Arid by Karen Lethlean

Arid is not a word I would use to describe inland, or outback Australia, a land so alive that even rocks bleed. If seeing is believing, hued earth undulates against flatlands. 

I believe in humble clouds that stoop to humanity, but like fickle gods they rouse into storms capable of a race past me. Arid may explain the dirt roads driven on, impossible to even detect movement in such emptiness. But still I see defiant life all around me. Proud pillars of termite mounds, creatures that brood in their shade. An impossible road train flustered with calico dust, squashed bugs snake through a horizon, like a lizard rippling in the afternoon heat. 

I am not sure what to make of years of existence packed into my small suitcase. Minimalism may be a virtue, but does one box really encompass my entire life? 

I said goodbye to my friends, my family, and people I barely knew who wished me well. Closest thing to enjoying my own funeral. I am heeding a call – a call more like a slow burn of taking my family seriously. A preternatural post-it note that says, Hit the road and I’ll tell you later

I drive over what might be considered Australian Savannah. Great clumps of seemingly unadulterated land. But unexpectedly, deserts captivate me and define my long voyage across this country.  

Another day, another sun, lost somewhere in the lands of the Larrakia Nation. Might be possible to take a detour into a dusty road flanked by wildflowers blazed in brilliant light. Connect again with memories of Western Australian Spring, where my father long searched for bee sites where such teeming masses would produce good honey. 

Desert becomes my cathedral, I realize I am alone. Everything, all the people I knew may as well be on another planet. If finding happiness means swapping out parts until you make it all fit. Is that what I need? 

But desert is a good friend, its presence endures my meandering and my existential fears. Through my window, snake grass blurs into red clay as I speed past, long brushstrokes across a caked, sun-bleached canvas. 

What am I running from? It is said that there is a way of running that resembles pursuit, but whatever it is I am pursuing, I suspect that it will take me into the desert of my own soul, that arid place I fear. There, too, I will move in silence through the naked plain and the fickle scrub, bereft of all demands of this busy world that cries, Urgent! And in the hued wilderness where only I can tread, perhaps I can breathe and behold. We each have our own desert, joined at the extremity of our collective fears and of our loneliness. Journey long enough with hope and we will soon find each other by sounds of our longing, our yearning for affection and dignity. 

A zeal common to us all, for things born again after fire and dreams of childhood.

BIO: Karen Lethlean is a trying to be retired English teacher at a Senior College. Possesses Noongar blood. Ever Present Predator is being published by Pareidolia Volume 2 Wanderkammer as part of their memoir section. She has won awards for her writing, Bum Joke was awarded a comedy writing award. She is currently writing of military services 1972-76. In another life she is a triathlete and has competed at Hawaii Ironman world championships twice.



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