stations’ along the way the group stopped and shared in readings from the pilgrimage booklet which opened insights into the complex nature of water. Here we expanded our understanding of how amazing this substance is, how chameleon-like it can be, changing in appearance and quality according to characteristics of surrounding air and earth.
During the journey we considered first of all how water came into being as atoms of hydrogen and oxygen combined in the progress of creation. We learned that astronomers in 2011 detected the largest and oldest mass of water in the universe: a gigantic 12 billion year old cloud containing 140 trillion times more water than all of earth’s oceans combined. They say this shows that water has been prevalent in the universe for nearly its entire existence. This correlated with our readings from the first chapter of the book of Genesis in the Bible, where the majestic ‘symphony’ of creation is rolled out. Our material from ‘Downstream From Eden’ amplified and extended our understanding of the biblical text, and helped us respond with a sense of awe and wonder at the marvellous world in which we live. This included considering the ways in which water is continually recycled over the planet from ocean ‘storehouses’ to clouds and fog, then carried hundreds or thousands of kilometres to fall on the land as rain, snow, mist or hail.
At the mid-point of our trek, the group stopped at the monastery on the south bank of the river and ate a pilgrim lunch of soup and bread, with tea and coffee available. The Dongara painters group shared their space with us and had generously set the table with bunches of fresh lavender. After this rest and re-vitalising, we completed our journey along the south bank of the Irwin River, over the bridge and back along the river to Waldeck Street, and then to the Uniting Church grounds for the concluding thoughts. It was a great time of experiencing the local environment, considering clouds and the water surrounding us from a new perspective, and sharing this experience with our companions of the road.
Thanks to Allan More for driving the bus. The Pilgrimage booklet was prepared by Jill Clements. This is the fourth year the Uniting Church in Dongara has provided a Pilgrimage event.
By Jill Clements