People go to wild places to search for their true nature. Where is your true nature?
                                                                                                 —Zen koan


50tarrantMy father, Max, lived alone for some years in Launceston, Tasmania, on a steep hillside with a view of the mountains and the town. He liked the light and the smell of the bush, the wallabies thumping their tails against the side of the house as they went down to drink at dusk. Then his health led him to move in with my sister, in Adelaide.

He said on the phone that he was dying and it would be nice to see me. I flew into Adelaide via Auckland and contracted a flu along the way. My body felt hot and gritty inside, and when I closed my eyes there was a dark swirling followed by lights that flashed and disappeared, like luminous plankton on a long night journey in tropical waters.

When I opened my eyes, Adelaide was there, turning from summer to autumn, and showing signs of global warming. The trees were gasping in public parks and had shed their leaves in the heat. Everyone spoke about rain, wanting rain, whether it would rain, the last time they had seen rain.

The hospice was in an old building of pleasant brick with new bits added on and trees around. He greeted me with delight: “Who are you? Never saw you before in my life!” He seemed to be playing with the idea that his relationship to consensus reality couldn’t be taken for granted anymore. We shook hands.

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