Field Trips Year of Sweat Squared

Tracks – Circular reading into a sun shower

I selected a book based on a pre-existing interest and find myself circling.

It’s winter. It’s wet. It’s cold, with wind that crosses snowfields before striking our suburban streets.

Reading about walking across deserts while tucked away safe from this weather creates an intense feeling of being locked in.

The feeling pervades.  The view from my desk at work doesn’t help.

Not-Walking-the-Desert

Pinned to my noticeboard is an opinion piece cut from the newspaper in which the author, Annabel Crabb, reviews her reading habits and reflects on her role as judge in a writing competition:

“When you read as normal human beings read, you are guided by all sorts of unseen forces. You choose things you think you’ll like. You avoid things you just know you’re going to hate. You read things you have to read. And necessarily, it means that you miss out.”

And, necessarily, it’s that last line that hits me.

Annabel recognises the impact of the omission because as competition judge she had to read books she did not normally encounter or did not usually have time in which to indulge.

I read Robyn Davidson’s Quarterly Essay on nomads in 2006 and was quite immersed in the experience. So when I recently saw her 1980 novel Tracks displayed within arm’s reach of passers-by, I reached out and bought a copy. Promotional articles about the movie had tapped into an existing interest.

In the book’s postscript, added in 2012, Robyn acknowledges that the writing is a little rough. It was her first book, written when quite young. However, testament to the power of its subject matter, it has been in print since first published. Over thirty years ago she walked half-way across Australia, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. She wrote the book two years later.

Tracks wasn’t as immersive as her essay on nomads, but the subject matter kept me reading and I occasionally noted down a page number so I could return to that section. Some things are worth dwelling upon.

For example,

“I did not perceive at that time that I was allowing myself to get more involved with writing about the trip than the trip itself. It did not dawn on me that already I was beginning to see it as a story for other people, with a beginning and an ending.”

After weekends of rain, I was eyeing off two free days of sunshine in the weather forecast. Why do I plan? The meteorologists then scheduled showers. Nevertheless, a few hours on Saturday morning were clear and I headed out, not wishing to miss out again. Who cares that it’s somewhere between 5 and 10 degrees C?

Clancy’s Track was set up in response to the rise of a housing estate on the reserve’s border. The idea was to give the residents a formal trail to follow before they trampled their own assorted walkways into the bush. Gated fences funnel users through three designated starting points.

Clancys-Track-2

I forgot to pack the PDF map I printed from the internet. It’s hardly necessary as there is no chance of getting lost. The drone of the Federal Highway is ever present.

Robyn variously relied upon, lost, chased, resented and at times avoided mapped tracks; unmapped roads confronted and perplexed her.

The sun and rain battle for dominance, clouds briefly overflow with mist and I walk through sun showers. The path ahead is too crowded with kangaroos and I turn around. But not wanting to finish just yet, I circle back to my car rather than retrace my steps.

Annabel was right. I selected a book based on a pre-existing interest and find myself circling. Out here, the sense of being locked in isn’t abating.

I note that the circle is, nevertheless, larger.  I am doing something new.  In such cases, one can hope that the territory crossed by the extended boundary will create fresh interests.

As I finish writing this post, the iPod shuffles onto the movie theme music from the Man From Snowy River.

Clancys-Track-4

Clancys-Track-5

Clancys-Track-6

Clancys-Track-3

——

 

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