Jacaranda and eucalyptus: trees I didn’t expect to encounter across the Pacific, so being greeted by both everyday is pleasantly disconcerting.
Over lunch with my host here in Mexico City one afternoon, I described the delight of living where gum trees are a source of natural aromatherapy with their scent, the way jacaranda adds a bright splash to otherwise monotonous suburbs, and how lots of people grew nopales, but no one ate it.
José remarked over his spectacle rims, “You are homesick.”
I was taken aback.
I’ve lived in Perth for fourteen years, and I never thought of it as home. There was very little about living there, culturally, that I related to. It is a sunny, social, family-oriented, extroverted sort of place, and if you, like me, aren’t any of those things, it isn’t a place that will nurture your soul.
I did, however, love living in the state of Western Australia, for many more reasons that I can name. The proximity of the capital city to the ocean, thousands of miles of some of the best roads in the world, leading you into its scorched, arid heart. The bush, which erodes the superfluous from your soul and also the essential, if you let it. Snarls of fencing wire, corrugated iron sheets set upon by rust, litter cattle country. The memory of human habitation, cleansed by the unforgiving sun, returning slowly to the bloody earth, an eternal funeral.
Home never lasted very long but it was, in brief periods, where the sun seared my charred skin, white-hot and stinging. Where the furnace of the world sucked breath and moisture from my body while giving me life; becoming insubstantial from the unbearably bright heat, so that plunging into the cool sea afterwards was a return to some monocellular state unearthed from the genetic unconscious, navigating the primordial soup. Where stars burned above cliffs that have stood sentinel over the land for eons, even as i burrowed deeper into my sleeping bag to hide from their cold glare.
Salt and red dirt. Once it gets in your blood, it is forever.