pressed into the earth

When in 1930 Jill Ker Conway’s father began homesteading a “block” of 18,000 acres in New South Wales, Australia, the change in lifestyle was jarring for his wife.

When my father left in the morning to work on the fences, or on one of the three bores [wells] that watered the sheep and cattle, my mother heard no human voice save the two children. There was no contact with another human being and the silence was so profound it pressed upon the eardrums. My father, being a westerner, born into that profound peace and silence, felt the need for it like an addiction to a powerful drug. Here, pressed into the earth by the weight of that enormous sky, there is real peace. To those who know it, the annihilation of the self, subsumed into the vast emptiness of nature, is akin to a religious experience. We children grew up to know it and seek it as our father before us. What was social and sensory deprivation for the stranger was the earth and sky that made us what we were. For my mother, the emptiness was disorienting, and the loneliness and silence a daily torment of existential dread.

from The Road to Coorain

western new south wales

7 thoughts on “pressed into the earth

  1. I like this snippet too. As a new bride to a husband and a new bride to the prairie, I had my concerns that I could embrace the loneliness and vastness that was my new home. Eventually, I did, but I sure didn’t mind being sent to town for parts those first couple years. Now I’m most content to be at home and can’t imagine another way of life.

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  2. I’m not sure when it started, the need for solitude. I came from a family of 5 children. I relish now the time of quiet with the parakeets chortling. My husband and I were able to sit still in the house together. I do miss his company in the solitude.

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  3. I liked this bit. I do love solitude, but eventually I crave a human voice, even if it’s just on television. I thank God for my children, who break the silence now and then. 🙂

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