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Musing in South Gippsland

I've been working in libraries for six years, give or take a week. And I've been studying at university for eight, give or take a semester. On Tuesday, I quit my job and submitted my last essay, probably ever.

I needed to consider this, and I wanted to get out of town to do it. Kelly was able to take a bit of time off, so the last couple of days we've been touring South Gippsland. It held no special attraction for me, other than not-being-Carlton, and in fact we were intending to head west out of Melbourne until it seemed like more of a chore than going east.

So we motored east in the little red Datsun ute, bearing toothbrushes and towels and not a whole lot else. I was the navigator, and once our general direction became apparent I assigned myself the task of developing a suitable route. My method was arguably quite scientific: I selected destinations for the quaintness of their appellations. Hence, we made a drunken-bee-line for Nar Nar Goon. Intending no offence to Nar Nar Goonians, but this little town really doesn't live up to the promise of its name. The sign on the road in reads "The Mural Town", and sure 'nuff, there's a whole bunch of amateurish renderings festooning the various major buildings. The sole redeeming feature of Nar Nar Goon, in our limited survey, was the sign on the butcher shop that read "We kill and prepare private bodies"—this would not be the last time on our trip that I pined for a digital camera.

We didn't stay long in Nar Nar Goon: Loy Yang beckoned. Loy Yang is not really a town, it's just a power station; I think it's the major one for metro Melbourne—it's probably powering the computer I'm writing this on. We got there a little after dusk, and gawked like mesmerised lemmings at the towering smoke stacks. The road actually wends through the power station, with the coal mine on the left and the stacks on the right. The whole station was lit up with fairy lights. I both liked and was a bit disturbed by Loy Yang.

We stayed overnight in Yarram, a town about which I don't really have anything interesting to say, except that we both thought the girl in the bakery was pretty cute. Which is to say, I ventured the observation and Kelly nodded without scowling—indicating either affirmation or an immense reserve of patience. Anyway, we went through a few more places with vaguely ridiculous names, and then trekked north for Tarra Bulga National Park, in the Strzlecki Ranges. The appointed navigator might have got confused at some point—he had only a small map encompassing most of the state in his lap, I hasten to add—and consequently we found ourselves on an unsealed road climbing the hills of Strzlecki. This particular road had a tendency to narrow repeatedly, until we were in temperate rainforest terrain, beneath light precipitation, with a cliff to our left, a sharp drop to our right. And, soon enough, a muddy incline before us, far too treacherous for the poor old Datsun ute to assay. So we attempted to turn the ute around on this narrow ledge. When we became bogged I got out of the car—ostensibly to push, but really just so that if the car went over the cliff at least one of us would survive.

Sheesh, don't take me so seriously. I love my girl. Anyway, I could go on with the narrative, but I can't really think of how to keep it interesting. Let me proceed to my observations.

South Gippsland is alternately tremendously beautiful and exceptionally dull. The degree of beauty has an exact inverse relation to the extent of human inhabitation. Buried under tree ferns, eucalypts and old myrtles alongside chortling creeks, I walked like a man entranced. The weather helped too: the endless drizzle shrouded the hills in a fine fog, layering them in diminishing visibility, with the furthest ashen, faint, and ghostly. We saw so many rainbows I started to get sick of them. A dark wallaby leapt ahead of the Datson, an echidna crawled alongside it, and a flock of sheep slowly gave up the road for it. The clouds were thick and full and epic.

I spent a lot of time remembering how in my childhood these sorts of scenes had affected me so much, calling forth awe and a need for words to describe them. I spent some time ruminating on why these feelings were so much more subdued for me now; now, pointing at something and saying "look at that" seemed sufficient. It made me think that childhood is life at its rawest and maturation, the getting of experience, is a process of wrapping yourself in layer upon layer of swaddling cloth; of doing more, and feeling less. The victory of sharp shallow Science over deep sacred Nescience.

I was perhaps thinking in this vein because tomorrow I do something that, in my childhood, I swore I would never do. I start a full time office job. Such minor treacheries, acquiescing to the way of the world, trouble me disproportionately. I really am looking forward to it; it's work in which I can be both challenged and valuable, but I still can't help thinking that it might be taking me further away from what I long ago established as my existential purpose: to be affected by everything, and to find words to describe it.

Joseph | 20 Jun 2004

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