Does home change on a regular basis, or is it the town you grew up in? Or is it the city, the region, or state you’ve spent most of your life? Is it where your parents settled? Or is it simply where your bed is located?
The definition of home, it’s so contextual, that I’m sure we all have a different definition of what it means to be home.
Over the past nine days I’ve spent the most time ‘home’ in almost a year. It was bloody amazing, even refreshingly inspirational. Now I’m dangling once again 20,000 feet over the sea and here is my reflection on time well spent.
Victoria is gorgeous. Right now, after a lacklustre summer, we haven’t seen any (major) fires and there’s even a hint of green hanging in there around the place. the sun beats down hot still but people generally aren’t over it. The past week has continuously been blue skies and close to thirty degrees, and super comfortable (a welcome change from the sticky humidity of Queensland). Stunning, and very conclusive to exploring the outdoors – Victoria’s mountains, valleys, heathland, cliffs, beaches, and rivers.
Despite much of Vicoria being cleared for farming, residential, commercial, and industrial purposes (as seen quite extensively from the sky), there’s still a few (small) patches of gems out there.
The natural places I sojourned to – outlined above – albeit a (significant?) importance to me in that I have made (and continue to make) extremely important memories with people surrounded bob them. Exploring their beauty and ecological uniqueness of the land and water around me, prompting me to share this with many others. This week I’ve ventured out with some of those same people, to create new memories in the Victorian countryside.
Alpine offloading with my family, taking time to freeze my legs in the beginnings of a mountain stream polluted by Coke bottles (even this remote there’s rubbish!!), then teaching the next generation the negative impacts of pollution. Then, further down the road we turn a bend into a logging coupe once home to towering Mountain Ash trees only found in the Victorian highlands and Tasmania. Even at seven years old he deplores the destruction of these giants.
I tiptoed through the Great Otway heath dodging basking tiger snakes and staying amazed at the biodiversity of a simple ground layer. The coastal fog burnt off on cue, blue skies put on a show. Returning to last summers patch made me realise how much I’d missed and fallen for the west coast that faces south east over Bass Strait.
Then for a swim in the cool temperate ocean waters by iconic yellow sandstone cliffs. Low tide and no breeze; my favourite beach to date on the coast. I notice the little changes, both human and natural, and whilst thousands of feet have walked the path down to the ocean since I last took a dip at Addiscot, it’s dominating cliffs and welcoming blue to me it was like I only left a week ago. We might complain about cold water and inaccessible beaches, but when I left to warmer waters I begun to truely appreciate the invigorating nature of ice cool Southern Ocean water.
Finally an unnamed waterfall or cascade in the states central reaches. Simple and hemmed in by paddocks – a common scenario out here for areas unfit for agricultural practices (where solid immovable rock trumps ploughing). It’s out of the way and a perfect year round swimming hole.
Making Tracks this week rapidly brought together and reaffirmed the reasons I’m writing this and will continue to for many years to come.
Because I understand these areas ecologically and have learnt to read their importance and acknowledge their changes. Walking (or swimming) through them is both a confirmation of what I know and an excuse for adventure to experience something new and exciting. The changing of the seasons and the typical variability of them means species numbers rise and fall, plants grow and die off or even drop limbs to save themselves. Cliffs erode and creeks clog up. Sand moves, exposing/covering rocks to create/eliminate habitat for marine life. Change keeps everything guessing what’s going to happen next and provides us with continual exploration.
However, I can’t read my new home of South East Queensland just yet. Maybe in the dry eucalyptus forests I have a slight grasp of things given the similarities with Victoria, but stepping foot into a sub-tropical rainforest is like experiencing a new country or planet, whilst lukewarm sandy beaches stretching beyond the horizon without sign of a cliff still throws me!
Despite her obvious beauty, it”s still like being on a second date with SE Queensland – I’m attracted, dig her vibe, but have no intimate idea of what she is. And yes, I do want to know more.
I’m experiencing what I’m calling an ‘expansion of home’. I have no reason to pull a Paul Kelly and write my version of ‘Adelaide’ – one day I’ll happily return to the Victorian coast and once again live within a stones throw of the water. I just can’t say when.
This is a glimpse into how and why one becomes attached to country, to the land and water and everything in between. Without ever setting out for it to happen, it just happens. The landscape becomes intertwined with memories shared with people you love.
We’re all the one landmass after all, so home is the whole patch, plus I don’t think I’ll stop until I’ve lived in each state and territory, and spent my fare share of time making a home amongst the gum trees, whatever species they might be..