There is a phenomena of travelling to ‘find oneself’. Despite the fact that this phenomena was surely born of a need for a cryptic response to the question ‘why are you travelling’, there is some truth to it. When you strip back the artifices of how we legitimize ourselves in life, through career, through family, what is left is truly ourselves.
This is all well and good when you’re on the road, but presents quite the challenge upon return home. Driving back into the grit and the dirt of the city, sliding over highways, slipping between lanes, through suburbs I’ve lived in, worked in, got lost in, got drunk in, visited friends and lovers in. It’s not that I don’t know who I am here. It’s just that I’ve been so many different people here.
Hello Sydney, with your overwhelming history.
Six hours northwest of Sydney is a forest in danger of being replaced by a coal mine. Home to endangered animals and plant species, it is just one of many forests under threat that environmentalists are flocking to defend. I can’t express how heartbreaking it is to have spent 2 months travelling around a beautiful country, only to come back and find your own home is being permanently gutted for temporary gain. I’m not ready to be home yet, but I also need to be reminded of where home is.
So off I go. Driving out of the grit and the dirt of the city, the suburbs turn to shrub and highways to dirt roads.
There is no place like Australia.
It is not a traditional beauty. You won’t find any lush forests or snow-capped mountains. Mostly the bush looks a bit post-apocalyptic. Its’ beauty is in its strength, and how it endures, through bush fires and droughts and cyclones. Outback Australia is tough. Stoic. Too cool for school.
We camp on a farm on the outskirts of the forest. Camping under the stars, the air cold and fresh, I sleep so good when I get to see the sun go down. No one is in my face, I am free to read and write and take long tromps in the bush to pee. By night we cook communal dinners over a campfire under an obsidian star-jewled sky. Everyone is passionate and opinionated, usually about different things. The only time we truly see eye to eye are those nighttime walks to the bush, when the miners and police have retired for the day and the way is lit by starlight, and the wind is speckled with fireflies on a nighttime surf, and the sounds of the forest blend into a hypnotic roar the way a healthy forest should. That’s when we are reminded what’s at stake and why we’re here.
There are many forests like this, perched on hilltops, lining the valleys, woods that have spent hundreds of years unconcerned by the comings and goings of man. There is an epidemic of environmental destruction sweeping through Australia, and whilst humanity scraps in the courtrooms and holds the land ransom to politics, outback Australia stands silent in the background. Tough. Stoic. Too cool for school. As long as I endure, so too must this.
I am many things. I am the cat with too many lives. But something all those lives have in common are roots in this country. Roots that long to roam as far as physics allows, but are ultimately nourished by the land that I call home. A land that teaches me how to be strong and brave and free. The place I learned to be me.
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