Where I live, we have a large and expansive backyard. It’s shaped like Australia, split into sections much like the various states, with the back of the house where the Great Australian Bight would be. But also: the backyard is Australia. It has the same features, because it’s the same place — if perhaps not in an explainable way.
A good example is when my family (including my dad and sister) visit. The travel time and distance is great so it’s very kind of them to come all this way. As we’re walking along and I’m showing them around, we all make the same mistake. We get east and west backwards, and soon figure out that’s because the midday sun is actually in the north here, not the south — this is the southern hemisphere after all.
There are portions of the dream where I replay and recall things I already know. The feeling is consistently nostalgic, comfortable, only occasionally bittersweet. I’m fondly reflecting, replaying things I already know. Australia — the island continent — formed 100s of millions of years ago from the agglomeration of several ancient island groups drifting together. They each have their own vibe and color (the memory here almost veering into another dream remembered from long back, navigating the isolated Pacific isles to the north, as if I’m on a catamaran on the colored surface of an old paper map). You can just barely perceive the seams where the land was sintered together. Those sections roughly correspond to the states, in fact.
One large area we have is a mud pond in the east, around where Queensland and New South Wales might be. It’s like a big swimming pool, which I keep accessible for my neighbors. Incidentally, that’s one thing I really like about living here, is that I can keep the space an asset for the whole neighborhood. I’m crossing the mud pond to say hello to some folks on the far side (Great Barrier Reef) when I spot a stuck turtle. I lift it over to the nearest edge and leave it there to recover, but it seems it didn’t need to be rescued. It scrambles away and dives back into the mud. I just live here; I don’t know everything.
Meanwhile I still am renting. I live on the ground floor, and the previously unused space now sometimes has the landlord’s relatives. Could be the above floor, could be an attached building behind ours. They’re having a gathering so it’s a curious time to explore. It’s not exactly sneaking around, but I just blend into their party guests. No one interacts with me. By happenstance, I find my wife’s coffee cup forgotten at a dark corner of their smooth granite bar. She does this sometimes. I know I’ll be reminding my wife to try not to leave it places like that; there’s little chance we would’ve found it otherwise.
The dream is capped off when we throw a crafting party one nice sunny weekend. There are stations all over the large backyard for making arts and crafts, our community socializing together. I squat on the flat, dry Northern Territory assembling a thematic decorative hanging with native materials like wood, arranging it into a naturalistic design that reminds me of some aboriginal styles.
There’s a memory that’s sparked, from when we first moved in more than a decade ago. When we moved in, the landlord (same landlord as in waking life, actually) asked me to break down the former tenant’s greenhouse on the western side of the backyard. (Western Australia is a big and wild place.) It was just some corrugated green plastic balanced on cheap wooden pillars, nothing that ought to be lamented. But it was so much space for plants, plants we would’ve loved. Someone worked to make that space useful and we didn’t even consider that we might’ve used it too. I was in my early 20s and had more energy than forethought. I remember having a nice day working outside, chopping down the supports posts.
There was something else that I hadn’t thought about at all till now, the neighborhood hardware store that the old tenants hosted. Stacks of tires, bins of tools and equipment that you could pop in and borrow. I don’t even know what happened to it, but I know at some point people stopped visiting for it. And there was this badger that visited every week. Big flat docile waddling creature named Mitch. We never set food out and I guess at some point he stopped visiting too.
So there’s this lament, as I realize the my artwork is becoming what I’ll call finished. Seeing how we’ve lost these nice things in the past because we didn’t even know they were things we were losing. But the artwork is done, and it’s actually quite nice.