Home

“Going home
Without my sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before”
Going Home, Leonard Cohen.

Dear H,
How is your new home? Does it feel like home yet? Spending time living in a tent, moving every few days, I have been wondering what home means. As we travel around, my traveling companions and I have been thinking about what we might want from a home. Home in a broader sense than just a physical shelter. Sarah has been suggesting some great questions to ponder as we search for answers; What kind of ecological community do you want to live in?, What kind of social community do you want to live in?, Who would you like to live near?, What kind of work would you like to do?

I feel very lucky to have the space to answer these questions from afar (it has taken some time to be able to relax my mind into the space though ;-)). Being able to step away and look back is important. I know you found that to be incredibly beneficial. The combination of people and place is a complex thing to explore. One thing we seemed to have discovered so far is that we identify quite strongly as Victorians. It is really interesting. I think I have always had a strong sense of being Australian – whatever that means – but I have not really contemplated my sense of place on a more local level.

Nikki Gemmell quotes Salman Rushdie “This, perhaps, is what it means to love a country: that its shape is also yours, the shape of the way you think and feel and dream. That you can never really leave.”

When I think of this, I see South Eastern Australia. I feel more connected to that part of the world than anywhere else. This does not stop me from looking beyond! Mostly it is considering the micro, rather than moving into the desert or something. Nikki talks of needing to constantly look for the new and interesting:

“Once I was neophiliac, moving restlessly from landscape to landscape, and I have that chafing again… And perhaps at some point I just have to embrace the mystery of being settled.” source

I wrestle with this when it comes to home. I feel like I just want to find a spot to prop and settle in for the long haul. But then, after a little while, I get the ‘grass is greener’ feeling. I begin to look around to see what everyone else is doing – do I want to do that too. I also end up getting frustrated with people. As Parker Palmer puts it “Community is that place where the person you least want to live with always lives… When that person moves away, someone else arises immediately to take his or her place”. I think I just need to work on my resilience and accept diversity. That does not stop me seeking perfection though. I’m trying not to, I really am 😉

Tim Winton talks about how Australia is still searching for its own culture. For so long we have battled the disconnect between old school Britain, local aboriginal culture, and the mix of all the other folks who have come to this island over the years. Both Tim and Nikki mention the rising patriotism of the last few years. Scary stuff. We have noticed this disconnect as we travel around the country. I think about your experience as an implant in Australia, as we’ve discussed before – back in Canada, you are no longer a Canadian, while in Australia, you are still a Canadian!

The question of social community is also tricky. Humans are funny creatures, always wanting to be around like minded people. But what is like minded? How far do we drill down to find ‘our’ kind of community? What happens to our perspective and sense of the world if we drill down too far? Will we ever manage a strong mix of culture? I hope so.

As Leonard hints at, leaving home every now and then might be beneficial on lots of levels. Leaving home has certainly helped me work on my sorrow and self esteem (with the help and determination of my family). Will it be better than before when I return? Who knows? I do hope so.

Yours in citizenship,
g.

– With thanks to George for the introduction to the Leonard song.

Departures and Arrivals

White lines down the middle of the road

Dear Ian*,
I have been thinking about you. We departed on our exploration of Australia recently and it got me thinking about comings and goings.

In particular, the question of arrivals – when have we reached our destination? We talk a lot about ‘destinationitis’ with the students at uni. It’s funny how, in our culture,  we always seem to have to get to the end of the track, the top of mountain, the tip of the point. In outdoor education, as in other areas of life, there is the mantra of ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination.’ Which is all very well to say, but does it actually work with our Western society? Being on the road, particularly up the top end of the country, I feel as though lots of us whitefellas are so focussed on reaching our destination. I get the sense from the Aboriginal folks that the destination is not as significant. The point for them is to be on Country. Spend time walking on and connecting with Country. Aiming for the end point often results in missing all the bits in between.

As an imported, white, Anglo-Saxon, relaxing into the journey is a challenge. What if I miss something? Have I spent enough time in this place to see everything? What is the essence of this place? What does it mean to connect? Continue reading “Departures and Arrivals”

Islands

Dear Nam Jin,
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since we were visiting you and exploring your tiny island. This year, I am exploring a larger island and discovering more similarities between the two than I first thought.

It has taken us four weeks of driving to go from the bottom of Australia, to the top. The journey has reminded me of the bike ride we took with you from Punggol, reaching the centre of Singapore by lunchtime! As we travel, I have been reading Tim Winton’s ‘Island Home‘. It is a series of thoughts on Australia, our culture and the place. Moving through the centre of my country reminds me of just how big and open it is. Two adjectives that would be hard to use in describing Singapore!

I have been up North for the last few weeks, exploring the centre – the place and the people. I find it difficult to comprehend both the expanse of the place and the timeframe of the culture of the Aboriginal people. I really feel like an interloper. Not in the way that I am not welcome – everyone I have spoken to is very welcoming. More in the sense that I do not belong. The question then becomes, ‘What does it mean to belong?’ Continue reading “Islands”