Unconventional Means:
The Dream Down Under

by Anne Richardson Williams
with Aboriginal traditional stories
as told by Lorraine Mafi-Williams

Pearlsong Press, 2005. ISBN 1597190012.
Reviewed by Linda Wisniewski
Posted on 08/27/2007

Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

When you were a little girl, did you ever dream of traveling to a place you read about in a book? Anne Richardson Williams did exactly that. When she was sixteen, she read A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. She was grieving her father's suicide at the time, and books were her refuge. She wrote in her diary that one day she would like to visit Alice Springs, Australia, the town where the novel takes place.

Twenty-six years later, in 1989, she found her old journal and contemplated her girlish dream, as yet unrealized. By then, Williams had been an artist and a successful businesswoman. After her divorce, she began to explore her spirituality and to meditate. One day she saw a calendar picture of Ayers Rock in the Australian desert and discovered "the closest town of any size, across two hundred miles of desert, is Alice Springs." This is just the first of many serendipitous and mysterious events that bring Williams on her journey. While reading Steven McFadden's Ancient Voices Current Affairs: The Legend of the Rainbow Warriors, she sees a photograph of Lorraine Mafi-Williams, an Aboriginal elder, and believes she looks like her. She feels her a sister, even with the same last name, and decides to meet the woman. And that's where the book takes us down a path quite different from the typical woman's "journey."

Everything that leads this author to Lorraine is "unconventional." A fortune teller predicts she will cross a lot of water, meet a woman, and everything in her life will change. In meditation, she "sees" Lorraine. In a book on Aboriginal mythology, she finds a clue to where Lorraine lives. A class she was to teach is cancelled. She receives an inheritance around the same time and uses it to travel to Alice Springs.

Like many a female "seeker," friends and family are aghast at her daring. "You're going by yourself?"

"Have I lost my mind?" Williams questions herself.

Finally, in January 1997, she arrives in Adelaide, where a beautiful rainbow greets her. But on her second day there, her friend falls asleep at the wheel, and the car flips. Miraculously, no one is hurt. "I left behind...any illusions that this will be a normal vacation," Williams writes. "...I am ready to follow my nose across Australia."

For anyone who is curious about Australia, this easy-to-read travel journal will be a treat. The author paints with her words a fascinating country, one most will never see. Her vision is interwoven with metaphysical beliefs and tales of ancient people, and she is more open than most to the "coincidences" of life. Animals, dreams, people, images all have meaning and messages that apply to her quest.

Alice Springs turns out to be a curious juxtaposition of two worlds: the Aboriginal community of Mparntwe, a sacred gathering place, and "The Alice," a modern town "with a thriving bar scene...and a handful of tourist attractions." The two do not blend, says Williams. "Mounded desert sites...butt up against grocery store parking lots...The sacred groves of Red River Gums, which manage to look peaceful and sun-dappled, are completely hemmed in by a pair of roads and a constant stream of traffic."

The book is written in journal form with dated entries for chapter headings. After she meets Lorraine, the woman takes her to sacred places. In this part of the book, the stories are told from Lorraine's point of view, adding an interesting contrast. Lorraine's section is filled with fascinating stories of spirit guides and descriptions of peaceful scenery and at the end, I was surprised to find their time together spanned only a week.

The author includes a bibliography and glossary of terms for those who want to investigate further this intriguing place and "unconventional means" of following one's spiritual path.

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