Easter Week at Rosary Convent, Tynong

It’s the same every year – Ash Wednesday comes along and one feels oneself girding the proverbial loins for a long, hard forty days. We want it to be the Best Lent We’ve Ever Done, and part of our soul shrinks from the task ahead. Passion Sunday feels like ages away from the joy and glory of Easter. But somewhat paradoxically, all of a sudden (even though it seemed like ages away at one point!), we find ourselves standing beside the Paschal Fire in the dark with a five-year-old’s excitement, because It’s Today!

What is not the same every year is spending Easter in a Convent for the first time. I shall only say that it is simply splendid and that you’ll just have to join the Order to find out more about it.

Easter Week, in this uplifted frame of mind, could only have been what it turned out to be: one of high adventure and survival against the odds. The latter sounds a little misplaced, you may think, but all shall be revealed in due course. For, you must understand, Sister-Teachers On Holiday From School have recharged their poor little school-worn batteries and can tackle just about anything.

Just about anything, this time around, came in the form of two major events: The Trip To The Dandenong Ranges and The Move. This may not sound like much, but the fact that all emerged relatively unscathed from both is where the real achievement lies.

I shall treat of The Trip first. This took careful planning, involving appraising scores of different bushwalking options. The Dandenong Ranges’ Olinda area managed to make the final cut, and it was there that we set out on Easter Thursday. This was after printing off relevant maps and guides, of course, to help us on our way, including the step-by-step directions kindly provided by Google Maps. The first small problem was that the postulant who printed off the maps (who shall remain unnamed) printed a ridiculously zoomed-out version, so that the path from Tynong to Mt Dandenong was a squiggle on a page. This was not identified as an issue until the first turn-off to the mountain was encountered. Or the roundabout containing the turn-off, at any rate. Exactly where to get off was unknowable from the information on the paper in front of Mother, and poor Sr Raymond (who had the unenviable task of piloting the van) was beset with suggestions as to what to do. Any driver knows how unwelcome that kind of scenario is. Anyway, after hauling the van through a couple of multiple-point turns after a couple of faulty decisions from the rabble in the back, we managed to find the right way, and set off again. All smiles.
I should mention here that there was a GPS available for the day, but the limits of its usefulness were defined when the GPS-bearer, at a particularly labyrinthine part of the journey, pronounced ‘Oh Dear’, which raised the blood pressure in the front seat about 50mmHg. The GPS, you see, needs to talk to the internet to produce a map and the internet, in amongst all of those trees and winding roads, falls in and out a bit. It fell out.

Despite these inconveniences, Mother Catherine still had the presence of mind to take a picture of the scenery on the way up…

We had a bit more trouble finding our way to Olinda, what with vague directions from Google Maps and the aforesaid lack of actual map detail. After a few wrong turns and a bit of narrow dirt-road time (which took us past two little boys whose eyes were practically falling out of their heads as we drove by), we were there at last! And worth waiting for, it certainly was.

Happy smiling faces: We’re THERE!!!

Setting off: Professed Sisters leading the way, of course.

A glimpse of the rare and elusive SisteriaRaymondii. Native to: USA (recently imported into Australia). Natural habitat: Dominican Convents (although it seems a tree-trunk might do for a cell in a pinch).

God must have wanted us to have a good time, because He gave us the most perfect weather day imaginable. The sky was clear, the air was fresh and cool, and it had just rained, so the watery bits of the park were in full swing. Whether or not you think (as Tolkien did) that the sound of naturally running water is a remnant of angelic music, it’s undeniable that there is nothing quite like it, especially when you’ve spent a few hours driving around to find it! The Tolkien imagery was quite prominent that day – we even had our own little staff-wielding escapee from his mythical world accompany us on our journey:

We had a picnic lunch in an absolutely idyllic spot – high on a hill (no lonely goatherds!) with a breathtaking view, discreetly screened from Other Picnickers by a row of thoughtfully planted trees. You could just about hear Julie Andrews up there.

After refuelling ourselves, we went for a walk through some more of the forest. It was surprisingly rainforest-y, with plenty of ferns in the undergrowth. It wouldn’t have surprised us much to see a dinosaur emerge from within.

Sadly, the day had to end some time, but even the end of the day had its own beauty, with the sun smiling goodbye to us through the foliage.

The other major event for the week was The Move, which – don’t be too hasty to jump to conclusions! – did not involve leaving 35 Granite Lane, but rather was an internal reshuffle of sorts. Rooms in the house were subdivided, furniture was hauled around, and the end product was that several inhabitants of the Barn were moved into the house, and some inhabitants of the house were reassigned to newly subdivided rooms, creating space for any New Postulants. (Nudge, nudge to those whom it is relevant!)

I must add here that the furniture hauling was probably ranked highest in terms of technical difficulty, with some items requiring up to 7 sisters, a dolly, a blanket and a screwdriver. An audio clip of the proceedings would go something like this: “One, two, three, uuup”, “Is your back ok??”, “Ooooh, OOOoooh – Stop! There’s a post in the way!”,“Hang on, hang on, we’re squashing her”, “Ouch!”, “You ok?”, “Yep, it was just my head”. I really don’t know how ants manage to carry however many times their own body weight on their backs. I certainly wish I could.

Mother Catherine reminded us at the start of the exercise that “if a Community can survive a Moving Day, it can survive anything!”, and I am happy to report that we survived with barely a scratch (I think the worst of the war wounds was a splinter or two), and with the good old joie de vivre well and truly intact.

And so passed Easter Week for the Dominicans in Tynong, who are refreshed and rejuvenated and – after proving themselves capable of surviving Moving Day – ready. Watch out, Term 2!