After weeks of staying home, I’m out — on the road, liberated, cutting loose.
I’m released from confinement, freed. I feel emancipated. My heart is light and unencumbered.
From the remote city of Perth, I ignore the golden, sandy necklace of the shore, turn my back on the turquoise shallows and cerulean ocean, and head inland.
My view is first framed by the jarrah forest, leaves flickering green and silver as they jig in the sun.
Then the bitumen road gives way to pea-gravel ball bearings, and then I’m in red dirt. Dust billows behind the vehicle, and I wind down the window and sniff it like snuff.
It’s peppery; mineral. It is the land itself.
Country music playing, singing along. Hands on the wheel, ten to two. Coffee steaming; sip-along.
After weeks of staying home, I’m in my other, true home. I’m in the world. In open space.
And I am fortunate to call the vast expanse of Western Australia home. I rejoice in the remote.
I am blessed to have a place steeped in a deep history. It is fitting that it has a complex story to tell.
But this moment’s pretty simple. I’ve broken out, from city to country. Urban, agriculture, then the faraway. I’ve crossed the line.
I stop and step out into the dirt. With the toe of my boot, I push dust. And then I climb up on to the vehicle’s roof-rack — a solid plate built for moments like this, so that I can elevate into clear air. For its height takes me up into the centre of a sphere — the Earth below, the sky above, and the endless, unbroken horizon all around me.
I’m back at home, in Western Australia; in the remote.
(At last, someone’s found the remote.)
Isolation. It is the story of Western Australia. Isolation is ingrained in the unfolding narrative of this trailing western edge of this ancient continent. It is the foundation stone of its remote country towns and communities. It is the frame in which we perfect the portrait of the isolated capital city of Perth.
Isolation is intrinsic to the history of humans who crossed the land bridge to live here, the chronicles of criminals cast here, settlers who arrived here, and the narrative of us, native to this neighbourhood today.
It is the bedrock of all the yesterdays of this ancient western third of the continent; which is almost as big as western Europe.
It is woven into the fabric of the story of today.
Isolation is not just part of this place’s DNA. It is Western Australia’s DNA. For it has long been an island on an island, a country on a continent, even tens of millions of years BC (Before Coronavirus).
The story of Western Australia is a story of splendid isolation.
LISTEN TO STEPHEN DISCUSS THE BOOK WITH WILL YEOMAN, AND READ EXCERPTS
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