Discovering New Lands


“The real journey consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having fresh eyes” Marcel Proust

It can be familiar territory, somewhere you have been before, but on this occasion, it is new . What has changed? Is it the season that’s different? Have you grown or outgrown the place? Or are you seeing the familiar “with fresh eyes” ?
There can be nothing as invigorating as discovering new territory, but it is not always the case that the land or sea itself has to be new to us in order to experience the thrill of discovery. The inner landscape of shifting moods and emotions has such a great capacity for determining the success of our travels and on every journey its our role to be the master of our emotional domain, deliberately  choosing our attitudes. And yet who hasn’t returned to a place and recalled, even more poignantly than the happy ones, painful memories which, to our chagrin, have leached into the landscape
When I’m staying on the coast, particularly the eastern seaboard of Australia, I often think of how it must have seemed to the early European explorers. Looking out from their ships, what did they see? A strange new land or did their own inner landscape merge with the outer one? On the shipwreck coast of Western Australia, with its stern uncompromising cliffs and barren islands, how did the Dutch and Portuguese traders assess the new land in which they expressed little interest in visiting? On a visit to Canberra last year I went to an excellent exhibition called “Mapping our World”.  Maps from the middle ages and those of the twentieth century depIcted the map maker’s perception and skill in drawing the land in question.


A conception of Australia was made as early as 1545. The early cartographer had drawn it at the top of a world map , positioned to balance the other great land mass in the north, in his mind it had to be there. The Dutch were the first to draw a map of the ” Terra Incognita” which, commercially oriented and practical souls that the staff of the Dutch East India company were, they saw the great land mass as a “fascinating hazard” on the way to their business in Java. Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin, navigators and cartographers for their respective countries of England and France, met in the middle Australia in what as now known as Encounter Bay in South Australia. Their purposes and perceptions of the new land differed widely, their respective countries at war and yet they managed to bridge the gap in differences, reaffirming their common role as adventurers and travellers in a new landscape. What did they learn from each other and did they allow themselves to be influenced by the other?
How did the original Indigenous inhabitants of this land, which was later called “Terra Nullius” -no man’s land-in an attempt to deny their existence ,-make these men in tall ships?
Each new house sit is new territory for me.I could be blasé and focus only on the similarities to past experience or choose to allow for the new.   In this new domestic  environment, each pet has a map of his or her territory and I, the explorer, follow their lead into a fresh experience.


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