Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Unseen Hook and Invisible Line

Returning from a country not my own is always a fresh revelation - a new set of eyes.

I came back from Australia yesterday, and I never felt so happy to be back in the dusty, haze-laden over-heated oven that I call home. Malaysia isn't perfect, but many of my most complicated emotions are tied up in this yam-shaped mass of land on the map. To quote Chesterton's Father Brown, it's embedded in my heart 'an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.'

Kuala Lumpur coast line from the air, shortly before landing

I come back. Time and time again, despite my best rebellious efforts, I come back.

Last Thursday night when the plane took off, I wrote a letter.

Last night when the plane took off, outside the window it was a constellation of lights from the city, all of it outlined against the jet black sky. Bright twinkling yellow speckled through with colours, just like proper stars. A constellation needs a name - I kept thinking of what I might name it, and fell asleep before I could.

When I woke up, there was the most glorious sunset outside the window. I’ve never seen such vivid colours, ever - deep burnt orange to fire-streak flame, dividing the blue of the sky and the darkness below it. I took a picture of it for you.

There’s frost on the window - tiny little needles of it on the edges of the glass. I can feel the cold on my cheek if I go too near. Below is a mottled, greeny brown landscape of snaking tributaries and patches of darkish green that could be trees. There are straight lines that must be man-made roads. They dissect the land like compass points.

Behind us, it’s misty like a mirage, a cloud bank - and then suddenly, as you pan across to the view ahead in my window, the scene sharpens into focus.

There are gullies, and now towns, and little clumps of civilisation. Big shimmering bodies of what could be water. The sky’s lightening up now, the colours no longer as startling.

We’re entering Gold Coast territory. This is the Australian outback below me, and I am suddenly struck…dumb? No, not dumb, just bereft of words. I don’t know how to feel. I’ve read so much about this land all my life, in stories, in poems, and now suddenly I’m here.

The outback is unforgiving as it is arid, but there’s a stark beauty in its austerity too. The sun is unforgiving too now - bright, hot, fierce.

And it’s morning. My first morning in the Great Australian Continent.

When we finally landed on the tarmac at the LCCT yesterday, my first thought was, 'I'm home again.' The feeling was indescribable. Almost like falling perilously in love, tumbling into a dangerous liaison.

I'm home again. This, too, is a kind of happiness.