I live now on Wurundjeri people’s land, of the Kulin Nation,
in Melbourne City, occupied country, as Australia.
I am a citizen of the occupying state, remembering some other romantic colonial connection…
the sepia tones of San Francisco streets
and feeling my gut heavy, in melancholy memory,
dreaming some other life in some other Pure Land
where the birds sang the Dharma on Buena Vista Heights,
some late night on this island of forest on a hill,
with a sea of city lights
glittering all around me beneath,
while I was part of this patch of silhouette
thinking about freedom.
Australia, when I arrived,
felt like a “detention centre”.
Those were the exact, entitled words I used to describe what I was living…
I had been heartbroken by the move between countries. Saying goodbye to San Francisco was like saying good bye to a lover, whom I had too passionately fallen in love with, under unfeasible circumstances…
I was taught quickly, the lesson of impermanence…
Could not live like that god of an early 20s pagan hipster
I described Australia as a “detention centre,” when I arrived…
this is, of course, in a sense,
a replica of this country’s founding Euro-colonial story…
convicts sentenced by Empire to a faraway land,
to provide labour to amass resources to build this Empire,
and to be very much forgotten…
this cycle has continued, from the forgotten convicts, to the bullied and forgotten Aboriginal people, to the bullied and forgotten refugees and asylum seekers…
yet, this is not a story only of victimhood, is it.
As I learn more about the land, its deepest ancestral magics are revealing themselves to me slowly.
These are not magics that resemble, at all, the easy magic of my early days in San Francisco.
These are stranger, older magics. They are wizened, and hot-tempered, yet also very… very… slow.
I am being asked to slow down, and listen.
To dare to listen to the heart of the land.
And to dare to remember how much it aches.
to fully attend and breathe into this pain…
to fully attend and breathe into this life here,
this wonderful life I live, that I have so much gratitude for.
It seems to me there’s something quite profound in Shinen’s observation about Australia’s lineage of imprisonment… Some deep opportunity for healing and reconciliation. Hints of possibility…