My childhood was one of hand-me-downs, and mud-stains, and air so clean you could have swam though its beauty. Summers sweltering heatwaves and drought, and warm rain swelling at the bottom of molten metal water tanks. The winters whispered frost, squelching boots and shivering limbs under infinite layers of woollen blankets. Fingers turned numb with the chill that bored into every crevice, cell, and plane of grass. Weaving in and out of it all were only the sounds of the dairy cows, singing their songs amongst the spray of gum trees swaying their leaves in defiance of the breeze.
My home town had five-hundred-and-twelve people in it. Including myself.
Its infrastructure consisted of a post office, a bakery and a general store. The bus ride to school was an hour-long agony of passing hayfields, dirt pathways and tall trees cutting the sunlight into the snatches as it fell onto the roads.
And I spent every moment in the peaceful isolation reading my books and falling in love with faraway cities whose busy streets I could not at all fathom and whose names I could not at all pronounce.
On the seldom, sunny occasion that I travelled to our home city, Adelaide, I was blown away by its sprawl. I thought it was a glittering labyrinth, enormous with its winding streets and tooting horns and buildings rolling infinitely into the distance. I thought that its vastness stretched as wide and unwavering as the universe itself.
But as I grew, it all slowly began to shrink.
I never quite realised the gravity of the phrase “Adelaide isn’t a city; it’s just a big country town” until I finally experienced the sprawl of greater cities; I never felt so hungry for something bigger until I realised what was past the barbed wire fence and the gum trees at the end of the lane. There are universes outside these tiny towns and I want to explore them all.
So I’m doing just that.
I do not know how long I will be gone. For all my luck, it could be only a few months. But I will go anyway. I will explore and travel and discover everything that exists beyond these hills. And I will be better for it.
So, to my tiny towns of dairy cows and hayfields and silence, pure and unwavering, as if the whole world falls quiet the second we set foot here, I say: