Return to OzIssue: Section:
"After the initial welcome home hugs happen, everyone resumes a role long before established in childhood"
Piece together a part of me,
a little time recalling memories.
Distant lands are
in the store of imagination,
In the hours of abstract rumination,
A grain of shifting sand.
Traveling to Australia from New York is more of a journey than just going home for Christmas. The epic migration over thousands of miles traversing the Pacific Ocean is equivalent to being transported through a strange time warp porthole. Stranger than losing two days of your life in the transition, stuck in a metal pod suspended above the earth and stranger than walking into a polar opposite climate, going back to Australia is like stepping into a sepia shade of the past. And it’s not only the reunion with family members that pull on the heartstrings of nostalgia. There are so many subtle factors at work when you return to your homeland that trigger sentimentality for a time gone-by.
The experience of a place, especially a place you spent a considerable time in as a child, is heightened when you return to the familiar haunts. But it’s more than that. There is a wealth of intangible elements that contribute to conjuring up memories of times past. Certain smells and sounds are unique to a country and can’t be replicated anywhere else. It’s these things that seep into your skin subtly and pull on the subconscious, drawing out memories and faint remembrances.
For instance there is something about the angle of the sun in Australia and the way the breeze tantalizes the skin or the sound of birds ecstatic before rainfall. There is also a heaviness adopted by the moon when it sits heavy on the bough of a branch in a smoky purple haze or the very particular way that very same gum trees smells on a damp morning chilled by the refreshing air. It may also have something to do with the crystal, illuminated skies on a clear night or the immensity of the horizon challenging you to remember just how small you are and just how far you’ve been. The particularity of the Australian landscape, whether it be the experience of the majestic and breath taking South East coastline or merely the site of Adelaide’s suburban sprawl from the incoming plane trip has a deep effect on the psyche. This return completes a deep longing for a home from which I have been mostly estranged from for many years.
There is a necessity for ritual when it comes to family as a way of negotiating an elongated time spent apart. This is why many cups of tea are needed, long walks and beach talks with ice cream in hand! After the initial welcome home hugs happen, everyone resumes a role long before established in childhood. This time it is different though. Time spent welcoming new additions into the family lineage allows you to see yourself through the eyes of a child again, establishing new memories and rekindling traditions that will be passed onto the next generation. And for a minute its nice to remember what it was like to be a child in a land that once enveloped you and gave you so much imaginative inspiration. I carry that landscape with me everywhere I go and I still call Australia home.