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October 2014, vol 10 no 3

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Jonathan McKeown

The Great Ocean Road

He brought him outside and said, "Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them."
                                                              Genesis 15: 5

It would be superstitious to see in events, or the timing of events, certain portentous significances. And yet some happenings – depending of course in what light one reads them – do seem to bear within themselves certain symbolic aptitudes. So at least it seems to me now as I reflect on the coincidence of one such event with a kind of pilgrimage I once took along The Great Ocean Road…. That meandering, scenic, soul-opening drive around the southern Victorian coast of Australia features a number of spectacular limestone and sandstone rock-formations that have – given our Christian and colonial heritage – been tellingly named: The Twelve Apostles (although only eight are still standing) and The London Bridge.… I visited these on the 14th of January 1990 during the summer holidays of my second year of training for the Christian ministry. On the 16th of January I heard a report on the radio that The London Bridge had, the previous day, unexpectedly collapsed leaving two people stranded on the remaining salt-encrusted pillar. … Standing out here, 24 years later, in my little suburban backyard, on this chilly winter night, hugging a newly purchased book of poetry, looking up at the stars – dimmed though they be by the glare of the city's lights, and making out still those familiar old constellations, I wonder what those two hallowed souls made of it at the time, and after-times…. It has certainly caused me to think – being one of the last people ever to walk out across that ancient arch – as if it were exempt from the erosive and corrosive forces of time…

southern cross
I take G M Hopkins' candle