An Aussie Lesson in Humility

Claire Temple is a student at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is currently studying abroad with ISA in Canberra, Australia

In the early evening of our free day in Melbourne, we got off the tram and I went right while my friends went left. They were heading back to the hotel and I was headed to Fitzroy Gardens.

“I’m going to the garden! Text me when y’all go to dinner.”

“Alone? Are you sure? Are you ok?”

I laughed and nodded my head. “Yes, just want to check this place out. Just let me know what y’all do.”

We’d spent the Sunday exploring Melbourne. We went to church, got frustrated at lunchtime when just about every restaurant was closed, walked around the Queen Victoria Market, and analyzed the city from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower Skydeck. I saw the gardens from the view and marveled at its lush greenness in comparison to the surrounding concrete jungle. It looked like what I needed.

The view of Fitzroy Gardens from the 88th floor of Eureka Tower Skydeck

I’m a self proclaimed introverted extrovert. I now value alone time as a necessity rather than a luxury. No one gets me like me. My evening at Fitzroy Gardens was exactly what I needed after the whirlwind of experiences being in a new country. Fitzroy Gardens is home to Australia’s oldest building, Cook’s Cottage. The cabin was transported from Yorkshire, England in 1934 like Lego blocks—taken apart brick by brick, put on a boat, then rebuilt in Melbourne.

The sun was just beginning to set, making the sky blue at the very top transitioning into yellow then orange. The trees formed a green canopy and various shrubs and flowers feathered their trunks. It was comfortably chilly, and there was a fresh, Earthy smell. It was quiet, peppered with birds chirping and the faint zooms of cars. There was a beautiful harmony of familiarity and newness to the setting.

I planned to sit on a bench and write in my journal, but the park was so vast and intriguing that each turn brought a new sight. My slow pace was a nice break from weaving in and out of people downtown, forgetting that Australians walk on the left side of the sidewalk. I planned to listen to my music, but the sound of new birds and bugs felt like reading a new book.

Nature is the best reminder of the ways of the world. It reminds me that the most magnificent edifices are created without Man.

In our bus tour along the Great Ocean Road a few days later, we trekked through the Maits Rest Rainforest Walk. Home to the Mountain Ash and Myrtle Beech, this rainforest houses trees that are millions of years old. My lifetime is a blink of an eye to these trees. The vegetation is so thick at points that the sky is only visible through small pockets of leaves. Time felt like an afterthought in this rainy hike.

Our last two stops on this tour were the Twelve Apostles and Shipwreck Cove. The Twelve Apostles are eight towering rock structures that stand alongside the shore of Port Campbell National Park. There is an interesting history to them, but I was briefly asleep in that part of the tour because it was after lunch and raining. I woke up to, “So there aren’t actually twelve of them” over the intercom.

The lyrics “The splendor of a King” from Chris Tomlin’s “How Great is Our God” were the only words in my mind upon surveying the scene. It was magnificent. Powerful. Gigantic. The color of the limestone rocks and the force of the waves against them were awe-inspiring. Trying to describe this scene with adjectives is like attempting to empty the ocean using a teaspoon.

Experiencing the splendor of the Twelve Apostles and force of the wind

Shipwreck Cove invoked the same feelings, except this time, rain and heavy winds found us atop the beach cliffs. Everything about the experience, from the bright blue water hurling against the rocks and reaching up high, to the length, width and height of the rocks, to the wind threatening to send my glasses flying off my face captivated me into knowing that there are forces in the world I am unable to fathom.

Loch Ard Gorge at Shipwreck Cove
People to share the view with make inclement weather more comical than frustrating

Going abroad came at an optimal time for me. Being halfway done with college, I’m realizing that I can see a point in my future where I don’t know my next step. Being away from my routine and customs, I’m forced to contemplate what makes up my identity. I will need to make decisions despite circumstances that are beyond my control or understanding. Being in nature reminds me that not being in control is not always a bad thing. Many times, it’s even the best thing. Australia’s nature is teaching me to appreciate my incapability.


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