I don’t know much about geology but when I remember the west coast of Tasmania, particularly takayna/the Tarkine so recently visited, and compare it to being here on the west coast of Ireland, it is rock that marks both places in my consciousness. The Burren landscape (from the Irish boireann meaning stony) is pebble beaches, sheer cliffs and grey-blue hills rolling towards the horizon. After a few days here I’m still startled by the absence of trees on these stony mounds. But on my walk up onto the rock slabs beneath the terraces and cliffs, I’m delighted by minutiae in the joints of the limestone: orchids, gentians and other wildflowers classified as rare in a local botanical guide. I look across the wide land, a spectator like so many others who walk up on this high ground. The grassy valleys below are mapped with narrow winding roads, farm buildings, ancient ruins and villages. The green is like a clanging against the muted grey hills.
Takayna’s coastline is wild, dark and remote: black and red boulders border the sand hills where Aboriginal middens, holiday humpies and off-road-vehicle tracks signify human habitation. The rocks are jagged, striated and conglomerate, the remains of centuries of movement. Inland, rainforests of 800 year-old Myrtle trees, rare plants and endangered fauna (like the giant freshwater crayfish) persist in fragile uncertainty. The contrast to the Burren couldn’t be more marked; yet both ecosystems and histories of home need protection. The infiltration of tourism, mining, logging and poor land management reduces both these landscapes to colonisation and consumption.
I’m thinking and reading about space, place, belonging, exile and home in my continuing quest for belonging, whatever that means. As American-Indian writer Carol Bigwood has said: Home is a nomadic place but a place of belonging nevertheless. Here in Ireland there is genetic knowledge, a sense of connection to place through family history yet I live in exile, on an island on the other side of the world. I would need to live here for years to know it as home but I pretend it is. I’m sitting in a café looking towards the grey hills, surrounded by every shade of green imaginable. I’m feeling like a nomad as I attempt to express any meaning of sense of place in words. The wind off the sea is cold and the Irish voices nearby are animated, pleasant, welcoming yet foreign. On the wall is a large mural of a koala and a kangaroo. I’m aware of contrasts and contiguities everywhere: this village is both parochial and international, like the surprises emerging from the rocks and dales cohabiting. Home is in the mind.