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Back to dust and big skies

On one hand we lived in paradise, looking every day onto Mount Wellington, under a canopy of our white peppermint forest, surrounded by a community of people who laughed, cried and raised our children with us. We both did work that was enjoyable and meaningful. Our children played soccer, explored the Channel in our little blue boat, and loved their friends.

On the other hand, we could go to an arid zone property, a conservation reserve out of Broken Hill. We could watch male emus care for their chicks while we had breakfast, do schooling from home, in a ballroom, and feel life slow down to a point where we noticed time passing again. We could live by nature’s rules, run and hide from dust storms, cringe from the sun, and think about how a few drops of rain may cut off our driveway. We could get to know each other again, and fall into simpler rhythms.

The scale tipped towards adventure, and we spent the next month turning the house upside down and shaking it, along with our comfortable, utopian Tasmanian life. Friends and family, instead of filling us with justifiable guilt for going, lifted us up and carried us out, along with their love and hard work, meaning that we could leave such a short time later with our relationship and stress levels intact.

Strong wind gusts blew us out of Tassie. Zavier ‘ate the wind’ on the Ferry across the Bass Strait, his arms stretched out wide. After a rocky night’s sleep we escaped the ferry into Melbourne. Our mutt dog Bella was pampered for two days along with all the purebred doggy day care dogs at a pet palace while we were pampered at a high rise apartment in Melbourne. Our minds were blown by the lights, the noise, the sheer scale of all those people trying to live in one place.

One last burst of friends lay like a bandaid on my sore heart, a trip to the zoo with the Brown family, where every member of our prospective tribes was entirely happy, for one day. Then onto Matt’s 40th in Castlemaine, where the tribe there inspired us with their incredible vision, hard work and passion. Theirs will be a salvage yard to remember, and I have no doubt it will help steer the future’s new philosophy, into saving, re-using, re-creating for a better earth.

At last we were heading North, passing wheat silos, semi-trailers and sheep which seemed to be foraging for dust. A far cry from our lush Tasmanian landscape. We crossed an invisible line, and Clay said, ‘Look, there’s the desert plants. ‘ We had found the spinifex and mulga again. Somehow he had remembered it, he was four when we last left. The kilometres were starting to feel long when we crept into Broken Hill. Despite our travel weary shoulders and grimy children, we were welcomed only with smiles.

We dropped into School of the Air, and were escorted around the kid’s virtual classrooms by the very friendly staff. We were warned of one of the station families coming back from holiday to three dead dogs, a brown snake they thought. We left with canvas satchels full of books and promises of tubs of art supplies, maths crates…Just as we left town my phone told me we had a new e-mail, our ‘neighbour’s daughter had sent a welcoming message to Asha, and they both agreed on line to be new friends, just like that.

Many flat, rock strewn kilometres later, we pulled off the highway, crossed a train line, then drove over a few dry riverbeds lined with the grandfather’s of the desert, the river red gums. When the landscape emptied out that little bit more, many more kilometres later, we had reached our new home, Boolcoomatta.