God in the Top End – Peta Edmonds

When I first arrived in Darwin, my family took me for fish ‘n’ chips at Cullen Bay. We sat in the grass before the beach and ate golden snapper. As I watched the sun go down, the sky went from blue to pink to a dark purple: God the artist at his canvas.

The next day, my stepfather Paul and I walked Bessie, our black Labrador, along the beach where she went for a paddle. God was there too, in the warmth of the sun on our skin, in the song of the wind, in the miles of beach with no footprints. He touches us through the elements of earth, wind, fire and water.

On my third day in the Territory I went to Litchfield National Park and saw the cathedral and magnetic termite mounds, their homes appearing like miniature houses of worship for themselves. I went to Florence Falls and it was here that I could hear God too. The music of God, cascading down into a river. I walked down 130 steps to a swimming hole and then back through the forest. On the drive back to Darwin I saw a group of wedge-tailed eagles. If God had an ego, he would express it in the flight of an eagle.

But God is not just in the bush; he is in the urban environments too. In metropolitan cathedrals where I go to Narcotics Anonymous meetings we pray the Serenity Prayer to a God of our own understanding, and hold hands. He is in the Aboriginal painters on the streets with their pots of paint, inspired by their Dreamtime, and the people who stop to watch them and buy their artwork. He is even in the baby crocodile with its jaw sticky-taped up, the one that the man from the theme park let me hold. One of God’s creatures.

In my final few days in the Territory I went to Kakadu National Park. We crossed South Alligator River and I saw God in the shimmer of the sun, as if it was a fine watercolour; in the sense of gracious spaciousness. We stopped and walked down a track in the Nourlangie area of the park. It is said that Aboriginals have inhabited that region going back 20,000 years. At the base of an escarpment I viewed Aboriginal rock art depicting law, ceremonial beliefs and cultural values. One artwork was of a dangerous spirit said to eat females after killing them with a yam. The sense of God here is in the creation spirit of the Aboriginal people. Months later in the city I heard one Aboriginal man recall a dream he had in which he was standing with his mob on a cliff, and the shadows of demon spirits were racing toward them. Suddenly the sky brightened and a flock of lorikeets the size of people flew at the shadows and dispersed them and a rainbow appeared in the sky.

My last stop in Kakadu was a boat trip on the Yellow Water Billabong. The bird life was amazing; jabiru resting on tree branches, whistling ducks, egrets, we even saw some large saltwater crocodiles all among the beautiful pink lotus lilies.

This is the natural world, unspoiled, and it is truly the music and art of God.