My feet crunched into the lichen as I wandered through dry forest. I’d wandered away from the house, not really intending to go far, but the easy pace and muttered stones had helped me walk further than anticipated. I was meandering in the space beneath the trees. No path to speak of.
I plucked at the strawlike grasses. They plucked back.
I could breathe here, I realised. I stood and listened to the swell of my breath and felt the roundness of the soles of my feet.
The house stood in amongst a group of conspiratorial tight haired eucalypts, its red bricks warm and lickable. If I looked back over my shoulder, I could admire its squat shape in amongst the toast-coloured trees. There was a quiet low hum it gave, singing softly to itself as it squinted over the landscape. Every now and again I could see it weighing me up, the curtained eyes softly blinking. I pretended not to notice and turned towards the fenceline.
Over in the paddock, the pockmarked shape of sheep studded the yellow grass. They sailed within it, burnished. The sun was lower now, and there was a shallow silence filled only by the sounds of my feet loudly cracking towards the barbed wire. I raised my hand to my eyes.
“Hello sheep,” I said softly, with the voice of a townie. The sheep were uninterested, with only one raising a mottled tired face, the rounded folds of wool moving with the swell of its chewing. Move along, it seemed to say. Nothing to see here. This was a country that lay sleeping lightly, with its teeth gently bared. I was not needed here. Nothing would miss me when I was gone.
Under my feet lay the bleached bones of trees. Skeletal remains of bloodless elephants.
I wanted to capture some part of the cool diffidence of this place, capture it to me as the sun sunk. I leant down to collect them. I felt the need to weave them into piles in my hands, stitching myself into the landscape and place. I wanted to be recognised. But the sticks cracked in my palms as I collected them, their hollow centred bones snapping like tiny mammals. I was not going to secure my toehold this way, kneeling with my hands listlessly stroking the fallen branches.
I turned back to the house. The house seemed satisfied. It’s arms were folded, and it looked over me and away. The landscape and the house knew each other, and I moved within their spaces with their permission. Any recognition would be accorded to me when they were ready, and not before.
My feet returned me to the garden, and I walked in time with the gently hummed tune the house sang.
I believe it is important to be recognised, for others to see you. But it is more important to first be able to see yourself.