The air was acrid with waves of volatile diesel fumes and black soot. The dog lay motionless upon the gravel, then half heartedly lifted his ear as the noise of trucks, cows and trishaws whizzed by. The tropical heat nauseated me, yet the dog seemed impervious to the danger, as brisk traffic passed by the tee junction. It was incomprehensible, why would a dog lay in such a place? He was well fed but outwardly appeared alone and unconcerned. The canines of Sri Lanka rarely know the love of an owner and people generally were insensible to their existence.
My head pulsed with the noise of the lentil man shrilly intoning: “waddy waddy waddy” whilst selling his fried food. My nauseated stomach worsened in the polluted greasy air. The heat was unbearable and no verandas were evident for shelter. In desperation I ordered an Elephant brand ginger drink; it was hot after being in the equatorial sun but inexplicably the mesmerised seller offered me a refrigerated drinking straw! Nothing seemed real or rational. I envied the Buddhist philosophy of accepting that “all life is pain and suffering” whilst the voice in my head pondered my self pity, frustration and discomfort. A sudden insight ruminated in my head: “why dont the dogs bark in India?” Unlike the urban comforts of my home in Australia, the dogs never charge or sound warnings when you pass by the village homes. Buses careering through the settlement narrowly missed sari clad women delicately balancing baskets of food. Their response was a quick colourful shuffle, a sideways glance and then a meditative calm came upon them. They didnt seem to be any different than that dog at the junction.
I wished that I was home collecting the autumn leaves for my garden. I imagined my hands running through the cool damp vegetation; that thought was heartening and I could almost feel the light drizzle from the grey monotone sky. The purity of this sky was no different to the vivid blues of my youthful summers. A Venetian blind furtively opened and memories of a womans perusing eyes startled me. Then the whole street echoed with the sound of irritating barking noises. Then I realised the strangeness of an (Australian) Adelaide street; there were no people and the animals were territorial and unused to street activity. A fleeting emotion of weirdness came upon me. My transient comfort was taken from me and I didnt want to be in the Asian heat, nor did I want the aloneness of that Adelaide Street!
Juxtaposition has been a constant theme in all my journeying. Black defines white. Warmth is relative to cool. Height determines the velvet green of a Mongolian valley. A TASMANIAN TREELINE IS PARTICULARLY IMPRESSIVE. Abruptly the eucalypts become stunted, giving way to the subalpine coolness of a high meadow. As you approach, the wind blowing dries your sweat and with expectation you are excited by the impending panorama. You have arrived to a new place. The legs rest on the flat ground and with big strides the body re-energizes. Only from there can you understand where you have been. Culture is no different. The isolation of an English street is understood with the fresh memories of a bustling Thai market. Modern cities seem temporary. Imagine the trees of a forest not having a root system. Yet, a woodland of tall trees gives the illusion of eternity. The flatness and sparseness of an urban Australian landscape is soon forgotten, once memories of a journey to a colourful landscape have jaded.PHOTO: Tasmanian Highland near Lake Eros April 2007.