We were at home over the stove, in the fruit market, and the ocean. We made family meals that took days. We alchemised everything we touched: every scent, walk, cloudscape, folded into a new way to cook together. We were materialists in the most magical sense, and that bound us to the earth. We said: I don’t want to exist, but I want to experience my senses. We said: I will always hold out for the next cup of coffee. And then I said it, alone.
This is the story about building a body for oneself. Over. And over. And over.
I’m going to jump to a spoiler now: you don’t die. You find a negotiation with living. With the ways that humans diagnose, define, and control one another. You find a negotiation with relation.
And so when I visit Australia, you are there at the airport. Larger than anyone’s life, as usual. Fingers dirty with food and earth. And here I am, wondering how we manage to renegotiate a life together. Really living this time. Really choosing life, really choosing negotiation. The two of us with personalities so big. We pack our volatile bodies into the car, and as we are wont to do, we go bush.
The Australian bush is an immersion of essences. I don’t believe in platonic forms. I wasn’t born in the right era for it. But I do believe in essences; mutable, spurious things that lie beneath appearance. Things that co-compose with other things to make new essences. You know them. The essential, neural recall of the smell of tea tree. The knowledge that this tree is both essential and evolving. Iris Murdoch calls this the beauty of art and nature: the world splashes out at you and your whole chest rips open. This is the poetry of Mary Oliver, of Oodgeroo Nunnacul.
Sometimes I think the feeling of essences is what the Brazilians call Saudades. Perhaps untranslatable, but well described by Brenda Hillman as: “a feeling of longing, even in the presence of the longed-for object.”
Saudades is what I am feeling this particular Friday. In the car, with you and my best friend Tamuz, still shellshocked to be hot, watching the lingering green of Melbourne drop away to the red earth and bare trees of Kelly Country. There is something in this earth, and in sparse trees, and that something is making me openly weep.
I fly back to Canada in two days, and part of me is relieved to leave Melbourne behind: her narcissism, her southern melancholia. Before my trip, I told you over and over on the phone that this wouldn’t be a “come-to-Jesus” trip; “I don’t want to see my ex girlfriend, this is not a come-to-Jesus trip,” “I don’t want to see that friend who hurt me, this is not a come-to-Jesus trip,” of course, I did and it was. Until I left for Canada at age 26, I had spent my entire adult life fighting for this land. Fighting for this land alongside you. Locking our bodies to her trees, standing in front of hungry chainsaws. With this land, I come to something deeper than the Jesus I learnt about in art history, more vital than the forms I learnt about in philosophy. There is something more resilient here than the eternal unchanging. Something more alive. Something with hunger. And teeth. I fall on my knees for this land.
When I took DMT, I was immediately deep in this place. Under. This earth. Being swallowed by her redness. I felt like a little stone. A little pieces of schist. Being sanded down by time.
This land starved colonial explorers Wills and Burke through gorging. Twisted their narcissism in on themselves. They died of starvation, feasting on Nardoo, the fruit of the land. Properly prepared, Nardoo is a filling grain. Improperly prepared, it impedes digestion. You eat until you die.
Northern Victoria is dry. Nardoo is poisonous. This land is a knife’s edge that will swallow your bones if you’re not careful. But she will bring you right to the edge of things first. We are driving into drought country. We are playing Warumpi band. The land is low and thirsty. You are here and so is my best friend, and the three of us alive together is something I have hoped for, but ceased to promise myself. I am crying. Saudades.
Sophia Dacy-Cole is a visual artist and writer concerned with the politics and therapeutics of touch. She collaborates with humans, materials, collectives and places, always returning to the Spinozist question:“What Can a Body Do?” Some of her favourite emergences to collaborate with are Montreal’s SenseLab, and the Quimeras and Quite Ourselves Collectives. She has performed, published, and shown in: Australia, North America, South America, and Europe.