I took a wrong turn this week. In my overconfidence in childhood memories of trips to Mt Selwyn, I assumed I’d have no problems finding my way to the Mt Selwyn parking lot, where we were told a media tour was going to take reporters to visit Snowy 2.0.
I nearly missed the Prime Minister’s surprise visit to announce the thumbs up for the ‘nation-building’ project.
You can bet that I felt sheepish, especially since both my editor and I had a feeling that I was going to mess this trip up with my shocking lack of direction.
But that wrong turn, and what I found both before and after my course correction, reminded me of a truth: ‘in-between’ is a legitimate place to be.
To make a long story short, I missed the turn because the brown sign saying ‘Mt Selwyn’ has burnt down and hasn’t been replaced, probably because there’s no resort there right now. As I drove past the Kiandra Courthouse, I was struck by its strange, barren beauty. Then I was struck by how lost I was.
Feeling angry and dejected, I eventually made my way back to an empty Selwyn parking lot, realised I missed the media bus, and was about to give up (I didn’t know the PM was on his way). The trip seemed like a waste, and I was sorely tempted to take a personal day and wander around the mountains to clear my head.
Then a still, small voice reminded me that nothing is ever really over until you decide to give up.
Through a series of small miracles, I was eventually reunited with the media gaggle, with plenty of people reminding me along the way that I was a nuisance for being late.
After the tour, I backtracked to see the Kiandra Courthouse again.
I have never seen a better representation of an ‘in-between’ moment.
Out on that icy plain, the wind was coursing freely through the burnt walls of the courthouse. There were no doors or windows or roof to shield the building. It sits totally exposed, both to the elements and the prying eyes of people passing by.
I felt a kinship with its rough, uneven bricks. Modern buildings are all neat and even and manufactured and you could stare at those walls all day without really seeing anything.
The courthouse walls are more like mosaics and I found it easy to imagine the men who laid those bricks, carefully measuring angles and patterns to make the most of the materials they had on hand.
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment says the Kiandra Courthouse has been “assessed and cleared of any asbestos-containing materials” and now sits ready for “further consideration”.
“Stakeholder engagement will be key to any future decisions,” they told me, but there isn’t any public plan yet for the future of the courthouse or other huts within the Kosciuszko National Park that were destroyed in the recent fires.
The courthouse is ‘in-between’.
A bit like the Snowy Valleys.
The fires stripped us of a lot. It reduced us back to the essentials, and while the grass has regrown, things aren’t back to normal yet.
Some people are ready to move on, but others are still healing. Some people want to build and market and promote and create. Others are wondering how they’ll ever face another January.
I’m not in favour of starting any major new projects at this hour, because as a whole, we’re not ready, and that’s nothing to be criticized for. Some people look at some of the rubble lying around the Snowy Valleys, and they can’t see anything happening, but in the stillness there’s important work we’re doing by resting and individually coming to a readiness to rebuild.
As a community, we’re in a moment of stillness. It won’t last forever, but it’s a legitimate place to be and we’ve got to respect the pace at which each person passes through it.