‘When you give yourself to places, they give you yourself back’.
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust
I am here to find my words. I stride grimly, the path providing resistance against my soles. The Swan River snakes alongside me, silently, but I cannot absorb its majesty with the words crowding my mind; words that I imagine bumping up against each other, agitated, stuck. The self-imposed litany of ‘can’ts’ and ‘shoulds’ that come with being a mother are stifling.
I move my body and try to find a rhythm that will create space amongst the self-doubt. I force my attention to my surroundings: the opulent mansions lined up like teeth; expensive boats tethered to algae encrusted buoys; council signage lining the riverbanks like soldiers, stating ‘Revegetation in progress. Please keep out.’ I notice the rough-trodden trails bypassing these signs as if in deference to the river’s edge, and I feel hopeful that the allure of suburban affluence has not overridden the power of nature.
I lose sight of the river as I follow the path into the heart of Point Walter Reserve where tuart and marri trees dapple the sunlight. A gentle breeze searches for the spaces between the leaves while gently interrogating my skin and I begin to feel attuned to the woodlands; I can breathe. A woman labours past, sweating, red-faced, locked in concentration as her sneakers slap the pavement. She is decked out in the latest technical workout gear, the thin, white cord from her earphones tethering her to a technology enhanced world. I smile in polite greeting and she grimaces in response as she sneaks a look at her electronic fitness tracker. I can almost see her ticking exercise off her to-do list as she passes, and I see myself in her. Always busy doing, never just being.
As I wander I notice a dusty track veering towards the cliffs of Blackwall Reach and I feel jubilant as I choose to step off the council-approved concrete path. Reddish-brown dirt the colour of rust seeps into my shoes and socks, earth permeating my world and nestling between my toes like a well-kept secret. The track becomes precarious, and as I pick my way carefully over the rocks the vivid textures of my surroundings force me out of my mind and into the tactile edges of my body. In this moment it is just me, the earth between my toes, and the light sheen of sweat on my skin.
When I reach the cliff’s edge my solitude entwines with the aortic landscape. The gentle curve of the river body and the vast immensity of the sky juxtaposes with the savage rawness of limestone cliffs. The fractured rocky outcrops allude to its ancient indigenous history, formations built up over the passage of time. Long ago Whadjuk Noongar yorgas, mothers just like me, stood overlooking these same rocks, perhaps sharing Dreamtime stories about how the Waugyl created the river. I imagine the magic of this spiritual landscape loosening the sacred songlines from their throats, freeing their words as they release them in gift to their children.
The sunlight bounces off the murky waters below, and as I peer down I consider what it would feel like to launch myself into the air and plunge like a stone. Even though I know the river reaches a depth of 25-metres here, my body physically recoils at the idea, and I berate myself for not being that mother who can surrender, take a risk, relinquish control. I dig my toes into the cliff’s edge as I imagine what it would feel like to just jump, but I decide to accept my limitations and save my courage for later. I finally feel ready to go home.
Before I begin the usual homework, dinner, and bedtime rush I find a moment that is mine. I sit down at my laptop, my heart is pounding but I am calm. I close my eyes and picture myself standing at the edge of Blackwall Reach with the strength of the ancient spirits of the Whadjuk yorgas surrounding me, and I fearlessly leap over the edge. Opening my eyes I begin to type, ‘I am here to find my words.’
Shereen loves words. An avid reader, she can talk about books all day; her first question is nearly always, ‘so, what book are you reading?’ She also loves to write, and over the years she has used her words to help her find her place in the world. She is a kick-arse wife and mother who lives for her three babies. She lives in Perth and is currently studying a Master of Media and Communication at Curtin University. She is looking forward to having more time to write when she had finished learning how to write!