Monday, April 17, 2006

Why travel?

Here I am in Brisbane on the Saturday before Easter, in the midst of the second full moon of 2006. Once more I am faced with the question of why I find myself so comfortably situated on this 80 year old couch in the lounge room of the 100 year old Queenslander.

If it had not been comfortable, would I have stayed? Would I have returned all those times from my trips back to North America to prove to Australian Immigration, DIMA herself (how could this department be anything but a woman, supervised by the fullest bodied woman in the Australian Parliament, Amanda Vanstone) that I really was/am only a visitor?

As one reads the journals and narratives of other women who travel the globe, it becomes obvious that in our travels, at least in the 21st century, most of us are searching for our identity.

Oh, I suspect we really know who we are. What we seek is what we have the potential to become. Parts of us have remained undeveloped in the culture of our origin where we have wisely chosen to 'tow the line' to become the person our families, our communities needed or expected us to be.

By travelling, each of us has found that there are other ways to be, other persons to become. Jean Houston is the first person I recall having used the term 'polyphrenic'. She explains it as the multiple personalities inherent in any being, each of which comes to the fore when needed to cope with the varied roles we must play in modern western society.

When I search carefully into who I have been and who I am since arriving in Australia, it is sometimes difficult to discover the nuances and subtleties of the change into my new self. I realize that I am too close. Reflection requires time. We may not see if we are too engrossed in the process of being right now.

I do realize that growing older creates a change. Maturity has its disadvantages as well as its opportunities to move beyond that soma to which we all grow accustomed, where we walk like one blindfolded, with ear muffs to keep out the scratchy noises of the old recordings, where we allow our bodies to dictate who we are. Some of us even forget how it feels to reach out and gather into our palms the soil of our gardens or taste Witchetty grubs who love their deep tunnels in undisturbed soil. We become so accustomed to the fragrance of Frangipani or the miraculous colours of Australian Wattle as it blooms ever so yellow in the dark shrubbery of the gum tree forest that we forget to take a few moments to savour what is offered.

I still shrilly whinge at the sharpness of the ancient Australian rocks in the quarry through which I walk on my daily sojourn on Mt. Cooth-tha, the wilderness park located in the middle of the western Brisbane suburbs. These are not my Sierra nor my San Gabriel foothill wild lands where I wandered for the previous forty years. I fail to acknowledge the joy of discovering the contrast of granite, marble, limestone and sandstone strewn before me in a lovely pattern down the hillside.

Why did I leave those places, those wonderful earthquake prone east-west ranging mountains of southern California? Do I feel negatively about my home of the last half of my life? No.

Rather, I am curious about how this new land gives me an opportunity to be another myself in its midst.