This is part of a piece I wrote in 2014 on a visit home to Australia – a time of reassessment & contemplation:
I am back in the mountains that are blue after 10 years away. It is a very different visit to the last. That one was short and filled to the brim with people and food and fanfare and society. It was warm and inclusive like a long-missed hug from a distant love. It was a celebration of all the wonderful connections that I have in my world. This time, I have arrived back to a more contemplative space. Circumstance on arrival has left me with time to myself where I had planned to be busy with people and things. More space, less people; much more time just spent with me for a while. It feels like my solitary travelling days before the move. And it is good for me.
I have had 10 years of a world filled with noise and people: living & working in a pub where people flood through the door 12 hours a day and noise rises through my floorboards even when I am not at work. Now I am in gentle mountains silence. In a simple space with only music & books to keep me company unless I choose otherwise… and long blissful sleeps. I see that I miss it.
Where once I used to fight against the solitude, now I relish the chance to stop and observe. It is a trait of my nature after all. Perhaps it is the reason I choose to endlessly travel and seek change?
Today I searched in the gaps of the memories as I took a long, overcast walk out along the sandy road to Mount Blackheath. It is a place that echoes with the trace of many events in my mountains life. But today I tried to look beyond that. I have devoured 3 books in the week since arriving and they have been strangely influential in opening my mind to my current journey. The first – an account of the early settlers confronted by the harsh Australian life and landscape; the second – a diary of a forty-something woman who’s moved to the mountains, planting a garden and dealing with solitude and the disappointment of relationships; the other a study of the follies of memory.
It is natural to compare my two homes and to seek where I connect with each.
One of the key things that draws me is the landscape. My heart always seems to resonate best with the rolling green, deciduous world of the northern hemisphere. But my sense of an aesthetic is the one that loves the Australian bush: my photographer’s eye, my writer’s brain. In a discussion with friends as we walked the rambling tracks of their beautiful bush paradise, I reversed my view of the two landscapes. I had seen the Australian bush as big and harsh and confronting. I always felt that it shook your collar with its sheer grandeur and made you take notice of its virtues. The rolling hills and babbling streams of England seem softer, less confronting, more inclusive. But now…after stopping to reconnect, I see I was wrong. Those now-distant green hills and meandering rivers are the ones that take you by the scruff of the neck, whisk away your breath and shout of their beauty quickly and easily. But to find the connection in the wild, scrubby bushland of this harsh island, you have to stop and breath gently, look at the patterns; observe the colours and the lines.
This is a landscape for peace and contemplation. It is meditation and thanks.
It is at first so exclusive in its inaccessibility and yet so welcoming in its beauty. Today, I have acknowledged that this place merely frustrates my photographer’s eye. It is a moment of ‘moving on’. I had somehow once decided that I couldn’t relate to this landscape and had almost closed the door to admiration out of simple frustration. This alone was the sticking point. What our eye does in observation is pick out the details and dart from one focal point to another. In a busy view such as this, my sight switches between the seductions of the curving gumtree and the riot of leaves and texture all around it but the landscape refuses to let me capture that easily through my lens. And in realising this at last, I accept it. Perhaps it begs me to change my ways?