It’s day 50 of 120 and we enjoy a rest day at Jabiru, the township that is situated in the heart of Kakadu National Park (and ironically, another mining town). A day of domestic duties - laundry, shopping, poolside resting. Yet these 50 days have mostly been a journey of uncoupling from domestication and convenience – of allowing the outer wildness to uncover the wildness within. It is what I long for – to allow country to shape me rather than me trying to shape or control it (often much easier said than done). I long for wildness, in the world and myself, at least as an idea if not always as a practice. I love it when phone connection drops out (frequently in these parts) as the domestic-machine-pull is taken out of my hands. This practice can be hard.
But over the last 50 days we’ve had plenty of the wildness I love. We’ve driven thousands of kilometres through some truly wild country. Country unspoilt and largely untouched. Country left on its own terms. Country that hasn’t been commodified by humans. And in this wildness, I’ve had some of the best sleeps I can ever remember – under the stars, listening to wild dingos, bats, and all sorts of night-time creatures. Far away from urban machine noises. I've connected to and remembered my own wild instinctual nature and felt deeply part of the land. I’ve felt so small in such big landscapes and vast starry skies, I’ve been humbled by the fragility of my life in this harsh, unforgiving land, and been awe struck by our First Nations culture that is so vibrant, rich and visible. I’ve listened and learned. I’ve been moved by the wildness that touches me.
And I’ve also enjoyed the occasional interlude in urban domestic spaces, such as a week in Darwin attending the World Community Development Conference. It was a shock to be confined to four walls after weeks of wide-open spaces. I discovered that I can no longer sleep (well) inside. I found my body and mind tense with the confinement. And yet I also allowed the richness and learning from people from all corners of the globe, and from First Nations stories, enter and shape me. It was a delight to connect with old friends and colleagues and meet wonderful new people. And I found the wild in the domestic, reconnecting with wild open croc-filled beaches on the edge of the city. I was able to temporarily inhabit both worlds.
But now we are back in the wild for a long time to come. Last week I completed my first solo overnight walk in Litchfield National Park. At 8.30am, I donned my 15kg pack and trudged off with excitement and anticipation into the wilderness all on my own, a first for me, and an important step in my own confidence and self-reliance. I wanted to meet country on my own, on its terms, to have to make decisions for my own survival (and not defer to my much more experienced and confident other half), I wanted to hone my instincts, open myself, surrender to place. Yet within hours, the sun was scorching at 35 degrees, and I was trudging through harsh unforgiving (and dare I say it, unexciting) terrain. I found myself wishing for the comforts of shade, the coolness of water, the comfort of Peter, or the excitement of other species – which there was also not a lot of (at least not visibly). It was a dull, difficult 5 hours walking.
So I live with the paradox, of wishing for wildness, yet also wanting to shape it to my own desires and comforts. Perhaps inevitable in such conditions…?
I was grateful to reach camp by 1.30pm, finding a cool delicious waterhole to spend the afternoon in. I was able to stop, rest, listen and be moved by the solitude and wildness of the country. I sat on the escarpment eating my rehydrated dinner, watching the sunset as a horde of dragon flies dance frantically in front of my face. Wildness all around me, I felt truly content. These wilderness spaces are healing.
The journey of wildness continues as we head south to complete another multi-day walk later this week, and then on to Central Australia. A chance to un-domesticate further. I’m loving the freedom it brings. The freedom to forget the days and encounter life through seasons and sunsets.
With wildness until next time, Rachael