Gaining perspective

For years now we have been living in a city. It’s a good city with excellent public transport, parks, a good arts scene, amazing food from all over the world, a mediterranean climate. As cities go, it’s and excellent version. But we are all tired of the city. Worn down by the noise, the closeness of buildings and people. We are craving space and all of us fantasize about having more room in different ways. My husband wants a shed for his adventure gear and a workshop. My older daughter wants to grow her own food and have a horse. My youngest just wants a bigger room she can dance in and paint blood red. 

I’m thinking of a room outside that. A room defined on one side by a mountain, on the other by the ocean with a vaulted ceiling of sky above. I’m dreaming of stepping outside into snow and inhaling the the sharp winter air like a peppermint in my lungs. I’m dreaming of wandering through the woods carpeted with soft moss and wild blue berries. I’m dreaming of sliding into the silken water of the lake and disappearing from the land for a few moments. All of these things are very beautiful, but I want more from them than their beauty. 

The natural world has a way of talking sense into me. I enter this room wringing my hands and lamenting, maybe loudly. The ocean gives me a sideways glance and goes back to kneading water against the shore. I thump down on the damp sand. Fretting. Before long I notice a little crab I’ve never seen before navigating the canyons of my foot prints. I notice that the tide seems to be going out. I wonder what kind of fish might be in the water right in front of me. 

Then I remember, “Oh yes, I was worried about something.” Not just worried, so anxious I couldn’t think clearly and had to go for a walk. “Yes, that is a problem.” I think, but my relationship to it has changed. The problem no longer has me by the jugular. I’ve stepped back and gained some dignity and composure. I think about it some more while watching the sunlight glint along the skin of the ocean. Now I can see the possible solutions. I can listen to reason. 

There is something that wilderness can cure that other forms of self medication simply can’t. The usual escapes like drugs, sex, money, shopping… They just create more void. The wilderness creates a void, but then fills it. Fills it with – itself, the grander scheme of things. For me it puts things in perspective. For many it makes space for healing. Brings people back to themselves. A quieter, wiser version of themselves.

Plans for the weekend

Photo by La Miko on

Today I attended a medical appointment. Nothing out of the ordinary in usual times and medically, it wasn’t out of the ordinary. But socially it was. I hadn’t seen anyone outside my family or my colleagues on zoom for months. While the practitioner prepped for the procedure, we made small talk. “Plans for the weekend?” he asked in the routine manner. The question struck me as funny. Melbourne has been under lockdown orders of varying degrees since April. At the moment, we are under stay at home orders, which prohibit people to travel more than five kilometers from their homes (medical appointments are an exception). Kids are home learning, business are closed, everyone is on video calls…

“I’m off to Paris.” I said. We chuckled about the absurdity of that and the banal reality of what we might really do. He expected the highlight of his weekend would be taking his kids to a playground which had reopened for the first time in two months.

After my appointment I sat in my car for a few minutes, savoring being alone for a few moments before driving home, and jumping on a work call. My mind wandered back to Paris. It had been an offhand remark, a joke, but now my imagination latched onto it. Maybe I will go to Paris this weekend it started… Obviously my body is locked down in Melbourne, but there is nothing keeping my mind here, it continued.

I imagine stepping onto the Rue Greffulhe in the ninth, where we stayed in January 2019. At the end of the street I could turn right to the bakery or walk straight ahead to the shop that seemed to have a small, perfectly packaged version of anything you may be lacking in your perfect little kitchen. The fruit was so beautifully packaged and displayed, I took a picture.

When I was studying psychology, I read about a woman who had been imprisoned for years, much of it in solitary confinement. She survived those times by visiting the cities she knew and walking every street. She said did this to occupy her mind and maintain her fragile grip on sanity. I have a very good sense of direction and often travel around places I’ve lived in my mind. When I read her story, I immediately identified with what she had done. I could see myself doing the same thing in her situation.

I’m certainly not in her situation, but my mind wants to go much further than my body can right now. I want to travel the 12 kilometers to see a good friend I’m missing, 15 to the ocean, 230 to the mountain range we visit every September. Beyond that, there are so many places I haven’t been in Australia: the Kimberly, the Daintree, Uluru, coastal northern New South Wales. Then there is the international bucket list: Japan, Iceland, sailing the Northwest Passage, sailing from Croatia to Venice, dog sledding in the Arctic…

But for now I’m content to wander the streets of Paris this weekend. If I’m feeling adventurous I might board a night train from Paris to Berlin, which no longer exists. There I could wander around my old neighborhood, visiting my favorite places. I just might; nothing can stop me.