The most other-wordly trip I have ever embarked upon is a self-guided hike through the ancient pilgrimage routes of Japan. These paths exist in the mountains and you come across ancient Buddhist shrines as well as more modern but distinctly memorable holy places, such as this cemetery. Thank you Japan for keeping something special in the post-modern world where everywhere seems the same.
Even though I have travelled to most of the places in the world that I wanted to, my recent trip to the great North of my country has stayed with me like no other. The paintings that have come from this trip are reminiscent of the lines and linkages in traditional Aboriginal art. I am very conscious that these paintings are “through the eyes of the white man”. I hope my Aboriginal friends understand that these paintings come from a sense of awe and astonishment at the depth of their ancient culture. Now, instead of thinking about another trip to Paris or wherever, now I think of returning to Northern Australia. That is my white man dreaming.
Travel? Once you’ve done enough, it all merges into one long journey in your memory. I like this because you have photographs that aren’t immediately self-revealing about the where. Weirdly enough or amazingly enough, this experience of travel remembered coincides with all that strange quantum physics stuff that trickles down to most of us through translaters of science.
In particular, there is the idea that our minds impose Time onto our experience to make it intellectually manageable. This is the idea that Time does not truly exist, and that our experience of past / present / future is illusory. Go read summaries of Einstein, Bohr et. al. if you think I’m exaggerating. Go look up Biocentrism for a real wobbly one…
So, getting back to my point….when you have done enough travel, especially a lot of travel as people are able to do today, it all easily becomes One Narrative. That’s why these beautiful beach rocks in the post were timeless and placeless for me, well, at least until I thought really hard about where we were. I kinda like that.
I am haunted by seeing the northern edge of my country, particularly the Kimberley region and Kakadu. You can travel the world and see the great centres of human culture and that’s fine but the Deep North is something else. There was no road access to the lodge we stayed at in the Kimberley…so we sat crammed in a light plane and watched the miles and miles of plains and rivers pass by below. Once there, we spent days exploring the waterholes around the Berkeley River and the great sandstone gorge it snakes through.
Kakadu was more populated with tourists but equally mind-altering in its grandeur and untouchability. Both places felt as if the Dreamtime storylines continue to sing to sensitive ears. Our aboriginal guides wanted us to hear the distant voices of ancient time.
Maybe we did.
Coastline still studded with German guns
From seventy years ago
Where the Allies came ashore
As you read about in books
Normandy a country of farms
And stone fences
Now museums to DDay
In the midst of croissants
And ice cream sellers
Pointe du Hoc
The clifftop above the sea
Huge German guns in bunkers
Still present just back from the cliff
I don’t see how the soldiers could have climbed these cliffs
Under fire and tide pushing them flush against the rock
The way the sea falls off to depth
A few metres out
I don’t understand the physics
Of what they did
Nor do I understand the rest
The zone of death
The youthful death
The sweep of guns
Covering the beach for miles
The unspeakable blood
The unspoken distant voices
Heard through the chatter
Of tourist guides
Seeing Dachau in near 40 degree heat was a hard day and very depressing. All one can do is to bear witness to the events, and so a few paintings emerged from that experience.
Seeing the place where Hitler lived in the German Alps, including his bunker system around the Berghof and the Eagle’s Nest….this just illustrates the tragic misuse of technical skill that underpinned the Third Reich.
On this trip to Europe, there have been a few things I’ve noticed that seem different to previous trips. All those reports we have all seen about African and Middle Eastern migrants appearing on the shores of southern Italy….well, its not just southern Italy. Our hotel is near the central station of Milan ….our cabbie confirmed that around 100 migrants rejected by France appear here everyday. They sleep rough in the environs of the monolithic Milan train station. These displaced people co-exist with the high fashion and international financial centres that Milan is known for. They are the symbolic Other, not part of the new society except as outsiders, interlopers, or the rejected. It appears they inspire a mixture of pity, resentment and indifference. They stand out even more to me , having just come from Nice where so many relax in the sun and enjoy beautiful hotels. I hope Europe can find a better solution for these people than what I am seeing from my hotel window.