Notes from down under

It’s the last night on Australian soil: I dwell looking at the stars as they are seen down here, in the southern hemisphere: so many different constellations, so many flames arranged in the sky in reverse .. but then contrary for whom? A matter of perspectives, of points of view…

Have you ever walked ‘against the tide’? Or attempted to get off a train while an unknown number of passengers wants to get on? For days I ‘risked my life’ by crossing the street, walking in the park, running on the ‘wrong’ side of the road or path; now, after three weeks, I finally look at the ‘right’ side before crossing: opposite positions, it is appropriate to say.

But there is much more that makes us at the antipodes of this country: it almost seems that being so far from everything has preserved them from living the way we do, in constant race, competition, overwhelmed by anxiety: here our rhythms have not arrived, but unlike other countries I have visited, here progress has continued to thrive, productivity and wealth have not stopped in Europe or America, they have reached this continent as light luggage, no weight of stress in it.  The result is a country that knows how to balance time to be dedicated to work, to family and rest. A matter of perspective, of points of view… This is a characteristic that I would like to pack and export, the perfect present to give myself and all the people I know… but perhaps this magic is effective only here, here where nature is ‘explosive’, for better or for worse, where people smile naturally, unknowingly, instinctively to life, to others as well as to a small inconvenient.

Everywhere I am greeted with a smile, at the supermarket, at the ticket office of a museum, even at the passport control, where before any question the officer greets me. On the bus, before getting off, passengers thank the driver or greet him with a simple nod; there is no human being, a professional figure, a passerby who does not feel as his primary duty to be useful, or simply face the day with a smile, instead of with a grimace. Here we do not feel entitled to be greeted, but obliged to greet; here coming across a stranger represents an opportunity, it means meeting a potential friend, in our world the same meeting represents the danger of having a potential enemy in front of us; here every opportunity is propitious to exchange two words, where I live we shy away from opportunities for conversation or exchange, we protect ourselves with caution.

Lake Albert Park, near the hotel where I stayed in Melbourne, is populated by wonderful black swans, whose feathers are really reminiscent of a ballerina’s tutu: where I live the black swan is the rare, unexpected, unusual event; here instead it crowds the lake and is completely expectable … who is the other here? Who would represent the different? A matter of perspectives, of points of view ….

Do Australians have flaws? I have to go back and find out: for the moment I will bring home innumerable smiles, encounters, the ringing of the Melbourne tram at every stop, the crowds of boys at the exit of school, the messy uniforms, the loose shoelaces, backpacks and a lot of desire to live crammed inside; I will remember the people sitting on the grass, having their breaks and their lunch enjoying the beauty of the cities’ gardens. I’ll remember the several volleyball nets materializing every afternoon on St. Kilda’s beach, as well as lots of ‘players’ of all ages having fun after work, before going home; I will bring home the awareness that civilization and respect can exist, speed limits can be respected, so many cultural proposals can be free; I will remember the City Cat of Brisbane, the ferry boat that every day carries inhabitants and tourists along the Brisbane River, turning a repetitive journey into a trip, forcing travelers to look around and into themselves; I’ll take home the vital sound of Noosa beach waves, the courageous and cheeky vegetation that pushes itself up to a few meters from the shore, the surfers waiting for the perfect wave, aligned like soldiers in the trenches; I will take home the boundless space, the thin line of division between the ocean and the horizon, the vital energy released by the Pacific Ocean.

I spend this last night in Australia like this, scrolling through my notes, looking at the full moon and I notice for the first time in days the painting hanging over the bed: a photo of the earth seen from space, which however has something strange compared to the images I am used to seeing; it takes me a while but then I understand what: in the center of the photo there is Australia and not Europe … again, a matter of perspectives, of points of view ..

The night gets darker, I get a knot in my stomach , my pen tries to reveal the secret of these people … a secret that perhaps is enclosed in a few words read on a sign, in one of the airports where I have transited in recent weeks:

“Australia. Where the good life is just called life”.

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