today's outing was to Echuca, which used to be one of the biggest ports in Australia, and I think the biggest inland port. It's on the Murray River, and is now not an active port for trade and produce, but it is a wonderful tourist destination. We were there out of school holiday time, so the mood was relaxed, though there was by no means a ghost town feel. We wandered down Port Echuca, which has old buildings, no cars, restaurants, and booking offices for the paddle steamers. There are some of the oldest paddle steamers in the world operating from Echuca, and we saw one which had burnt to the water years ago, and over the past 10 years has had millions spent on it to restore it very faithfully to its era.
We took a one and a half hour cruise on a paddle steamer, and though there wasn't much to see, it was wonderful primarily for the slow pace, for the relaxing over a glass of wine, the fresh air and friendly smiles and waves of passengers on passing steamers.
We entered into the story of the river, the traders, and an ex-convict who set up a punt on which he carried the stock of farmers across the river until the river flooded and they set up a punt on a higher part of the river bank. We saw the mark on a bridge at the height of a 20th century flood - and noted with dismay that it's been a long time since the water was any where near that level. The river has water in it, and it seems the Victorians are happy with their situation (sorry, don't want to be bitter, but I live at the other end of the river) with the weirs maintaining a helpful level of water for them. But my parents and I have noticed that there are many creeks and rivers through Victoria without water, and some with - those with appear to be the ones not used for irrigation. We were disappointed with the number of fields utilising open flooding, and the open irrigation canals. The technology for better water management is available, why are farmers not being resourced and encouraged to use it?
oh, dear, this was going to be a post about making space, and it's turned into a rant about water (mis)management. sorry.
the other reason I was thinking about making space is that I've been doing some work on the worship resources for Advent for Seasons of the Spirit. I've been wondering about how we might equip our congregations for making space in the midst of the busyness that accompanies Christmas and end of year celebrations and preparations. What would it be like to establish a retreat space in the church? or to encourage families to establish a retreat space in their homes? might Christian community have something to offer from our tradition in the way of prayer, silence, meditation - stillness? And how might this gift enhance life for people caught on the treadmill of busyness, noise, endless movement?