VIGNETTE IV ON PEACE.
Wading birds on leg extensions delicately pick their way through the thrice-salty shallows of the Rottnest lake as if fearful that the hyper-salinity might bite or burn it. They dip their long beaks quickly to harvest a shrimp or tiny insect. Gently they cross the shallows. This is home and they are at home. This is the eternal present of their lives, the way it always is.
We rarely see the massed take-off when they leave for Siberia.
We never see them feeding, breeding on the snowy wastes of the far northern hemisphere – equally their home.
We see only one moment. We see what is.
VIGNETTE III OF PEACE
The email screamed, “Nine thousand Muslims are coming! Keep them out of our Christian country! They will pervert our children and destroy our way of life.”
The chaplain should not have forwarded the email to me, her boss, whether or not she knew my views on immigration and on Islam.
I should have ignored it.
But I had a gnawing unease. Unless I did something about it, I would go on thinking that way about that chaplain. She had lost my respect, and it was important for me to restore it.
I started refuting the email line by line. Bad plan. That made me angry and made me write angrily. That way inflamed the situation. My first intuition to ignore the email had reason. I stopped writing. I waited a day. I prayed.
Then I wrote back to her, “I am sorry I cannot agree with your email,” I said, “but is it not possible that God wants 9,000 Muslims to come to Australia so that we can share our Christian faith with them?” I sent the email and waited two days.
She sent one more email, “I hadn’t thought of that. You may be right.” And then she apologised, “I am sorry I sent you that email without thinking first.”
Next time I saw her, I thanked her publicly for the commendable work she was doing in a difficult school. In praising her, I felt good about myself.
VIGNETTE I OF PEACE
The sun warms the western end of the shearing shed, and my back, leaning on the iron corrugations, soaks up the warmth.
Inside, rouseabouts shout, “Ho! Ho! Move up there!” and the shed rumbles with the penned sheep shuffling each other.
The diesel engine throbs on and on, and I hear it whine as a shearer engages the hand-piece on a long blow across the sheep’s back. The shouts of shearers and wool-classers are indecipherable sharp noises above the never-ending rumble. The shearing shed shuffles about on its footings; a machine at work.
But the warm wall, a smoke and a strong cup of tea in my hands, keep it at a distance. Moisture rises from the lush marshmallow plants. Yellow dandelions and green clover carpet the paddock in front of me. A bee buzzes lazily somewhere nearby and I drift drowsily in the afternoon’s warmth.