“Walk. The drum begins. Follow it. Follow the drums of thunder. Follow the sun. Follow the stars at night as they lean their long slant down the far side of the sky. Follow the lightning and the open road. Follow your compulsion. Follow your calling. Follow anything except orders and habit. Follow the fire-fare-forwards of life itself. Go where you will, burn your bridges if you must, leave the paving stones smouldering and singe the gate as you leave, leave an incendiary device by The Wall, and scorch your way across the land. I dare you.”
— Jay Griffiths, Wild
These are strong words by author Jay Griffiths. Especially, as she is a woman traditionally shaped by society to be soft, pliable, obedient, submissive. And, certainly, not someone burning down the gate as she leaves whatever household, career, institution, relationship — belief system or habit — she resided in.
As I write the above, I am waiting on the arrival of a person who has just flown in from Melbourne this morning and is presently driving down from the airport to interview me on my life’s story. Thinking about what I want to talk about, I will most certainly point out the words of Jay Griffiths.
I say this because I empathise strongly with Griffiths remarks. Burning bridges, perhaps too often, but burnt none-the-less and taking no prisoners as I stump from country to country following the drum, always following, always.
By so doing, I have achieved what I consider my greatest accomplishment in life: I got lost.
To the interviewer I will say: “More than having my art work in several museums, more than the 9,000 trees planted, more than anything else, what I value most about what I have done with my life is that I got lost in life.”
More importantly, I got lost under my own volition. Meaning, I chose to walk a path where there wasn’t a path; certainly, no signposts to guide.
Tasmania has many international and national visitors who come here for “ten day wilderness walks” in our mountains and forests or adventurous rafting trips down rock strewn rapids.
However, as poet William Stafford has penned: “They want a wilderness with a map…”
In other words, a signpost in the wilderness, some sort of guide, a hedge on the unknown.
As Stafford and Griffiths point out, though, there is something important, necessary even, when peering into the abyss, seeing nothing, and then jumping headfirst into the void.
This past weekend, I met a man who personifies all of the above and then some. Persecuted in his native Iran for following “the lightning, but not orders and habit” he, unable to swim a single stroke, boarded a leaky fishing boat and sailed towards Australia as an “asylum seeker” ending up on Christmas Island for a year in detention as an “illegal boat person” identified not by his name but as a number.
Not initially knowing a word of English — but speaking four other languages including Zoroastrian — Hossein Parhizkari went through the hoops and is currently, after three years of travail, working for my neighbour Tim’s company Stornoway as an engineer. A win-win for both.
Hossein can now smile as he holds up a Boat People sculpture of mine and recounts his many faceted and compelling stories.
My, seemingly, fearless choices in life pale in comparison to what Hossein chose to do, and I can only but deeply admire his strength to overcome personal fears to singe the gate as he walked out pass The Wall.
The beauty in burning down bridges is that there are always other bridges to be constructed, other allies to be found.
Over this past weekend, Hossein and new friends enjoyed themselves here at Windgrove on the court-of-tennis rather than the court-of-law.