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Hope from a Wave
by Peter Cock

Sense of Place Gathering
Easter 2004

This is a story from a place and an experience many years ago but it remained with me as a real turning point in my life. If my memory serves me right it was in the summer of 1994 and yet it only seems like yesterday. It is a story I tell my Ecopsychology and Environmental Politics’ students. These students are commonly afflicted with loss of hope and will. They are also at risk of not taking care of themselves and becoming sacrificial of themselves to the cause.

This story begins with my extended family of 30 plus who have shared a large old rambling holiday house at Inverloch, in Victoria, for the last 15 years or so. Inverloch is one of the coastal towns facing the challenge of people’s increasing search of finding a place by the sea, away from the hustle and bustle of city life to reconnect to nature. Sadly many want to escape the city but still want to maintain their excessive lifestyles and as a consequence, simple holiday shacks are being replaced with two story luxury houses, and what attracted them in the first place is being slowly destroyed in the process.

For us, the house in Inverloch is a wonderful vehicle for keeping the family together and for connecting to a seaside place. Our place has few of the city luxuries and we have to learn to live together, share and compromise. Our place in Inverloch is very much my second home, an important place.

Nearby there is a rocky outcrop called Australia Rock, most likely it gained its name because of its shape. It used to be called Eagles Nest but probably the name changed because the Eagles have since gone. On this particular day I was feeling depressed, overburdened with the rest of natures troubles, the apparent hopelessness of our human prospects and my excessive sense of eco responsibility. I walked down to this rock and sat on the rocky edge forlornly

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watching the waves come crashing against the rocks. Ten minutes into this and suddenly an unexpected large wave crashed against the rocks and drenched me. This didn’t improve my mood, “just my bad luck” I thought. After swearing and cursing suddenly I came to the realisation that nature was trying to give me a very powerful message. “The Earth is very powerful and its destiny isn’t all in my hands and I only have to and only can do my bit.”

I have been reminding my students and myself ever since of the fact that the earth has some important messages to give us. The Earth does communicate and teach us the consequences of human behaviour. She is not only victim but a powerful partner in letting the human race know that our ways have to change radically or our time is up. We will become victim of our own alienation from the rest of nature if we don’t listen or learn to listen. The less we listen the more painful will be the earth’s communication.

This experience liberated me from my depression. It meant I was starting to take more care of myself as an integral part of being careful with the rest of nature. I didn’t feel released from response-ability, rather, the dousing in humility relocated my relative significance in the scheme of life. The grain of sand analogy comes to mind as does Buddhist philosophy of the place for relative detachment. Now I do my bit for nature consciously within my physical and mental capacity; it still remains a vital part of who I am but it is not all consuming. If my actions make a difference I appreciate it, but do not expect it. This experience has been a vital part of my development and has shaped my understanding of sustainable action that cares for person and planet.

Australia Rock has become a personal sacred place for me to visit and soak up the waves and the rocks and to remember that I don’t know the earth’s future or my own. I have life and there is life and to be part of it, I need to participate in its regeneration.


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