Project: The Commute
Essays about getting around.
My daughter is nine weeks old, and I am strong enough to push the pram a short distance. The movement of her limbs as she lies in the pram bassinet is more controlled now, and she turns her head to listen to the sound of passing cars and low-flying cockatoos. Before the move to the suburbs, I used Google Maps’ Street View function to plan how I would leave the house with a pram and return safely. There are no footpaths on my street but if I go on the road to the street beyond, there is a footpath that takes me to the main road, where I find a humble collection of shops – butcher, newsagent, petrol station. I take this route a few times before realising that it is rather dull.
The Lore of Departure
Rurality and mobility are polarities within registers of logic that animate the new worlds of both women. Our protagonist wishes to retain both in the hope of dwelling perpetually in her personal landscape of myths as she journeys through myriad worlds.
A Circle Married to a Line
On a long drive once, in a hot summer, on a stretch of the Hume where rolling, sheep-ravaged hills the colour of bone gave glimpses of a long train full of wheat, my father-in-law explained train wheels to me: how they ran, how they turned, how they stayed on the tracks. The rim on the wheel, he said, was less important than its shape.
A Road Warrior
So I take it – with a caveat. I am not the Road Warrior – neither Mad Max himself, nor my mate from Caba. But I am a Road Warrior. It’s how I live and where I feel most like myself. On the road, alone, living by the sun and stars, with no waged labour or clocks in sight.
Before there were call centres, help desks, delivery bikes and Uber, before labour hire firms and all the rest started offering young people new ways of working long and hard for doubtful return, before the term ‘gig economy’ had come into being – before all that the one way to make a quick, modest dollar was to drive cabs on the night shift. It was a Sydney thing.
Notes from my iPhone
As I was reading The Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodriques Fowler, I was drawn into the memories of that period when I navigated Sydney as a twenty-something bi-racial woman. I hunted down my old iPhone and read it alongside Fowler’s book, like a companion text, beginning a dialogue.
When waiting for a train nothing more is required than presence. This is a stretch of time without additional expectations. Do something or do nothing. Compose thoughts, or don’t. Be attentive, be distracted, the train will arrive regardless.
Run-down and on the verge of burnout, I will continue making art, imagining radically different futures during my best commutes, dancing, dog paddling upwards towards the clouds, doing breaststroke through the air, gliding. I pull into my driveway in Blacktown, the western suburbs where, as one young arts worker once said, we have the best sunsets.