Saturday, April 18, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 11: A Journey to Northern Rivers Country

NOTE: To start at the beginning of this series, click here.



On the morning of Friday, March 20, my friend Joan returned to the U.S. from Australia. Joan had traveled with me from Minnesota to the "Great South Land" at the beginning of the month, and had shared some wonderful times with me and my family – in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie, in Melbourne and its surrounding area, and in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

That same morning I boarded a train at Sydney's Central Station and traveled north to Grafton and that area of New South Wales known as "Northern Rivers."

Here I visited my friends Mike and Bernie McGowan and two of their adult children (Mim and Collette) and their partners (Sam and Jeremy). I first got to know the McGowan family in Goulburn, where Mike had been the principal of the primary school at which I taught from 1988-1993. Before relocating to the U.S. in 1994, I taught two of the McGowan children - Jeremiah (in 1989) and Tess (in 1992).

I’ve stayed friends with all the members of the family ever since our shared time in Goulburn, and I always try to catch up with as many of them as I can each time I visit Australia from the U.S. Mike and Bernie's second eldest son Raph visited and lived with me in the Twin Cities for a good part of 2004. He visited me again in the U.S. in 2011. Back in Australia in 2014, he cycled over 1900 kilometers in memory of his sister Tess and to raise awareness and funds for melanoma research and prevention. (For more about this inspiring achievement, click here, here, and here.)

Mike and Bernie (pictured with me at left) live just outside of the town of Maclean. You may recall that the last time I visited them I and a number of family members were flooded-in by the Australian floods of 2011. Though this visit was less dramatic, it was no less enjoyable and meaningful.



About the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, Wikipedia notes:

The region is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the New England region to the west where the Great Dividing Range forms a mountainous boundary. To the north is the border between New South Wales and Queensland, where the Darling Downs are located to the north–west and South East Queensland directly to the north.

The defining characteristic of the region are the fertile valleys of the Clarence, Richmond and Tweed rivers and their sources, hence the region's name; and the region's white sandy beaches.



Above: A view of the beach at Yamba, with the Clarence Head Lighthouse in the background – Saturday, March 21, 2015.


Right: Sam and Mim.





Above: Jeremy and Collette.



Above: Bernie and Mike.



Above: Sam and Jeremy at work in the kitchen.



Above: Mike, tending the memorial garden for Tess.



Above and below: At Yamba – Saturday, March 21, 2015.






Above: An evening sky full of fruit bats (also known as flying foxes).



Above: Sitting at right with (from left) Mim, Sam, Bernie, and Jeremy – March 21, 2015.


Coming Soon: Gunnedah


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Part 10 – Sydney and the Blue Mountains
The Australian Floods of 2011
Rising Waters
"Flooded-In But Loving Life"
In Maclean, an End to the "Siege"
Yaegl Country (2011)
Angourie (2011)


Friday, April 17, 2015

Desert Dancer: A Story That Matters

Dance movies are generally about exuberant exhibitionism, about people who are so proud of the remarkable things they can do with their body that they want to share them with the world. That’s ultimately [young Iranian dancer] Afshin [Ghaffarian]’s goal, too, but to get to that place of creative freedom, he must first endure [in a country where dancing is forbidden] a gauntlet of suspicion and repression, where he cultivates his gifts in secrecy out of pragmatic necessity.

As a result, [director Richard Raymond's] Desert Dancer is an unusually quiet, even hushed dance movie. Many of the film’s most powerful moments are free of dialogue, and some of its most powerful sequences eschew sound altogether. Desert Dancer is blessed by a powerful sincerity. The filmmakers clearly believe the bromides offered about the life-affirming power of dance and artistic expression. The conviction that this story matters and deserves to be taken seriously gets the film over its occasional rough patches.

Dance movies and musicals often set out to leave audiences with the proverbial song in their heart. Desert Dancer, in sharp contrast, would rather they depart with a deeper appreciation of the power of dancing with or without song, whether it’s the kind other people can hear, or just the kind that exists deep within our souls.

– Nathan Rabin
Excerpted from Desert Dancer: a Review
The Dissolve
April 9, 2015






Related Off-site Links:
Dancing Against the Devil: In Desert Dancer, an Underground Troupe Defies the Rulers of Iran – Bill Newcott (AARP, April 9, 2015).
Footloose Iranian Students Defy the Ayatollahs in a Generic Biopic of Dancer Afshin Ghaffarian – Scott Foundas (Variety, April 8, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
The Dancer and the Dance
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
A Beautiful Collaboration
The Church and Dance
The Soul of a Dancer


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality

I'm currently reading The Essential Gay Mystics, a 1997 anthology compiled by Andrew Harvey and which Randy Conner, co-author of Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit, notes "is an illuminating anthology whose great value lies in the double revelation that many of the world's renowned mystics have been lovers of the same sex, and that the mystical impulse has inspired the works of a goodly number of the homoerotically inclined luminaries of the literary canon."

Further praise is offered by Ken Wilber, who, after observing that a mystic is "not one who sees God as an object, but who is immersed in God as an atmosphere," writes that the works collected in The Essential Gay Mystics] "are a radiant testament to that all-encompassing condition." Harvey, says Wilber, "has given us a cornucopia of mystical wisdom, tender as tears and gentle as fog, but also passionately ablaze with the relentless fire of the Divine."

The Essential Gay Mystics includes texts from the Greeks and Romans (Sappho, Plato, Euripides; Virgil, Horace, the "Galli"), the Native American berdache tradition, the ancient Far East (Qu Yuan, Kūkai, Bashō, and the Persian Sufi traditions, Attar, Sadi, Hafiz, Jami), as well as works from literary figures from the Renaissance (Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz) to the twentieth century (Frederico Garcia Lorca, Willa Cather, Dag Hammarskjöld, Audre Lorde), each presented with a short biographical introduction.

Given my great interest in both the mystical path of Sufism and evolutionary spirituality's emphasis on the interconnection of all things, and of course my own experience as a gay man of relationship with the "divine fount of things," I'm very much appreciating and enjoying Andrew Harvey's insightful anthology.

Following, with added images and links, is an excerpt from the introduction to The Essential Gay Mystics, an introduction written by Harvey.


In her masterpiece, Mysticism, Evelyn Underhill writes, "Mysticism offers us the history, as old as civilization, of a race of adventurers who have carried to its term the process of a deliberate and active return to the divine fount of things. They have surrendered themselves to the life-movement of the universe, hence have lived an intenser life than other beings can even know. . . . Therefore they witness to all that our latent spiritual consciousness, which shows itself in the 'hunger for the absolute,' can be made to mean to us if we develop it, and have in this respect an unique importance for the race."

There has never been a more important time for taking completely seriously the evidence and testimony of this "race of adventurers." Without a belief in, and radical cultivation of, mystical consciousness and the insights into the interconnectedness of all reality in sacred joy and sacred love it alone can bring, we will not be able to develop the necessary awareness to help us solve the terrible problems that threaten our lives and the very life of the planet.

In the great chorus of witnesses to the transforming power of direct relationship with the "divine fount of things," a surprisingly large number have been gay. Surprising, because the rhetoric of nearly all the world's major religions would have you believe that spiritual insight and achievement are incompatible with homosexuality. Homophobia has stained all the religions. . . . To those acquainted with the facts of contemporary homophobia in all its forms, and with both the blatant and the subtle ways in which religions of all kinds perpetuate it, there can be little surprise in learning that, according to Amnesty International, homosexuality is punishable by death in over forty countries, in many cases with the full sanction of religious law.

It is as a loving protest against this obscene and tragic state of affairs that I conceived of this anthology of gay mystics. I wanted everyone – most of all my gay brothers and sisters – to be fully aware that whatever the mullahs and gurus and archbishops and pseudo-avatars might say, there is no record of the Divine itself in any way excluding homosexuals from the direct contact with its love, which is offered freely and forever to every sentient being.

Delving into the truth of homosexual history, one begins to understand that homophobia is a purely human and relatively recent cultural construct, and it has no basis in divine ordination. In earlier times, up until the Roman era, contemporary cultural historians such as Riane Eisler and Randy Conner make clear in their calmly groundbreaking work, reverence for the Sacred Feminine and the Divine Mother led to reverence for all forms of life and love. Many shamans were and are homosexual; many of the worshipers of the Goddess under her various names and in her various cults all over the world – from the Mediterranean to the Near East to the Celtic parts of northern Europe – openly avowed their homosexuality and were accepted and even specially revered as priests, oracles, healers, and diviners. Homosexuals, far from being rejected, were seen as sacred – people who, by virtue of a mysterious fusion of feminine and masculine traits, participated with particular intensity in the life of the Source. Th Source of Godhead is, after all, both masculine and feminine, and exists in a unity that includes but transcends both. The homosexual was thought to mirror this unity and its enigmatic fertility and power in a special way. The tribe or culture gave to him or her specific duties that were highly important and sacred, acknowledging this intimacy with divine truth and the clairvoyant help it could bring to the whole society. This wise and spacious understanding of what some cultural historians and sociologists have called the third and fourth sexes continues, however fragmentarily, in the Native American traditions in which the berdache or gay, cross-dressing shaman (known in different tribes by different names) holds an honored, essential place in the life of the tribe.

Many ancient cultures, especially those devoted to celebrating the Mother, recognized and honored the holiness of diversity. The homosexual was seen not as a figure excluded from ordinary cultural life and the embrace of the sacred but as holy as anyone else, and with a special access to sacred understanding by virtue of falling outside the "normal" categories. What we are beginning to learn about the early homosexual priests of Asarte, about the Roman "Galli" (gender-variant priests who served and worshiped the Roman mother goddess, Cybele), about the sexual lives of the early shamanic tribes of Neolithic Europe and Siberia, and about the different North American native traditions makes it clear that in past times humanity was far less divided against itself than it is now, and people were able, by worshiping the unity of all life and so the holiness of all lives, to realize both the value and the potential sacred function of the homosexual in society.

The continued resistance to this information in political, academic, and religious circles of all kinds can only mean that allowing for and accepting the holiness of the homosexual choice and personality would effect a revolutionary change in existing conditions. Allowing the wisdom of the third and fourth sexes to be fully vocal in our culture would dissolve the false, rigid categorization of "male" and "female," and the male-centered, male-dominated, competitive, exploitative, war-and-power obsessed mentality that it keeps alive. The return of the Sacred Feminine that is everywhere trying to occur is, in part, a return of the uncanny, of those insights and aspects of ourselves that have been banished from our awareness for too long, repressed or demonized. The Mother is preparing a revolution [or perhaps better yet, an evolution!] of consciousness for the whole human race, but this revolution will be possible only when we invite the wisdom of the feminine, with its instinctual understanding of the sacredness of all life and of all true love, back into our hearts and minds in its full radical splendor.

In mystical terms, what is being prepared for humankind – if we are brave enough to embrace the challenge – is our birth into a wholly new unified cosmic consciousness, what many mystics call divine childhood: that state of naked and elemental freedom beyond all barriers, dogmas, and conventions, the final reward of long years of prayer, discipline, and ordeal in the crucible of mystical transformation. Many mystics also believe – as I do – that this birth into divine childhood under the direct inner guidance of the Father-Mother is the one remaining hope for humanity. Unless this transformation takes place on a vast, politically and economically radical scale, the race will not survive.

– Andrew Harvey
Excerpted from The Essential Gay Mystics
pp. 1-4


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
In the Garden of Spirituality – Toby Johnson
The Gifts of Homosexuality
Same-Sex Desires: "Immanent and Essential Traits Transcending Time and Culture"
North America: Perhaps Once the "Queerest Continent on the Planet"
A Return to the Spirit
Recovering the Queer Artistic Heritage
Quote of the Day – November 12, 2011
The Sufi Way
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All

Related Off-site Links:
Andrew Harvey – Institute for Sacred Activism
Shokti: Tales of Queer Mystical Emergence

Opening Image: "Shiva" (Model: Paulo Pascoal; Photographer: Francisco Martins.)


Friday, April 10, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 10: Sydney and the Blue Mountains



Following the wonderful reunion with friends and former teaching colleagues in Goulburn on the evening of March 17, I caught a train the next day to Sydney.

The train journey from Goulburn to Sydney takes about three hours. It's one that I always enjoy as it passes through the beautiful countryside of the Southern Highlands, including the townships of Exeter, Bowral, Moss Vale, and Mittagong.

In Sydney I was reunited with my friend Joan, who traveled with me from Minnesota to Australia at the beginning of March and has shared some wonderful times with me and my family – in the Hunter Valley, in Port Macquarie and in Melbourne.



Above: With Joan on the rooftop of the Regents Court Apartments in Sydney's Kings Cross district. As you can see from this post's opening image, the rooftop garden of Regents Court affords an impressive view of "The City."




On Thursday, March 19, Joan and I traveled with my friend Julian to the Blue Mountains, located just west of Sydney.

Notes Wikipedia:

The Blue Mountains is a mountainous region in New South Wales, Australia. It borders on Sydney's metropolitan area, its foothills starting about 50 kilometres (31 mi) west of the state capital. The public's understanding of the extent of the Blue Mountains is varied, as it forms only part of an extensive mountainous area associated with the Great Dividing Range.

The Blue Mountains are a dissected plateau carved in sandstone bedrock. They are now a series of ridge lines separated by gorges up to 760 metres (2,490 ft) deep. The highest point in the Blue Mountains, as it is now defined, is an unnamed point with an elevation of 1,189 m (3,901 ft) seven kilometres north-east of Lithgow. However, the highest point in the broader region once considered to be the Blue Mountains is Mount Bindo, elevation 1,362 m (4,469 ft).

. . . When Europeans arrived in Australia, the Blue Mountains had already been inhabited for several millennia by the Gundungurra people, now represented by the Gundungurra Tribal Council Aboriginal Corporation based in Katoomba, and, in the lower Blue Mountains, by the Darug people, now represented by the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation.

The Gundungurra creation story of the Blue Mountains tells that Dreamtime creatures Mirigan and Garangatch, half fish and half reptile, fought an epic battle which scarred the landscape into the Jamison Valley.

Arthur Phillip (1738-1814), the first governor of New South Wales, first glimpsed the extent of the Blue Mountains from a ridge at the site of today's Oakhill College, Castle Hill. He named them the Carmarthen Hills, 'some forty to sixty miles distant..." and he reckoned that the ground was "most suitable for government stock."

The first documented use of the name Blue Mountains appears in Captain John Hunter’s account of Phillip’s 1789 expedition up the Hawkesbury River. Describing the events of about 5 July, Hunter wrote: "We frequently, in some of the reaches which we passed through this day, saw very near us the hills, which we suppose as seen from Port Jackson, and called by the governor the Blue Mountains." During the nineteenth century the name was commonly applied to the portion of the Great Dividing Range from about Goulburn in the south to the Hunter Valley in the north, but in time it came to be associated with a more limited area.

The native Aborigines knew two routes across the mountains: Bilpin Ridge, which is now the location of Bells Line of Road between Richmond and Bell, and the Coxs River, a tributary of the Nepean River. It could be followed upstream to the open plains of the Kanimbla Valley, the type of country that farmers prize.

European settlers initially considered that fertile lands lay beyond the mountains, as was China in the belief of many convicts, but that this didn't matter much, since the mountains were impassable. This idea was, to some extent, convenient for local authorities. An "insurmountable" barrier would deter convicts from trying to escape in that direction.

A former convict, John Wilson, may have been the first European to cross the Blue Mountains. It is also believed that Mathew Everingham, 1795, may have also been partly successful based on letters he wrote at the time which came to light in the late 1980s. Wilson arrived with the First Fleet in 1788 and was freed in 1792. He settled in the bush, living with the Aborigines and even functioning as an intermediary between them and the settlers. In 1797 he returned to Sydney, claiming to have explored up to a hundred miles in all directions around Sydney, including across the mountains. His descriptions and observations were generally accurate, and it is possible that he had crossed the mountains via the southern aspect at the Coxs River corridor, guided by the Aborigines.




Above: The Three Sisters, undoubtedly the most famous landmark of the Blue Mountains.

Notes Wikipedia:

The Three Sisters is a rock formation in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, on the north escarpment of the Jamison Valley. They are close to the town of Katoomba and are one of the Blue Mountains' best known sites, towering above the Jamison Valley. Their names are Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918 m), and Gunnedoo (906 m).

. . . The commonly told legend of the Three Sisters is that three sisters (Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo) lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe. They fell in love with three men from a neighbouring tribe (the Nepean tribe), but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. The brothers were not happy to accept this law and so decided to use force to capture the three sisters. A major tribal battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend.

However, Dr Martin Thomas, in his work The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains, clearly shows that the "aboriginal" legend is a fabrication created by a non-Aboriginal Katoomba local, Mel Ward, presumably to add interest to a local landmark. The story originated in the late 1920s or early 1930s and is unknown prior to that date.

The Aboriginal traditional owners, the Gundungurra, have a legend that includes the Sisters rock formation.



Above: Descending into the Jamison Valley.

Notes Wikipedia:

The Jamison Valley stretches north-south from just outside of Katoomba to the Mount Solitary ridge; in this direction it is approximately 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) long. From west to east, it stretches from Narrow Neck Plateau to Kings Tableland, making it approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) wide.

Like the entire Sydney and Blue Mountains region, the valley is a sandstone area, characterised by steep sandstone cliffs. Deeper into the soil there is a layer of shale, which is softer than the sandstone. As this layer of shale was eroded by the watercourses, it collapsed and brought the sandstone down with it, creating the characteristic sandstone valleys and canyons of the Blue Mountains, of which the Jamison Valley is one.

The valley is densely forested, with eucalypt forest over most of its expanse and occasional pockets of semi-rainforest in gullies, where water is concentrated. The northern escarpment is deeply serrated, having been carved up by watercourses over millions of years.

. . . The only mountain in the valley is Mount Solitary [right], which sprawls across the south of the valley from west to east. It is joined to Narrow Neck Plateau by a low ridge which is also the site of the Ruined Castle, a rock formation that is popular with bushwalkers.



Above and below: In the Blue Mountains' Jamison Valley – Thursday, March 19, 2015.




Above and below: The Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath.



Notes Wikipedia:

The Hydro Majestic Hotel was developed by Sydney businessman, Mark Foy in the early years of the twentieth century and was the main economic activity in the area, until bushfires nearly destroyed the hotel on December 8, 2002.

There is an elaborate network of walking tracks, which were developed in the bushland between the hotel and the escarpment of the Megalong Valley. The tracks offer scope for many fine bushwalks and views of the Megalong Valley.

The hotel received heritage listing in 1984. After many decades of decline and neglect the Hydro Majestic underwent a series of refurbishments during the 1990s. The Accor hotel group became associated with the hotel from about 2002 until 2006 and then a smaller Malaysian based group took over the running of the hotel, borrowing the name "Hydro Majestic" to brand their other hotels in Asia. In 2008 the hotel was closed for refurbishment, with the new owners restoring the hotel and adding new facilities.



Above and below: Gorse Valley as seen from Govetts Leap Lookout.


It's said that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired to write The Lost World after a visit to the Blue Mountains in the early years of the twentieth century. And looking at the view above from Govetts Leap, one can understand why.





Back in Sydney that night, Joan treated Julian and I to a show at the Sydney Opera House (below): a spirited performance by Sinéad O'Connor. That evening was also Joan's last night in Australia. She flew back to the U.S. the next day.



Above and below: Views (inside and out) of the Sydney Opera House (and the Sydney Harbour Bridge).







See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Part 9 – A Reunion in Goulburn
Return to Oz . . . Sydney to Be Exact! (2014)
An Afternoon on the Harbour (2012)
Leichhardt (2012)
Sydney Sojourn (2010)
Strathfield (2009)
"Harbour City" Sights (2008)
Newtown (2008)
Travelin' South (Part 1) (2006)
Southern Highlands (2006)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Something to Think About . . .

.


Related Off-site Links:
Up to 150 Killed at Kenyan University Massacre Following Al-Shabaab Easter Week Raid: Terrorists 'Behead' Christian Students in Worst Attack in Country in 17 Years – Darren Boyle and Jenny Stanton (Daily Mail, April 2, 2015).
Attacks on Christians Cry for World's Condemnation – The Editorial Board (The News Tribune, April 8, 2015).
Pakistani Christian Teen Dies After Being Set on Fire – Desmond Busteed (Premier Christian Radio, April 15, 2015).
Killing Christianity – Phyllis Zagano (National Catholic Reporter, April 8, 2015).
Oregon Bakery Found Culpable for Anti-Gay Discrimination, Could Face $150,000 Fine – Zack Ford (Think Progress, February 3, 2015).
Cake Wars Getting Stickier – Chris Weigant (The Huffington Post, April 6, 2015).
Most Americans Support Gay People Over Businesses That Use Religion to Discriminate – David Badash (The New Civil Rights Movement, April 9, 2015).
Perhaps Love Bakes a Cake – Micah J. Murray (MicahJMurray.com, September 4, 2013).
The Clash of “Religious Freedom” and Civil Rights in Indiana – Dale Carpenter (The Washington Post, March 30, 2015).
Can Religious Freedom Be Used to Discriminate? – Stephen Seufert (The Huffington Post, April 6, 2015).
When "Religious Liberty" Was Used to Justify Racism Not Homophobia – Ian Millhiser (Think Progress, February 26, 2015).
"Religious Discrimination" Laws Have Nothing to Do With Religion – Julian Bond (The Advocate, March 30, 2015).
How Conservatives Hijacked "Religious Freedom" – Amanda Marcotte (Talking Points Memo, March 31, 2015).
U.S. Catholic Leaders Successfully Rebrand Their Church as Preëminent Church of Anti-Gay Bigotry: Testimony from Easter Talk Shows – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, April 7, 2015).
Gays, Religious Traditionalists, and the Feeling of Being Under Siege – Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic, April 6, 2015).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Quote of the Day – February 2, 2015
Something to Think About – March 31, 2015
Marianne Duddy-Burke on Religious Liberty vs. Same-Sex Marriage
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society
Prayer of the Week – February 16, 2015


Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Australian Sojourn – March 2015

Part 9: A Reunion in Goulburn



NOTE: As of March 30 I'm back in Minnesota. But my series of posts on my recent sojourn in Australia continues . . .

After several days of family time in Melbourne, culminating in the wedding of my nephew Ryan and his wife Farah, I boarded a train and traveled to Goulburn, New South Wales. Goulburn is considered Australia's oldest inland city, and it was where I lived and taught as a primary (or elementary) school teacher at Sts. Peter and Paul's Catholic School from 1988-1993.

My visit to Goulburn was a short but memorable one, primarily due to the wonderful reunion I had with over 20 of my former teaching colleagues at the Blue Plate Restaurant on the evening of March 17. It had been at least nine years since I last saw many of my friends who gathered at the Blue Plate. Indeed, my last visit to Goulburn was in 2006, a visit I document here, here, and here.



Above: While in Goulburn I stayed with my dear friends Cathy and Gerry Conroy. Gerry had been a teacher with me at Sts. Peter and Paul, and Cathy and I had studied together part-time at the Australian Catholic University in nearby Canberra in 1991-1992.

I'd also taught two of Gerry and Cathy's three children, Jacinta and Bernard. Jacinta and her beautiful family (pictured at left) are currently living in Goulburn. She and her husband are co-founders of Suluhisho Trust, a non-profit organization that facilitates sustainable social and economic change within communities in Kenya.



I have such happy memories of my time in Goulburn. Indeed, I realized that if (or is that when?) I move back to Australia from the U.S., I'd like to settle either in Goulburn or some place nearby.

Above: Friends and former teaching colleagues (from left) Louise Hobbs, Jackie Kruger, Kathy Klem, and Marion MacDonald – Tuesday, March 17, 2015.

Right: Marg Larkham, Michele Yeadon, and Jane Booth.



Above: Annie Zappia and Cathy Conroy. Both women were very supportive of me during my last year in Goulburn (1993) when I was criticized by some for expressing certain theological views through a series of letters to The Goulburn Post. For more about this, see the previous Wild Reed post, The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism.

Left: Jacinta, Sophie, Gerry, and Louise – March 17, 2015.



Right: With Mike and Bronwyn – March 17, 2015.



Okay, let's go back . . . Above and following are some images from 1993, my last year in Goulburn. In the photo above I'm at left with a number of my Goulburn friends, including Mike Baker and Cathy and Gerry Conroy, who are pictured in the pictures from the March 17, 2015 gathering at the Blue Plate.


Above: With Mike Baker and Jane Booth in 1993.



Above: Jackie, Marg and Gerry in 1993. This photo and the previous one were taken at a party hosted by Marg and her husband Frank. I'm sure I was the one who bought the bottle of Mateus as back then that was my drink of choice (well, one of them!).



Above: Louise, Jackie, Kathy, and Gerry. This photo was taken at St. Michael's Novitiate on the staff day before the start of the 1993 school year.



Above: Sitting with (from left): Michele, Jane, and Marg.



In 1993 I hosted two memorable parties in my little stone cottage in Clifford St., Goulburn. The first of these was in April and was a "Back to the '60s" party! I'm pictured above with (from left) Gerry, Estelle, and Cathy.



Above: Jane, Michele, and Carmel.



Above: Cathy and Estelle . . . and, of course, Dusty!



Above: Carol, Jane, and Marion.



Above: Steve, Marg, and Ray.



Above: With my good friend Kerry Dyer – Goulburn, March 18, 2015.



. . . And here's Kerry and I at my "Back to the '60s" party in April of 1993!



Above: With Kerry and her sister Sandra in early 1993.
Can you believe that hair of mine?!



The second party I hosted at my Goulburn home in 1993 was my farewell party. It had a "beach party" theme. Pictured with me above are Marg Larkham and Toni Gaye Bush, both of whom were at the reunion gathering at the Blue Plate Restaurant on March 17, 2015 . . .

. . . as was my friend Marion, pictured with me (at left) with our friend and colleague Beverly in November 1993.




Above and below: What can I say? . . . I sure can throw a party!

Pictured second from right is Mike McGowan, who was at that time the principal of Sts. Peter and Paul's. I taught two of Mike and his wife Bernie's seven children, Jeremiah and Tess. I remain close to all the McGowan's, and regular readers may recall my support of Raphael McGowan's inspiring Cycling to March initiative of 2014, and our various roving adventures (see, for instance, here and here).



Above: That's my friend Jan Kramp leading the conga line. Jan sadly passed away several years ago.



Above: Gerry and Cathy – Goulburn, March 18, 2015.



Above and below: Views of Goulburn – Wednesday, March 18, 2015.









See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 1 – Brooklyn and Morpeth
Part 2 – Port Macquarie, Wingham, and Ellenborough Falls
Part 3 – Roving Sydney's Eastern Beaches with Raph
Part 4 – The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
Part 5 – Watsons Bay, Camp Cove and the Sydney Heads
Part 6 – Family Time in Melbourne
Part 7 – The Great Ocean Road
Part 8 – A Wedding in Melbourne
Remnants of a Past Life (Part I)
Remnants of a Past Life (Part II)
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism
Goulburn Revisited (2006)
Goulburn Landmarks (2006)
Goulburn Reunion (2006)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.