A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Having stayed up later than expected, we woke up later than intended. Feeling that a good breakfast (eggs, feta, toast) was important, we didn’t end up leaving the house until after our deadline, with a roommate in tow who we dropped off on our way out of town. Such was the delayed start of the day.
We headed an hour out of Melbourne to reach the St. Andrew’s Market. Part craft fair, part flea market, mostly hippie outpost, the few rows of stalls set across the country road from the pub were an odd assortment. Yet they were fantastic. I rummaged through some old shirts and jackets that weren’t really an option. Julia found a skirt. We rifled through postcards made from the covers of books.
I stopped to admire the work of a photographer and painter whose primary draw was the use of texture. (search for m.o.defy on Facebook.) Her largest portrait was printed on white lace, framed in rough white wood. The lace gave an elegance to the picture that couldn’t come through another means. We spoke of her style, and though I didn’t buy anything it felt good to at least praise. Across the way was a woman selling lessons on leadlight making. I’m not sure the technical differences, but this is basically like stained glass, except that instead of a full window of color, you make the kind of door and windows that you see in art deco and modernist architecture. Out of curiosity I inquired. Only $100 for three weekends of lessons. Another $240 for the tools, but those last a lifetime. Damn. If I had known about this a couple months ago, I would be currently dealing with the difficult logistics of mailing a window back to the states.
Julia and I sat down with our falafel wraps (I willfully ordered this over a cheaper meat option) and a spiced chai tea (truly well done) on some cushions underneath a canvas tent and spoke of current affairs. Indigenous Australian land rights, the government’s approaches to environmentalism, race relations in the US, and the buying up of Australia’s natural resources by foreign interest. It was a pleasant setting and a surprisingly weighty discussion for a Sunday afternoon at a market.
We stopped at the pub across the way to refuel on beer and nicotine before heading further up the mountain to Kinglake National Park. The area had been among the hardest hit by Black Tuesday, a massive day of devastating bushfires a few years back. The regrowth seen in the trees was remarkable given the short span since the fires. Apparently they aren’t kidding when they tell me that these flora require fire to rejuvenate. Aside from the blackened trees, the rest of the growth was high enough and lush enough to make you think the forest is as it always had been.
We found a dirt road, parked, and walked along it for a few km before finding the trail head. Despite the fact we were walking along a road, no cars passed. No tire marks really stood out. The trail was just a slightly less traveled bush/logging track. The whole circuit, about 8 or 9 kilometers, was lined with trees. We walked in ambient silence, cut only by the sound of our footsteps on dirt and by our voices. We spoke of our lives, of the things that we knew, of the things that the other didn’t. We shared our cultural differences, the university system setup in both countries. For a good section of the time we walked encircled by butterflies who flitted about along the road, brightly lit up by rays of sun shining through the leaves and hiding back into the shadows again. On our way out, we stopped to admire a flower farm glowing with the light of the low sun on one side of the road and cows on the other.
Back in town we loaded up with fish and chips, a veggie burger and a milk shake (here, a milk shake is just milk shaken with a flavor, so I ended up with chocolate milk instead of a Frosty), and we headed to the mountain-top lookout. The road closed several hours before, so we parked, stepped just inside the park, and accepted that the view of the sunset from the peak was beyond our means. Finding a picnic bench we opened up the food, sipped out long blacks (Americanos), and shivered against the rapidly encroaching night. As the stars came out and the planets shone bright (three were up, Venus, Mars, and another) we talked of movies before finally acknowledging our inappropriate levels of defense against the cold, loading into the car, and heading back down the long winding road to town.
The same Nature that sent us an entourage of butterflies seemed unwilling to let the night end just yet. As we drove down the country road in the dark, the horizon started to light up. The line of trees at the far end of a field was silhouetted in front of the nearly full moon just peeking above the edge of the earth. We parked the car and stared on in wonder as the enormous white disk peeked above the trees and slowly continued to rise. It’s a weird thing to see. The earth’s rotation is something we accept on a fundamental level. And you can see that stars and the sun have moved over the course of an hour or more. But watching the moon crest the horizon is the most observable view of the fact that we are spinning around through space. And it puts everything that happens down here into a bit of perspective.
We stared at the moon in silence, we internalized it in our own ways, and then in the relative silence of solemn importance, Julia started the car and we headed back to the artificial lights of our man-made metropolis.