Kangaroo Island, Australia
“These towering boulders have been shaped by 500 million years of erosion by the unrelenting sea and weather that rolls in. Each storm system wears down another layer of hard granite. A feeling many know too well. The years chisel and shape us with worry and stress…”
It was the first sunny day almost a week after we arrived on the island. Being a Saturday we set out early to beat the tourists to the island’s signature landmarks in Flinders Chase National Park. Not too long ago the park was twice the size it is today, in 1993 almost 42,000 hectares was renamed Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area. This zone was given the new classification of category 1b by the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The natural landscape there is devoid of modern infrastructure and limits human interference to Indigenous tribes and visitors on foot. This is to protect the pristine nature reserve — here the water is so pure it is used as a control to compare the human impact on other waterways across the country.
On our way to the Remarkable Rocks we crossed seemingly endless landscapes of young green growth. A contrast to the last time my partner, Ash, drove this road after the 2007 bushfires that left 170 square kilometres (17,000 hectares) a black wasteland. I burned this image into my mind — soft rolling hills of healthy sprouts, an extraordinary adaptation of the natural world. Banksias, Eucalypts, and Grass Trees are some of the many plants that have evolved to sprout and germinate from their charred remains. Some of these species require the heat and smoke from a fire to crack open dormant seeds in the soil. I have kindred feeling as I reach out and feel a burnt trunk crumble to ash beneath my touch. I too know the feeling of triumph that comes out of rising from the ashes. After the manic wildfire that destroys my inner world, there is a feeling of freedom with that first breath of fresh air to fill my lungs. This external world is an inspiration of strength and beauty for the smouldering landscape within me.
A wooden board-walk guides us through the native scrub to the Remarkable Rocks, a natural monument to look upon. A beauty so enormous and completely unique to the surrounding greenery it is visible from the road 3km away. But the experience of walking amongst the rocks is unlike any view. There are no boundary fences to save me from the sheer drop to the ocean 200m below. That mild sense of danger sparks a thrill within me and I redirect my excitement to the rocky playground. These towering boulders have been shaped by 500 million years of erosion by the unrelenting sea and weather that rolls in. Each storm system wears down another layer of hard granite. A feeling many know too well. The years chisel and shape us with worry and stress. Some of us put on armour, hardening our souls to the external pressures. We drown our sorrows in coping mechanisms to numb out the pain from our daily beatings. And of course we all know that tension headache from the fake smile which has become part of our life’s uniform. We do what it takes to cope with the wild weather of living, not noticing the subtle change to our form from a lifetime of exposure.
The seasons bring change — a hot and dry summer can burn away the clutter, a wet and rainy winter eroding the layers to reveal what is beneath the surface. I have watched myself change, grow, and mature with the cyclic highs and lows of living. One day I decided to step back and see what I had become after walking my chosen path. The weight of responsibility stooping my posture. The shadow under my eyes from laying awake with anxiety. The twitch I developed from self-flagellation. My bones ached and my heart was heavy with lies from the years of forcing myself to fit the mould. So I stepped off that road of “life” to take my journey in a new direction. It is a decision I do not regret. Because once I looked at myself, the view I saw was as beautiful as the natural landscape around me. I saw myself with weathered features, burnt hollows, and fresh growth. For me there is nothing as exciting and intriguing as self-reflection. My inner world is as rich and remarkable as the landscape around me. My ability to regrow after a disaster is just as inspiring as the natural world around me. But change is not unique to me, or the weathered Remarkable Rocks, or the green hills after a fire — evolution is something we are all capable of.