The Rat Race and the Wilderness

Monday. First day of the working week. The Spirit of Tasmania ferry arrived in to Port Melbourne, as expected. My waking was met with thoughts about Queenstown and the memory of my time there and the welling up of feelings of wanting to live there. Even though I slept so deeply, and I went to sleep well before 10pm so had around 8 hours of solid sleep, I still felt groggy and tired.

The time I had had in Tasmania was like a dream and my dreams were vivid while I were there.

This world, the “home” that I have returned to, looks like a nightmare. It hasn’t penetrated me to become a feeling state yet. It just appears so nonsensical and silly. Thousands, or is it millions are stuck in the rat race. Cars, cars, cars… adding greyness to the world, their noise destroying the peace of the singing of birds which is the way mornings ought to sound. Their fumes interfering with the breathing in of morning air, which ought to be fresh. The way they enable us to rush around gets in the way of that quiet contemplation that the morning feels it asks of me.

I get dressed, drink my herbal “Female balance” tea left from the night before, which I forgot to drink before brushing teeth, then head down to Level 7 and wait to be called to go to my car. It feels rebellious and perfectly natural to locate and urge the woman who will be announcing our return to the cars, to please remind drivers more than once to not turn their engines on until the time comes to depart the ship. This is because on my way to Tasmania I had my car on the very bottom level which was an airtight room one drives down a ramp to get in to - somewhat claustrophobic really. Anyway when I went to my car upon arrival in Devonport, I noticed a car was running its engine. I knocked on their window and spoke to the driver.

Have you got your car on?

Yes, the young man replied.

All the other young men were looking at me.

The one in the passenger seat and two in the back.

You’re killing us! Please turn your engine off!

He obliged.


They all stared at me and I walked over to my car.

It isn’t common in our society to tell others what to do.

Unless of course you’re a boss and therefore entitled.

Or a school teacher.

Or a parent.

I then decided to wait on the deck to look at the water.

A stand up paddle boarder was making his way across the bay towards the boat.

I watched others.

Mostly they were photographing and videoing.

The sun was almost over the tips of the horizon but everything was very light already.

Yes the water was beautiful.

It felt special to be up this early on the water.

Traveling by boat feels so much better than by plane.

Boat traveling is a more ancient and slower way of moving through space than a plane.

Connecting to the earth in a way that is the most romantic of them all - except perhaps for horseback riding. Or even horse and cart. Although the horses may not agree with that.

The man next to me said “what’s that?”.

I first thought the was referring to the stand up paddle board and was a bit shocked he hadn’t seen one before, but quickly realised when I looked at his face again that he was staring at something traveling through the water. Some creature.

Neither of us could work it out.

It kind of looked like a 50cm long stick swimming along towards the boat.

I wondered if it was a snake or eel but snakes wriggle along. So that wasn’t it.

Whatever it was it looked like it needed its nose out of the water to breath.

I wondered if it was the nose of a seal but that made no sense at all.

I was clutching at straws.

Then a woman approached who said apparently its a rat.

Ok. The man next to me and I were satisfied that was the only plausible explanation for it.

She made a comment about how we’d been staring at a rat for some time, as though we had wasted that time, now that we know it was only a rat… which I thought was funny.

Why would staring at a rat be any less interesting than staring at a seal, eel, fish, snake or anything really?

I went to my car, picked up the key to my studio/gallery and here I sit writing this now, listening to the traffic and remembering the bike rider rushing down St George’s Road and the child in the back of the bike, eating something.

I ponder the rush.

The rat race.

And I reflect on my visit to Queenstown, the happy/sad town which lost many of its residents when the mine closed down. The town with a sense of “belonging” which is “hard to describe” according to the main character of the documentary I watched three times over, during my shift as a volunteer for the Uncomformity festival. In the 3 part documentary, “Tasmanian Ghost Town Project: A Diary of Lost Memories”, he and other characters interviewed, shared their love for Queenstown, Gormonston and Lake Margaret.

I grapple with two things. Have always done so. One is indecision. The other is an ongoing sense of homelessness. Because I know those things now I have mechanisms in place to help myself with them but still they haunt and harass me.

Right now both are activated.

I almost cancelled the trip to Tasmania. Glad I didn’t.

Then I almost cancelled the second part of it, the visit to Queenstown. Glad I didn’t.

But I did move my ferry ticket forward a day, arriving today instead of tomorrow. Not so sure that was wise. As now all I can think about is wanting to visit all those properties for sale and imagine my life there, my escape from the “rat race” and ideas about what I can offer the town flood my brain. I may not “belong” there for awhile, if I did move. I don’t have a history there.

The upside to not having a place in which one’s ancestors have merged with the landscape, is one can choose to create a new place for that. Both my parents are relatively new to Melbourne. My father’s parents moved there from Hungary after the war. My mother’s parents moved there from Dimboola, as her dad was posted there by Shell. Ha, my mother’s father worked in the fossil fuel industry and my father’s father worked as a timber merchant. Great ancestry for an environmentalist! Both my grandmothers were creative. A talented writer on my mother’s side and a talented fashion designer on my father’s side.

If I really wanted to find a sense of “home” amongst the lands of my ancestors I could get a Hungarian passport and live in Hungary. Half my family are very Hungarian. Its even backed up by the saliva DNA test. Jewish Eastern European almost 50%. But every time I’ve visited that part of the world I’ve got depressed, had panic or anxiety attacks. I figure the holocaust is responsible for that - and my ancestral memories coming up around that trauma.

I love Scotland. My mother’s side have strong roots there, going back along the lines of the Kings of Scotland. But also in my DNA is Scandinavian (14%) blood, which my mum was surprised to hear. William the Conqueror was in my bloodline too. But he’s probably in billions of people’s bloodline.

What intrigues me about all this is that I have both ancestors who have done terrible things, and ancestors who have been victims of terrible things. I am also interested in the scope of drawing upon the skills and attributes of our ancestors. Like a golden shadow, the strengths they had are available to me now perhaps.

In any case, my search for “home” and “belonging” is not just about ancestry.

Its essentially about relationship with place. With country.

Last week I spent the first 5 days in the Sumac camp in the Tarkine forest. Set up by the Bob Brown Foundation, it enables us to protect many more very old trees and a thriving ecosystem. We were visited on about the Wednesday or Thursday (all the days blurred in to one another) by two local Aboriginal men.