So, I’m back in ‘Straya. This morning I looked out across Matt Aitken’s yard. I don’t actually live anywhere now, so all the houses and all the backyards are mine and not mine. I was looking out and imagining it through the eyes of a Frenchman, not quite able to make sense of it all. Plastic chairs, a dolphin-sized boxing bag, a brick shed that houses talk shows, overgrown grasses of all kinds, nasturtiums crawling with big orange flower mouths out from every edge of the yard, a hills hoist with just two pairs of my undies on it, abandoned compost tubs. A big, wild mess, like our whole country.
The thing in that other country is that at some time every place has been altered by humans in some way, mostly in many ways over many years. All the gardens have been made and remade over generations, street cobbles smoothed by a hundred thousand steps of a hundred thousand people. Matt Aitken’s backyard though, maybe only a few hundred people ever stood there. More have come here since he’s been here, with the talk show and the gigs and the movie nights, but still. His girlfriend Mei came round last night with a bag full of flowers for us to do ikebana, and she began talking about when Perth was all wetlands, and how the English invaders thought wetlands were disease-ridden places and so wanted to dig them all up or fill them all in, which is what they started to do. Straya was full of people before, just a more appropriate number of people, living in a more appropriate way so Straya and the earth could be a big wild mess forever.
So, while I was away many things happened – the new prime minister got sworn in, Matt and Mei started a paddle club by buying some old second hand kayaks and making fluoro green tshirts and texting friends who all went down to the river to try something new. I missed this Paddle Club in advance. It still made me think of Isis though, the simple joy of belonging and wearing the same coloured t-shirt. (No one bombed our families, hence the fluoro instead of black). I also missed Soup Kitchen, but I got to go there tonight, see all the men, hear all their stories and have them ask me about France. I told some kind of version of my time that was intimate enough to show we are friends and not so intimate that I regretted it – and they all did the same. One man has stopped drinking. One man has kept a job. One man got business cards printed. One man got kicked out of the Soup Kitchen the week before and was across the road so we didn’t get to talk. One man told me in his “bad mind” I had been in bikinis drinking champagne the last seven weeks. Which doesn’t sound too “bad” to me. In my mind they’d all been there every Tuesday night, getting free food, being funny, missing me like I was missing them.
So yeah, the big backyards. The main thing is, here we are free. We can wander big distances, say whatever we like, do ikebana on a Monday. Even people who spend their days caring for elderly relatives, or feeding a drug addiction, or going to dialysis every day are still a bit free, with that big blue sky over us, and the big blue all around us. It’s a big cycle of freedom and war, my grandparents coming here in 1950 on a boat after Europe got too hot, and their countries were bombed out and less fun and they had memories of people’s limbs in a field to remember. One day maybe the cycle will end, like the human element of earth becoming Buddha by bootsing itself out of the circle for good and just sitting grinning under a tree for the rest of its days. One day~~