I was driving my hire car along a rough dirt road to Tarcoma, a property about 25km from Parkes in country NSW that Joel’s family has owned for a few generations. As I was driving, the AC/DC song “Highway to Hell” came on over the radio. There was a huge cloud of dust trailing me and I disrupted a huge group of galahs who swooped down from a tree and led me down the road. I followed them for about 100m or so before they flew off but in that moment, I couldn’t help but think how quintessentially Australian that moment was – it was so strange that I could do nothing but smile from ear to ear.
I remembered back to the first emails that Laura sent me earlier that year. She told me that her and Joel had been together for 9 years and after years studying and traveling, they had just returned to where they had both grown up. Parkes is kinda in the middle of nowhere – it’s about 4 hours drive from Canberra, 5 from Sydney and about 12 from Brisbane so regardless of where you’re driving from, you’ve still got a long way to go. Joel’s family’s 3000 acre farm grows wheat, canola and barley and Joel and Laura moved back to start learning about what tending for that much land feels like because one day, it’ll be theirs to take care of. Their land overlooks the Parkes Observatory aka ‘The Dish’, the location of arguably the world’s best radio telescope. The Dish and Joel’s family have a long history – Joel’s grandpa was one of the engineers who was responsible for routing the TV signals from Apollo 11 to the world on the day of the moon landing. He was also the guy that hurriedly managed to figure out a way of getting the stranded Apollo 13 spacecraft’s radio signals from Parkes to NASA in Houston as the 3 astronauts clung to life after an on-board accident. I was so excited to hear this story and the connections so when I told Laura about my love of astronomy and astrophysics, she told Joel who in turn organised a guided access-all-areas tour of the facility for me. Yet again, I had a smile from ear to ear.
This is me giving the telescope a hug.
Parkes and other small towns in the Grain Belt are a parts of Australia that most city folk don’t ever get to. But there’s something beautiful about the land and the people that live out there. Their lives are filled with hard work, uncertainty about rain and crops and even more hard work – it’s a thankless task sometimes. But there are other days when it’s probably nice to not worry about traffic jams or crowds at the supermarket and the fact that the person you just walked past on the street looked at you, smiled and said hello. These are of course just trivial superficial things and there’s so much more comfort for the soul in a place like this than I can simply express in words. Being out in Parkes with Joel and Laura made me realise WHY two young people like them would want to move back to a country town – it sometimes doesn’t make sense until you feel it. And I truly felt why this town was special to the two of them – after all of the places they had been in the world, they had come back. It was home, it was where their love blossomed and it was their place. I was humbled and honoured to meet two such kind souls and to share in their amazing wedding celebration and I left their wedding smiling, once again from ear to ear.
I shot this wedding with the help of my wonderful friend Cass. She drove an 18 hour round trip to be a part of this celebration her beautiful images are interspersed through this post.