(First published on Common Grounds Online)
In November I did what no thinking person would do in the middle of an economic crisis: I quit my job and traveled halfway around the world, to Australia.
I left behind a steady stream of income and a heap of security in the hope that I might find a little more freedom, creativity, and vision for the future. So, I jumped on a jet plane for a very long trip down south, where I would spend the next two and a half months connecting with old friends and rediscovering my Aussie side. (Quick interjection: I was born in Australia, but moved to the States when I was seven.)
Along the way, I picked up a thousand little lessons from those who have walked a few extra steps down life’s journey. Prominent among them was this concept of cultivating life.
When I found myself dripping water into a kookaburra’s (pronounced “cook-a-burra”) beak, I knew for sure that I had arrived in Australia. Not that I had any sizable doubt about the fact before, but I was learning that there are levels of “Australia-ness.”
There’s the “Look! There’s the Sydney Opera House. I can’t believe I’m in Australia!” level. Then there’s the level where you pat yourself on the back because you called the “trash can” the “rubbish bin.” But you know you have found the deeper Australia when you, first of all, know what a kookaburra is (just picture a strange cross between an owl, a woodpecker, and something that would appear in National Geographic) and give him a nickname (in this case, “Jackie”).
It was week 8 of my trip when I met “Jackie,” after having just stumbled into one of the most breathtakingly sleepy towns on the southern edge of New South Wales: Nelligen.