Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island: trying to connect
I’ve always disliked the iconic text Romeo and Juliet. I appreciated the aesthetics of the Luhrmann film version, but I still don’t like Shakespeare’s play – but why don’t I like it? For me it has a lot to do with already knowing what is going to happen, and knowing the tragic misunderstandings and the ultimate futility of the relationship and the waste of the young lives. They want to build a lasting relationship, but everything is against them making a long-term connection. However, despite my dislike I seem strangely drawn to modern tales of the star-crossed. In my geek TV viewing, I was recently drawn in by last year’s Sci-Fi one season show Star Crossed, a show in which an alien race, the Atrians, have crash-landed on earth and subsequently been killed or locked away in a detention compound by humans. A human girl, Emery, and an alien boy, Roman, form a connection as children and re-connect years later in high school when a select number of Atrian teenagers are allowed to attend the local high school as part of a pilot program. Variations on the usual formula follow, where Emery and Roman try to pursue a relationship amidst misunderstandings and hostilities and societal sabotage by both humans and Atrians. The show was cancelled after one season, but the frustration of individuals and races striving to connect but failing to trust one another resonates.
It’s been said before that technology promised to connect us more than ever and yet people in western individualist societies continue to live alone, die alone, end long-term relationships, struggle to relate to their children, misunderstand and demonise one another. So there’s the glass is half-empty perspective. However when I think about connecting, as well as significant times with friends and family, I also think about great day-to-day connection highlights, the ordinary things that are sometimes forgotten: the few times I’ve let someone from a side street drive in front of me into the main flow of traffic on a busy road and received a thankful wave and smile or the time I was standing at the door of a train full of grim commuters and both me and the man next to me (we hadn’t even noticed each other) automatically raised our ET-phone-home-like pointer fingers to push the door button at the same time, at which point we then looked at each other, smiled and laughed. Moments of connection with strangers that didn’t continue beyond that point, but moments of sharing something powerful enough to stay with me. In a world where connections can be hard to make and hard to maintain, where personal conflicts can haunt us, recognising and finding joy in every big and small connection matters.
Travel is bliss: A visit to South Australia’s granite boulders, the Remarkable Rocks, on Kangaroo Island.
Thinking about what constitutes bliss for me – one experience I relish is the opportunity to travel. I have a need for new experiences and intellectual stimulation and discovering new travel destinations helps meet that need.
What is it I find so blissful in travel? Apart from discovering places that are new to me, although I do love culture and the hustle of cities, I also revel in getting away to places where the sky is wide and the night stars are not dimmed by manmade light. I also love the feel of a warm (not too scorching) sun on my skin, and the opportunity to go barefoot, or expose my feet to the elements. Sometimes I long to escape shoes. I read something once about someone’s theory that grounding or earthing yourself somehow by touching your bare feet to the earth could help ease jet lag. I have no idea about the foundations of this theory or its effect in practice, but I certainly find something elemental about walking barefoot on uneven ground or sand (preferably free from ants and snakes etc.).
In other possibly pop psychology, I’ve also read that just seeing green has a positive psychological effect on our brains and I know something in me opens up when I’m away from the concrete constructions of suburbia and instead surrounded by plants and soil. I love discovering unfamiliar species and seeing if I can spot various plants in flower. The times that I’ve been alone, or with quiet people on a path and we’ve had the opportunity to spot a bird or animal that would have otherwise gone unnoticed are times I cherish. On a visit to Kakadu, due to a series of circumstances, only a few of us in a group got to see Leichardt’s grasshopper, a bright orange creature who I’m told can only be found in one type of terrain, on one particular plant. There’s a great thrill in seeing something that is rarely seen, and seeing it not in a zoo but in it’s own habitat.
Another aspect of travel I appreciate is the random conversations and interactions that can occur. You can meet people in all sorts of situations: for example, as fellow sufferers of seasickness on a seal-watching trip in the Southern Ocean and then end up visiting a steak house together (even though you’re a vegetarian) and going to an abandoned lot to hear a rock band who do Mongolian throat singing as part of their act. It’s these interactions where your path crosses that of another that you remember, and value, even if you never meet the person again. In a place where you don’t know anyone else, and maybe where you don’t even speak the language, organic connections are made and memories of discovery shared. The bliss of travel.