During my annual migration to Australia, I have spent the last week or so staying in a beautiful house in the bush about 1.5 hours (60km) west of Sydney. It is in the middle of nature and I feel so magnificently connected with life when here. 

One day, when I was eating my lunch, I looked out the window to see a two-metre goanna (lizard-like reptile native to Australia) strolling across the verandah. Another day, I fed bits of my lunch to a beautiful (and cheeky!) copper lizard. In the mornings a wallaby feeds on the grass just outside the house. And all the time, from dawn to dusk, there is the continual call of bellbirds. 

One of the things I most love about Australia is the relationship between human kind and nature. More than any other country I’ve visited, there is the sense that, in Australia, nature has the upper hand. This seems appropriate to me, and a more accurate perception of the way of things, than the illusion we maintain in most countries that humanity is in charge.

In Australia, nature is continually conspiring to hurl humanity off the continent. If it’s not fires, it’s drought; if not drought, then floods; if not floods, then searing uninhabitable temperatures. And that’s not mentioning the poisonous snakes, spiders, jellyfish and sharks. I always get the feeling in Australia that Life itself is King, not human beings. And I love to be reminded of that and take my rightful place as a small, transitory speck in the universe.

A key part to being reminded of the sheer tenacious power of nature is seeing how life expresses itself in Australia. In the most arid of landscapes there are plants and creatures that have adapted to the climate. Life keeps pushing out into the world. 

Just outside the house where I stay I found these small flowers growing out of the cracked and barren earth. They seem nothing short of miraculous. There hasn’t been one speck of rain in the 3 weeks I’ve been in Australia. And yet, this small, perfectly formed flower has found a way to push up through the ground and spread its tiny, bright petals. Logically, it shouldn’t be possible for such a thing to happen: plants need water. And yet, here it is, shining out into the world. 

My Buddhist teacher, Sangharakshita, wrote a poem many years ago called ‘Life is King’ and Australia is a beautiful living example of this truth. While nature may eventually make it difficult for human beings to exist in Australia, my sense is that life itself will continue:

Hour after hour, day
After day we try
To grasp the Ungraspable, pinpoint
The Unpredictable. Flowers
Wither when touched, ice
Suddenly cracks beneath our feet. Vainly
We try to track birdflight through the sky trace
Dumb fish through deep water, try
To anticipate the earned smile the soft
Reward, even
Try to grasp our own lives. But Life
Slips through our fingers
Like snow. Life
Cannot belong to us. We
Belong to Life. Life
Is King.

Sangharakshita, Complete Poems, Windhorse Publications (1995), p, 285