I don’t know why I decided to walk across the Nullarbor Plain;
it was the late seventies, I was 17 years old
and it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time;
I had spent the seventies traveling with my parents
and had circumnavigated Australia a number of times,
the bush was no stranger to me,
so traveling on to major capital cities such as Adelaide or Melbourne
had felt like the scarier option.
I did not know much about cities or city life then
and although the Nullarbor route also led to a city
it was smaller and more colonial;
at least back then it was more colonial,
these days it’s a bustling city, port and international gateway.
Spreading along the beautiful west coast
Perth is the capital of Western Australia,
one of our more remote and vaster states.
There was no real reason for heading to Perth
other than the way offered a quieter path
and it was not until I had spent a few days
and nights walking and camping
that I began to notice subtle changes were taking place,
mostly within myself.
I noticed that my soul seemed calmer and quieter,
that the bottled-up tension and hostilities
were dissipating with each step;
my mind was less chaotic and more observant.
My surroundings slowly changed
with each unwavering footfall that echoed on the road
and I began to see more clearly; almost too clearly.
I thought I could see and feel a faint humming luminance
vibrating around each tree and plant,
often merging and overlapping
to form new colors and vibrations.
I had experienced something like this once before
when camped on the edge of a desert;
the undulating sand-ripples caused by an ever-present wind
hypnotized and bewitched me…
I fancied I heard the heartbeat of the very earth itself,
the red desert sand seemed to glow like fire.
I walked through the long silent days and into each night
medicated by nature’s soft soothing melody;
birds followed my path dipping and darting from tree to tree
swooping high into the sky in the open patches that broke up the bush.
When I stepped over their invisible border they would turn back,
skimming through branches with practiced ease
and other birds would take up the role
of guide or guardian.….
At night the sky was silky and soft,
as dark and shiny as ebony and brilliantly lit;
a warm breeze ruffled the trees
and created currents of dust that eddied around tree trunks
and swirled through the bare patches.
I wasn’t scared; I didn’t think there was anything to be frightened of,
so I slept soundly under the cover of night
and woke each morning to a dazzling new dawn.
I discovered a lot about my blossoming young self on that long walk;
I learnt that I actually didn’t mind my own company;
that silence didn’t have to be filled,
rather it should be respected and fostered and listened to;
I learnt that trees have a life energy of their own
and that the earth resonates with hushed vibrations.
I felt at home.
More at home in a sleeping bag on the dirt
then I ever felt, in the years that followed
when I shared a city with a million others.
When I knew that I was close to the sea
I veered off the road,
picking my way through stubby bush and stunted trees.
I heard and smelt and felt the ocean
long before I reached the rocky cliff that dropped into the broiling waves.
With surprising nerve, for I do have a slight fear of heights,
I approached the edge of the cliff;
far below powerful waves thundered onto large smooth boulders,
spraying up and raining back down with a regular surging backwash.
The earth shivered with delight.
That night the moon seemed to be ringed with a soft saffron nimbus
of incandescent light that skimmed across the ocean like a beacon.
It was a bright night;
good for traveling,
but I felt captivated and did not want to leave.
The leaves murmured a soft lullaby,
accompanied by the deeper rumble of the rhythmic waves
as they crashed onto the rocks far below,
I closed my eyes and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep
with the moon as my nightlight and the stars my guardians.