In 2006 despite all odds I formed a tender and deep connection with Cape York when I moved to a remote Aboriginal community on my own to pursue my career in anthropology. I discovered strengths and weaknesses that I never knew I had. I learnt from the people and their country. Their culture and their stories echoed on my heart strings.
Over the years I sacrificed so much of my twenties to remain dedicated to my work. I missed family birthdays and Christmases. I grieved by myself when our family lost people we loved. I missed baby's being born into our family. I missed celebrating with friends, going to festivals, hosting dinner parties, having coffee dates, shopping at farmers markets and everything else that comes with living in the city. As I grew and nursed my very own babies I missed the many hands who would have helped me through the tough times of new motherhood if I were able to be closer to them. Working remote is challenging not just because remote jobs are not your average job, it's challenging on a deeper level, a more emotional level. People who work remote see things that the rest of Australia didn't even know existed, they are forced to deal with situations that should not be happening in modern day Australia. I was living in a third world country which was in our very own backyard. I lived in a part of Australia that is so misunderstood or otherwise forgotten about by the rest of the world. In the wet season I was cut from basic human services and lost contact with the outside world for sometimes weeks at a time when phone and electricity ceased to work. Despite the hardships, I chose to be there. I could have run back to the city at any time. Eight years later I am still trying to process my experiences.
It was the corroborees, the quiet moments out on country, the community triumphs against youth suicide, petrol sniffing and dispossession that fuelled my determination to continue on in the Cape. It was working with remarkable local women who were leading a vision to better their people and their community. It was the community's self determination. It was the establishment of a tiny Aboriginal art centre, the inspiring workshops, and big city exhibitions that kept my passion burning. The dampers cooked in the sand at the beach by the local ladies helped to fill the emptiness in my heart from the absence of my family and friends. It was marrying my Caleb on the traditional homelands of Lockhart River that reinforced our bond to that country. It was bringing my two babies home to community and being gifted with their names from the Elders that planted my feet deeply into the Cape York soil. Some of my most unbreakable and cherished friendships came from living in a remote community. Living in Cape York has given me so much more than it has ever taken from me despite the sacrifices I have made. I have been humbled by the experiences that not many twenty-something's get to see. I have been adopted by traditional family groups who have opened my eyes and heart to so many things I can't begin to list them (but I'm planning on working on that).
Last night as Ba'il climbed into his bed, he asked me to do a meditation. I was overcome with sadness when I realized that this time next week we will be leaving our home in Cape York. During his meditation I asked him to remember all the good times we have shared together here. All the times he has been able to come to work with me, the traditional dance and art he has learnt, the dreamtime stories he has been told, our days at the remote beaches collecting shells and touching coral, camping under millions of stars, swimming in waterfalls, all his beautiful friends he has made, and his birthdays we have celebrated under the old eucalyptus in our yard. I asked him to remember all the adventures we had been on, all the crocodiles he has seen, all the picnics we have had at the lighthouse and ice-creams at the wharf. He drifted off to sleep while I tried to not be overwhelmed by the weeks that lay ahead.
Eight years of solitude in a place that has given me so many incredible moments. A place that has taught me how to be comfortable with my own company. A place that taught me how to make do with what I had because it didn't matter that my home didn't look like the ones in a magazine, what mattered was I had a roof over my head and food in my fridge because even those basics are luxuries in community. My time in the Cape has redefined my perception on what hard work really is and has allowed me to creatively shape my career and foundations for my family. I feel incredibly blessed to have been allowed the opportunity to raise my children among such strong culture and community.
This time next week a new chapter unfolds. As I embark on my thirty-something's we will close the door to our home in Cape York and open the doors to our River Nest. We will bring with us our never ending love for Cape York's country and people and replant it in our new home. We will make our nest in our little log cottage by the river and embrace it's totally perfect imperfections because for the first time in nearly a decade we will have our friends and family at arms reach. We will try to live by the notions of wabi sabi and love our River Nest for what it is and what it will become over time. Caleb will start a new job with National Parks, I will continue to work with HopeVale from afar, Ba'il will start school and Milinh will not have to endure hours of travel each week with me to work. We are leaving a place that is so deeply entrenched within us because we feel that it is time to give our children something they have been missing out on. Family. I am daunted by the enormity of starting our River Nest dream but I am comforted by knowing we are making this move with so much more confidence, knowledge, drive and skills than I ever thought possible a decade ago. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to have the best of both worlds; to create a home close to our family as well as to continue our connection with the Cape.
And while I'm still in denial that this time next week I would have said my final goodbyes and will be on my way far south, I can't help but get excited about beginning to live the dream that Caleb and I have spent every night for so many years speaking of.