The word and concept came up in passing, as it were, during a conversation I had recently with a young woman whose benevolent and romantic orbit I have found myself closer within than that of any other over the past few years.  I stated to her that I was intimidated by her beauty, by way of some reassurance I felt she was owed due to less than complimentary comments she’d received from another person close to her.  The genuineness of the comment extended far beyond a deliberately-timed attempt at flattery.  Beauty has always intimidated me, but not in the sense that I draw fear from it.  More that I draw awe from it.  It’s like they say through the old cliché: that a woman might be good looking enough to “stop traffic”.  This is what beauty in all its forms has the power to do.  It has the power to capture.  To give pause.  To inspire self-reflection, not in a truly self-conscious sense but more in a sense of how the perceived beauty might affect the reality of the individual perceiving it.

Great Ocean Road

Take epic mountain, desert, or ocean vistas, for example.  Tales of the beauty of such places as the Canadian Wilderness might reach such other places vastly distant to it as small desert towns east of Perth, in Western Australia.  The tales (through marketing or word-of-mouth) might have such power that they are able to draw people, often at great cost, from such a relatively far-flung part of the world all the way to the aforementioned Place of Beauty.  Then when the people arrive at the POB – besides eating or drinking or engaging in local physical or educational activities – they will inevitably spend some time simply gazing at its beauty.  What runs through the minds of everyone who makes the effort – whether transcontinental or a short walk from their backyard – to submit themselves to such awe is largely up to them.  The point is its effect on most if not all of its perceivers: quiet, if not silent observance.


The same effect is elicited from the woman mentioned above: in our romantic moments of whatever intensity, often I will be struck apparently dumb by the simple fact of how beautiful she appears to me.  Again, the genuineness of that comment which I have not yet had the chance to explain to her (naturally, because at all such times in which I’ve experienced it I’ve been quite incapable of speaking) goes far beyond her physical beauty.  Put Miranda Kerr in front of me, and chances are after at least a forced hello I might be rendered silently awe-stricken as I would with any other superficially aesthetically-pleasing source.  But, if Miss Kerr was to promptly reveal herself to be a foul-mouthed bigot, I would likely then have little or at least less appreciation for her external charms.  It’s all about context.  I found the formerly mentioned young woman to be physically beautiful before I came to know her, and our interactions physical, intellectual and emotional since then have only heightened this appraisal.

The distracting awe felt at the perception of beauty is key to the point I’m trying to make.  In the case of beauty embodied in natural and man-made geographical and architectural splendours, many of us are gluttons.  We may not, depending on our means, be satisfied at witnessing just one example of such an enrapturing experience, and may spend a significant portion of our lives touring the globe’s greatest visually arresting spectacles.  This is for each of us to choose to do – or not.  Personally – and from experience, I must stress – I find there’s a limit to either practical or philosophical benefits to be gained from gazing at multiple canyons, mountains, tropical paradises or other such natural attractions.  And when it comes to man-made attractions, the limits are equally keenly felt – especially if one has not bothered to understand the history and function of the particular structure.  The reason I find this activity – generally known by the awful near-tautology “sight-seeing” – unsatisfying is simple.

Beauty of the kind within and external of people whom we love can never be replicated in anything which is neither alive nor possesses emotional intelligence – the latter of which includes animals, whom even in the form of dolphins or apes can’t quite claim to be on humans’ level.  This is why humans have children and tend, with occasional exceptions, to keep them close their entire lives.  This is why humans develop long-term friendships with people to whom they’re not necessarily even sexually attracted.  And it is why humans will try (and often fail many times) to form an intellectual and/or emotional and/or sexual union with another person that could potentially last until both their deaths.  When we find someone physically attractive, they are akin to the Grand Canyon or Taj Mahal: worth enjoying for a few moments, hours or days.  But when we begin to value how they make us feel and – most importantly – to care about their welfare and happiness they acquire beauty that both massively accentuates, and far exceeds in power, their physical form.  It is the greatest experience of awe.  It is the truest manifestation of love.  It is the purest form of beauty.


Waltzing Matilda and hot German backpacker

I’M 500 kilometres from Mount Isa when I wake in a motel room in Winton, central Queensland. Plenty of time to make  it to the Irish Club at 7pm for the work Christmas party.


I get distracted at the Combo waterhole. It’s supposed to be the setting in Waltzing Matilda. I’m excited. I get a little carried away. I blame the 41 degree heat.

I reenacted the photos from the song. It wasn’t bad considering I didn’t have a tripod, a sheep, any law enforcement officers, a tucker bag. But thanks to a handy fork in a Coolibah tree, and some “subtle” changes in the song, I managed.

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, 

under the shade of a Coolibah tree. 


And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boil [shut up! I forgot that part]

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 

Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong, 

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee. 

And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his CAMERA bag [Shut up! That’s all he had on him]

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 


Up rode the squatter mounted on his thorough-bred

Down came the troopers One Two Three

Whose that jolly jumbuck you’ve got in your camera bag, 

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me. 

Up jumped the swagman sprang in to the billabong

UP YOURS, said he


And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong
You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

Waltzing Matilda Waltzing Matilda

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong

You’ll come a Waltzing Matilda with me.

So yeah, that filled in some time. But there’s more pure Australiana to fill into this story. You see, further up the same road is a place called McKinlay.

There’s one interesting thing about this town. It happens to have a pub called the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

It’s the pub in Crocodile Dundee.

So I’m driving past when I see a bunch of people standing at the front of the pub. And I’m thinking “what’s happening here?” So being a journalist I stop the car and change out of my muddy swimming gear and walk up to the pub.

A middle aged couple are getting married in the pub, and the reception is open to anybody. Wedding gifts are donations to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.


This drunk middle aged publican of another pub 200 kilometres away buys my drinks. He shouts “this better be front page of your newspaper. Front page! Front page!”

I said I would try to get it front page.

“Bullshit!” he shouted. “It better be front page.”

A blonde haired girl with the lightest blue eyes I have seen walks to him and talks in a German accent, placing me into this conversation triangle. I talk to her and the publican says “oh, are you single?” and a bit later, “I’m sorry, I’ll go away” and makes a big show of it, embarrassing her and I.

But when he does go subtly she and I talk despite the loud music and the cackles and jeers from across the Walkabout Creek Hotel. I cannot remember her name, but I know she works at the petrol station, that she lives in west Germany, that she has never eaten Vegemite, that she is in a gap year from High School and intends to study economics at university.

“This is my first Australian wedding,” she said. “Are they all like this?”

I tell her no. This is quite casual. I think she seems relieved. She asks about Mount Isa, and I say that if she visits there’s a cinema and several pubs and clubs, and if she visits we should hang out. I think “oh well, might as well go all the way” and I put my number in her phone.

I leave shortly when she goes to Skype her grandparents, but she seems surprised I’m leaving so soon. I tell her I’ll be at the hotel’s Christmas party next Saturday night. What have I done! It’s 200 kms from where I live and I have work the next day.

But I take the wrong car. I steal the prop from Crocodile Dundee instead.