Friends, if you haven't seen it, this is the majestic Uluru.
Formerly known by the dumb honky name Ayer's Rock, it is Australia's most famous monolith, the world's second-largest stone (it rises over a third of a kilometer up and then is embedded seven kilometers deep!), and sits in the middle of the Outback levelness like an areola of an entire continent.
Like the rest of Australian history (and American too), it's story is neither un-vexed nor un-tragic. I knew this, but I still came to Uluru because I had read that it was the spiritual symbol of the Aboriginal people and that seeing it at sunrise or sunset would have a powerful moving effect even on us palefolk.
The reality is that it's much more than that to a certain segment of Aboriginals, principally the Ananga. It is their primary text; the variations and variegations on the rock surface give rise to their foundational stories, and from these stories comes their sense of identity, their laws, and their social structure. It's not that they sit and watch the colors shift on Uluru and feel God; no, they read Uluru, they use Uluru (the caves for shelter, the water it traps, the surface to record on), and Uluru is the chronicle of the past and present of their people.
Less than a century ago, white Australians turned it into a tourist trap, and since then, people like me have handed over money to keep it that way. But in 1985, Australia did the right thing; they agreed to hand Uluru back to the Ananga -- after a 99-year lease and a few more profits.
I would love to know how much Ananga culture will be left by 2084. Dedicated members of the Ananga trying to hold on, they've built an amazing cultural center inside the Uluru grounds, and maybe they'll make it.
I truly hope so, for without the Ananga, Uluru stops being the world's most magnificent sacred text and goes back to just being a pretty rock in the middle of a desert.
yes, these are actual pictures from my Mesozoic iphone. It's that damn photogenic.