Life has been so thrown into the air the last few months, it’s been hard to give priority to the blog backlog. But Australia still looms as a possible future, among others, and a few things are worth capturing:
Australia is not just familiar, it’s almost routine. I don’t know that I’m traveling. Now and then, something odd comes up – sunglasses aren’t sold where they’re sold in America– and I suddenly recall that I’m in another country. But so many of its ways seem known to me. The news is old news, in old, comforting voices. The cities invite and repel me in their distinctively Australian ways, inciting stresses and relaxations that are all old hat.
How to make it alien again?
soil. Scrape a patch of the greenest
grass, and it's there, coppery red. Bare,
old, forked, ruined soil. Even on a cold
wet day, it looks hot, parched. The earth’s
oldest, driest and least fertile continent, upon which all life rests as
lightly, like a sheen of lichen on an enormous rock.
- The birds. The soundscape is one feature of this country that gives the shock of arrival, every moment. I am no more likely to get used to the intricate metallic warble of an Aussie magpie, or the lacerating screech of the sulfur-crested cockatoo, or the quotidian flashiness of a rosella or lorikeet, than I am to get used to the Golden Gate Bridge rising above the fog, its tautness seeming to hold in place the city on the far end.
reptiles and spiders, while we're at it .. I've been lucky in this regard, this
trip, but they will always shock, sometimes unpleasantly. Aussies are used to things crawling around in
their houses. And of course, the biggest
and most fearsome-looking are the harmless ones. I'm sure I will again sleep
in a room with a four-inch hairy huntsman spider loitering in an upper
corner. Perhaps it will even wander out
onto the ceiling over my bed. I’ll take
deep breaths, praise its harmless exoskeletal soul, and fall asleep. I will, really. But when I see a snake that looks like a tree
root, I’ll freeze. That’s how used to it
- The biting sun, a function of this latitude around the Southern Hemisphere. As a cloud clears, and before I can notice a shadow, I feel the sharp poke of the sun on my skin. Sunscreens reduce the harm, but not the liquid pressure of the brutal light.