I wrote this article in 2005 for a small youth arts magazine in Newcastle called Urchin, which was run by group called Octapod.
I attached this design from the magazine, because I also designed the article when I was starting out as a graphic designer. (Yes the image is of me)
Tim’s Lost Shoe.
I am acutely aware of my surroundings today.
I feel unusually creative. Like the 300 metre tsunami that engulfed half of Mexico (or at least what we know as Mexico) 250 million years ago. It has engulfed me and flooded the forests of everyday life without giving even the smallest insect of boredom or triviality a chance.
Sure I lost my shoe, and I really liked those shoes, still it’s only half bad, I can still look at my one remaining shoe and remember the times they were together.
Yesterday I was dehydrated and wandering amongst the bright sand dunes of Stockton beach, following the small mammal tracks that seem to just stop, without explanation.
There was a point where after a few hours, the whole world I knew disappeared, and I became a speck on the landscape. I became distinctly aware of this when an F/18 hornet screamed overhead. I wondered what my lone figure in the dunes looked like from above, but I suspected the pilot had some tactical objective to complete, and was contemplating the amount of degrees to come in at when bombing a strategic location, only having a mere second to contemplate his position on our earth.
It was at this point that I made a kind of holy ascension above my worldly domain, and looked down on the earth from above. It was like a 3D computer modeler looking down on a landscape he had just created. Panning around from different angles, I became aware of something other than ‘I’. My surroundings and being was more than simply perception and awareness – I felt placed in some kind of computer game, in which I had very little control.
I sat down and began to wonder what freedom meant. I might really know what freedom was if I was locked up as a prisoner of war, or in a small room, for a long period of time. With my normal freedom (freedom of movement and control) starved I might have some unique vision into what freedom actually is.
What is freedom? Those of us who have read even the smallest snippets of philosophy are aware of the idea that freedom is a myth. Philosophers since the 15th century decided that we are merely machines, plopped into this world, with little choice or freedom. On close inspection, this revelation seems somewhat true. Look at our lives – we are prisoners to our body and mind. Some of the things we imagine give us freedom are simply things our bodies and social pressures dictate that we feel. Even love can be seen in purely chemical, social and biological ways.
If love were universal, and not attached to social and biological needs, then why not love sand, or telephone poles, or even other species with the same passion and determination that humans place on their counterparts.
Was I free, here, wandering around without any real objective? I still had worldly issues to worry about. I was thirsty because the heat and sand gave my tongue this coarse feeling, distinctly reminding me of an old Abbott and Costello movie, where they had joined the foreign legion and got lost in the dunes of Sudan. It always made me want to drink gallons of water.
Also, I was aware that I was 800 metres or so from my car – my ticket back to civilization. It’s like that when you go camping or on holidays, and you need some firm root back to the real world. Some safety blanket that grounds you there, in ‘civilisation’, where things move along quite nicely, waiting patiently for you to return to pay its bills, taxes and fines, to read its papers, and generally feel warm and fuzzy in front of your computer or television, in the quiet safety of your house.
Walking back, I looked at the city of Newcastle. I shut my eyes just so the world became a blur, and imagined what it looked like before settlement. But it was hopeless. The landscape has changed so much that it’s hard to get any real picture. I had the faintest image from viewing a few paintings by convict and artist, Joseph Lycett. They reminded me of the scrub a little bit up the coast that nobody really notices or cares about.
Australia before Europeans must have been such a quiet, unified place – the land whole, even pure. With what feels like an almost abstract life force of its own, the Aboriginals respected this. These dunes were like this 1000 years ago. This gave me some pause for thought, because I had no real need to squint my eyes. This is how they looked for so long. However, I was acutely aware of the 4wd tracks and scattered beer bottles and assorted little heaps of trash every couple of metres, which where actually quite fascinating. They were a record of people’s days at the beach, and camping trips. There in the sand for all time. Were they any different to the Aboriginal shell middens just a few hundred metres away?
The dunes were talking to me. But the safety of civilisation was calling, and as I slowly returned, my shoe fell from my bag. Soon to be engulfed by the slow moving sands.