I find myself alive. Healthy and happy and hopeful. Living out my parents fantasies of throwing the family into a campervan and heading for the great unknown. As a child we holidayed across three continents: a blur of thousand year old skyscrapers, families who judge time not by year but by generation (the first son of the first son of the first son) and travel by the most inauspicious modes available (donkey, camel and a 1970s top-heavy troop carrier left over from the British occupation). The experiences blend together and as much as I try to separate Socotra from Uqban, the outsiders’ perspective on place is just a shadow of the local experience. The 90s blend into the 2000s and I happily teenaged my way through many experiences that would leave another me emotionally worn. But we’ve reached 2018 and I survive with most of my resilience intact.
A tent in Nitmiluk national park, somewhere south of Darwin, some 3500 km from home. We come here by way of one of my best friends’ 30th birthdays. A funny way to start a treatise on time. As the years wander by I find myself dwelling more intensely on units of time, measuring it out by hour and day, by week and month. 2017 the year I start a career as a singer-songwriter. April the month I launch my record. Last week I finish booking a three-month solo tour. One day in August it begins. But I digress.
Today has been a funny day. Rising at six to drive to a visitor centre where a cheery ferry driver takes us on a two minute cruise across the river. This is where time stops. Out of range of social media and emails and indeed mobile range at all I turn my phone off. I’m physically weighed down by 20 kgs worth of food and water, but emotionally weightless, cut free from the need to measure life by time.
We talk till lunch, we swim till tired. We pause to sunbathe and feeling empty we fill ourselves on tuna and crackers and a dessert course of two minute noodles.
If only life could be so simple everyday. Needs are filled as they arrive and no outside influence dictates how we fill our time. If we linger over breakfast, no phantom work-place mandated hours demand we pile a days worth of belongings into a car and battle the mundanity of peak hour talk-back to arrive and churn through eight hours of government-mandated chitchat. If the sun is too hot we read in the shade. When the book loses its interest we return to the water.
The only real routine here is the watching of the sunset, a once daily ritual with a bottle of Dodgeball (an affectionately terrible home-brew mix of Fireball and some Jack Daniels found in the back of the share-house cupboard) in hand. Clambering up the nearest peak we spend the hour gazing in awe as the sun completes its daily disappearance below the horizon. There is no habit here, we’ve surrendered the twice daily coffee addiction, the 7:47 bus timetable, the 11:10 lunch and the 3:50 home time bell. There is freedom from time and freedom from expectations and a certain freedom from me. The me who overloads himself with a daily to-do list. The me who plans each week some six months in advance. The me who prides himself on output and productivity and garners self-worth not by being but by doing.
This is freedom.
Simon and Garfunkel: Bookends
Time it was, and what a time it was
It was a time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you