What the brook in the jarra forest says
Western Australia, in the forest near Dwellingup, in the hills of the Darling Scarp: we pull over at a deserted campsite/picnic site. The sun filters down most beautifully through the leaves of the jarra trees, creating a light, dappled shade quite different from woodland shade at home. The leaf litter and the trees themselves smell faintly and delightfully of eucalyptus- unsurprisingly. There are a few bird calls, there's a little green finch-like bird, another like an overgrown wagtail...
It's peaceful, and lovely in a slightly alien sort of way, particularly alien if I remember the poster in the visitor centre about the reptiles of the jarra forests- the dugite,the death adder, all the usual Aussie terror creatures. But all is clear and feels unthreatening at present, so I wander down to a little brook, which is chattering lightly over some rocks by a small footbridge. Maybe it's got something to tell me, I'll give it some time.
It's natural enough to compare the familiar with the unfamiliar, familiar scenes with new delights, gum tree shade against beechwood shade. We reconstruct memories of past realities and hold them against the present moment, creating preferences and making judgements. Bit of a waste of time, perhaps, though I guess it's one of the innocent pleasures of travel.
But then my whole sense of me, of being a distinct, separate self, is a ceaselessly recreated construct. I am not the same as when I left home, as when I arrived- it just feels as though I am. That feeling of being the same "thing," more or less, as last week reminds me that wherever we travel to, we take with us who we are.
Travel isn't an answer, though it may help to pose some useful questions. At one level, I am still me, whether I'm on Anglesey or in the unfamiliar, sometimes strange beauty of the jarra forests.
At another level, I am not still anyone, in fact I am not still; I am not what I think I am. I am processes and changes, part of the changes around me.
So letting the present take over from the comparisons and the puzzlings, just belong with the great trees and the brook shining in the Australian sunshine- that's good.
As it would be if I were listening to Afon Conwy going over the falls back home. That brief presentmomentness, that's what is the same. Not me.
It's worth remembering, I tell myself, that although this has been a benevolent trip, a huge positive experience, not all travel is like that- and any contact with a few moments of being in the present and only in the present will always help, wherever we are.
It will address feelings of remoteness, of isolation amidst an alien environment, or tedium amidst, say, the familiar clatter of a train journey at home. After all, with apologies to Doctor Who, we can only travel in the present, as we can only really be, in the present. The rest is a sort of substitute life, life as we think it should be, or could have been if only, or as it will be when I finally sort out.....