motherland, hello

mum, murrumbidgee, canberra

I’ve been back for over 2 months now and still finding it hard to re-ground myself. “These things take time, ay” they say. “Allow them to.” And I do. And I am. But it is all these things and the endless diversions around them that lead me back to this place of restlessness.

Abdul-aziz cries, and tries hard to put his fathers slippers back on his feet, indicating, urging him to go outside again. Here, back in Melbourne, I’m learning Arabic again, trying to continue what I learnt in Egypt and Palestine anyway… This family are from Saudi Arabia but Omar can speak other dialects as well…

This lounge room, such a familiar space, the minimal walls, an framed image of something, or a word, Allah. The television centre-space, the two couches in an L-shape, the perpetual vacuumed carpet, the roving coffee table, the shay in a thermos, the small glasses, the soft-drinks and cakes, biscuits and home-made Fiteer, the language, the familiarity of miscommunication…

Going between Canberra, Melbourne and Candelo (in NSW, near Bega, where my dad has recently bought an 18acre block of land and has started to lay his roots there, in the form of a small house made of left-over materials, with solar, and water tanks, and cockatoos at 5pm – it has a creek and swamps and wombat holes…)

mum, murrumbidgee

tantawangalo ck

the quiet place, candelo

I am still living out of my backpack – sleeping in places not mine and unable to settle someplace…. Although a large part of me needs to be settled there’s something pushing me around, an inability to lay down, an inability to settle for routine, but I love routine as well – I love its comforts and satisfactions, or knowings of tomorrow and the next day and the day after that…

… although just now I have planted myself in a room I can say is ‘mine’ – this place isn’t my home, and I can’t foresee it becoming so.. a cheap room in an old house, smelling of cigarettes and garbage bins full of beer, a drug bust and creaky floors, but it’s the space of mine for now.

I’m home.

home in candelo

I’ve moved myself before, around the country, into different homes, swags, tents, cars and floors… but to leave the soils, the coastline… for thousands of kilometres elsewhere, for lives unknowable by many … I didn’t know where I was going before I left. I just accepted an opportunity to shake myself up, and left. Away from the dust and mud that had collected in my shoes from love and life and routine/less movement, to another form of life, of lifestyle, of fitting and learning and smelling and tasting and seeing and breathing and clicking and regurgitating footsteps and voices… of sleeping in bomb shelters and being aware of being unaware of the present ‘war’, of being safe under the sound of jets next to the sound of air moving through large air-vents up into the street above and back down again; sleeping through the warning siren and people scrambling down the concrete stairs before the supposed missile lands in a field somewhere or perhaps on a car somewhere – of being somewhat separate from this reality and then… of being punched in the face with another reality on the other side of the wall, the other side of the bubble, afterwards, in the aftermath – making people relive their stories and hellish nightmares of escaping, surviving the metal and penetrating bursts of lead of explosions and sharp juts of noise, familiar and repetitive…., ‘a person up there pressed a button, I lost my family, life, and for now, I can’t see the future, can you?’

Then… more as you know… to broken relationships in remote places in far-flung destinations of division and separation of skin and colour. .. of lakes and sand and sun and death, of absorption in a world of survival throughout my own crises, a leopard or two in dreams and waking life, a shrill wail at the lost breath at the bottom of the lake, and, the women up there, telling me about their survival, the normality of abuse, the normality of suffering, and I scribble notes as if everyone in the world said the very same thing to me every-single-day.

– And I remember more and less as I trot through these days, back on my bike through familiar streets, through familiar smells, drinking lattes and spending spending cash…

march 6, floods, kensington, melbourne

When she picked me up after I landed, I hadn’t seen her for nearly two years, and yet it wasn’t as if it could have been…

I was still getting text messages from friends in Egypt  – vodaphone Cairo was roaming in Melbourne, and it kept me over there for a while, unable to realise where I now was… so

I smelt Melbourne’s gas first off… Melbourne, the summer night, post-rain, taxi rank, garbage truck, bringing me back to this life here again, and I’m still uncertain I should have come home, but it was needed and on the other hand I am more than certain it was right – my camera gear was falling apart, as much as my pockets, my film unprocessed and a year out of date… a backlog of words and files needing to be sorted… made into something…

floods, kensington

The editor writes to me from Malawi – jess, can you pitch to me some copy? Uganda is passing anti-homosexual bills, which can potentially put people on the death-bed.. Malawi is arresting gay people for being gay.. HIV, Maternal Mortality… the SA world cup… Zimbabwe… If only I could go back so soon, would I?

It’s a feeling that now those concepts of places are more able to be understood, although I know I spent so much time separate from where I was, maybe looking forward or backwards too much, maybe trying to ignore the colour of my skin and the eyes upon it.. maybe trying to be a part of something for brief breaths in the dirt and sun.



So for now, home, the homelands, her smells of eucalypt and the smell of rivers, full of mud down there, each place, regenerating somehow, a new coat of paint in my mothers home, left half-done in her haste to do more… my help comes in bursts, my inwardness and inability to slow down as well as speed up, my impatience for bullshit has grown ten-fold (if you don’t mean it, don’t bother, you know)…

the land down there in Candelo, the quiet place, I can see myself sleeping many nights, naked in the river each morning, perved on only by cows and cockatoos. The night stars, my dad, he imagines an observatory there, each guest bringing him the occasional cup of coffee or glass of red wine and bowl of cashews as they share his love for the place…

and home, in Canberra, the best sleep I had had in over a year was when I went back there; that bed, the same laundry smell, the 14 year old cat that drools and the old  dog who’s face has somehow caved in somewhat… the traffic noise has grown, or I’ve just re-noticed it louder – maybe a skill to pick up while away, learning to listen to new sounds, and trying to learn how to sleep through annoying ones, something I have yet to master.

The place here, in Melbourne, a place for me, a feeling of a constant need to be doing more, yet, spending too much and not doing enough. My heart here and there, my eyes and ears unable to listen and see one thing without a fuzz. Or the sound of nocturnal housemates and another SBS movie…

jammu jilpy steve

the yarra

It’s home this way too. Through this. With all this. Closing my eyes through each salty wave, and each fresh splash of sea river creek and swimming pool water – the same dirt and mud on the same walk up the same hill.. to the trig point overlooking the replanted pines to burn again one day… then down here, the walk to the creek, the little bit of… nature, choked by plastic bags and debris, washed down in the floods, our little haven of afternoon jogs and dogs.

Going again next week, across this country, West, to the West, across the Nullabore with the storyteller and the swags and cups of tea and fires and stars…, a few meetings, interviews, recordings, listenings; there’s more mining over there popping up now, people want to know what’s going on, people want to speak up; more stories to share, more places to see and people to meet, ‘keep it in the ground’, yeah, you greedy fucks, listen to these people out there, sit with them on country, drink tea from a pannikin and listen to these people out there…

So…for now

I’m home, apparently.


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