thomas m wilson

An Australian Enters American Territory

January 27th, 2008

The longest Friday in my entire life started with walking through Surrey Hills in the morning in Sydney, and finished at midnight, tapping alone at my laptop, in Fairfax, a suburb of San Francisco. I left Friday afternoon and arrived Friday morning. While Australia had already moved into celebrating Australia Day I was still treading water back in Friday. In the Australian afternoon, as the plane moved out over Botany Bay I looked back and saw the white sandstone cliffs of NSW recede. A hot, dry land, yes, but at least a place where you can feel the sun on your skin. Thirteen hours later as I came into San Fran the turbulence of strong winds and heavy rains knocked the aircraft around. Upon emerging out of the car park with a debilitating mixture of nausea and sleep deprivation I found endless gray water sheeting the Californian sky. I’ve left summer and come to winter.

The feeling of having left the warm web of human associations back in Australia hit me about then and I felt sad on top of it all.  But don’t worry, after some sleep and food and drink I’ve revivified and today and feel ok again.

I’m an Australian in America.  I’ve come ambling out of the red centre…  A real man of the Australian wild doesn’t look like Crocodile Dundee, he looks like Jimmy Pike, brilliant Aboriginal hunter and tracker, pictured here with a Bilby (photo from Hunters and Trackers of the Australian Desert by Pat Lowe).


No, I’m clearly not a true Man of the Wild.

This isn’t me.  I’m more at home with the button on my Nikon, than the grip of a throwing spear, and the sound of a trumpet being blown at a party, than the sound of a dingo howling after dark.  But I am more in touch with the natural world than most people.

So when I arrived here in San Fran the first thing I wanted to do was see what the land looked like beyond the built walls of civilization.  It is green and wet, so different to the arid land and blasting sun of south-western Australia I’ve just come from.   The experience of coming from one season and land to another season and land in such a short time is jarring at first, but I’m already adjusting to a winter key.


Moss and lichen coat the stones, and the waving arms of the oak trees in the valley.


The rain that fell yesterday and last night has created torrents where before there were just dribbles.


This cataract, and former dribble, is in Fairfax, a small town about 45 minutes drive from the centre of San Francisco.  We’ve had some very serious rain here, with potential for dangerous flooding in the area.

This little house I noticed on my way out to this waterfall, on the side of the road in Fairfax.  The flag tells the true story as I see it.  I am an Australian entering American territory, but more importantly, I’m a human being entering another bioregion within the global biosphere.  This land is part of the common treasure and heritage that is the biosphere.


Tomorrow morning I’m off to Esalen, Big Sur, to start my work-study program there.

To all my friends, I miss you!