I acknowledge the Ngawait and the Nagaiawang peoples
as the Traditional Custodians and inhabitants of the Waikerie town area.
In the Spirit of Reconciliation I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of Country
throughout Australia and their connection to Land, Sea and Community.
I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and future.
It seems colder this morning… I can tell by looking at the mist outside. It’s like a cloud of frozen shards… floating and drifting…
until the sun’s glow makes them disappear. It’s hard slipping out of the cosy warmth of the bed, just to feel my back aching and
arching whilst I put on my ice-cold work clothes. Maybe I should just sleep in my work gear, who’s gonna judge me?
“Another day, another dollar.” That’s what they say. Sure, dollars are useful, but how do you beat the beauty of the morning light
and the vastness of this great open space? That makes me much more excited than the pay at the end of the week.
This space I find myself in is where the Mighty Murray, Australia’s biggest river, slowly and gently winds its way through a tiny
village called Waikerie. Twelve hundred souls and a bunch of seasonal backpackers live in town, completely outnumbered by the
incredible amount of birds that call the Murray ‘home.’ Cheeky little white-feathered angels laughing at us breaking our backs,
trying to make a few bucks.
We arrived here in June. They told us that the winter months are the ones when the orange picking happens, and that there are
millions of orange trees in this region, waiting for us. I haven’t done a lot of orange picking though. I’ve been offered a job by one
of the local families, to help build a ten hectare vineyard. My only companions, day in day out, are an old man functioning solely on
cigarettes and Coke, and a giant rusty tractor; an ancient relic from the black and white television era. It’s an incredibly repetitive
job, but after a while it starts feeling like some sort of strange meditation. The deep rumbling growl of the machine is my mantra,
and the perfectly aligned star pickets are my Karesansui garden.
For the drives back I’m lucky enough to be in the passenger seat most of the time. Sometimes I photograph the fast moving
landscapes outside of the window, and sometimes I fall asleep. When we arrive home we sit on the veranda for an hour or so...
watching the sunset... smoking a cigarette... drinking a beer. There is something special about this place. The low clouds,
floating like the waves of an upside down ocean, increase the sense of perspective, giving the illusion of an even bigger space,
and when the sun touches the horizon miles and miles away, the entire valley turns into fire.
There’s not much to do in town apart from car issues to be fixed, the usual drama, rain, a love that ends, and a new love that blooms.
It’s a very peaceful existence, being disconnected from the frantic lifestyle of the metropolis. I was worried I would get bored,
but it’s actually helping me to be more introspective and present… to listen more deeply to myself and the outside world.
Enough philosophy. Some friends from outside town have organised a little party at their place somewhere in the outback, and we
need to get ready. We heard someone crashed their car to avoid hitting a kangaroo recently, while driving to one of those parties.
The price paid to break the monotony of the countryside, I guess. Fortunately the roads are lit by the cold light of a frozen glass
moon tonight, making any ‘obstacle’ more visible. Our hosts live literally in the middle of nowhere. We can see the bonfire in the
distance, the only red spot alone in a black and silver landscape. A young fella, already quite intoxicated, is telling the story of when
he fell off the stepladder whilst picking mandarins because a giant huntsman spider suddenly appeared on his bag. Someone's
roasting cheap sausages and someone else is complaining about the lack of work. A couple is kissing and nothing else matters to
them. I can feel my eyes becoming heavier and heavier and it's probably time to drive home and sleep.
Tomorrow’s another day for another dollar.