It was on the third day of my SUV breaking down, east of Leonora, along a bush track that disappeared, found itself, lost itself again, that the vision or delirium came.
Perhaps it was the eagle soaring above me, the sun blinking out for a moment, and then the talons and the eye circling me, that put me into this disjointed space.
But I was no longer me, abandoned, held by a thread. I was risen above, and had become the eagle, circling the lone man below, a mighty wingspan looking down at a small human lost in landscape full of clear directions, a homo sapiens hungry in a desert fruitful with food, and thirsty where creeks live cool underground.
And then I was the thorny devil, scuttling across the red sand. And I was the spinifex, sharp against my own skin. I was the sand in the creek. As my eyes squinted, I was the sound of camels, soft across a desert, coaxed by Afghans singing a tune from Baluchistan. There is a white man, looking for Leichhardt. I hear the camps and laughter, stories and songs and songlines, mapped out by people who camp, and move on, and return as they did before the land was all this, when the inland lakes and the megafauna abound, and the air is cold and damp upon the naked skin.
I dimly hear the gurgling of rains from long ago, the seas that spread out, the carnivorous wombats and the megafauna kangaroo that graze. I ride the rainbow looking down on a lush arcing continent, wider than now, and it is all spread before me and past me, and into a future where the heat is intense, and the air dry, the taste of salt whips on the tongue. Then the sense of the connected strands between all that lives, all that was and will be, is plain and at peace with itself.
This thin thread of spirit still entwines around the "I" that is me, and now I am anchored back into my petty body, to feel my aches and pains, and hear the eagle above me. I am brought back, given water by the hand of a rough man who has put his hand behind my head, propping me up, and the water is in my mouth and down my neck, and he is saying something about me being lucky to be alive, and I can only agree with him.
I want to tell him I am indeed lucky to be alive, and he is lucky also, and everyone else is, and so is the woman who puts this on the newsstand, and the reader that reads this. That it is our great fortune and wondrous grace that unites each of we humans with our ancestors and descendants, and other species, Gondwana and all who sail on her into a web of life, where all are connected, where the ecology is deep and full of wisdom...but I am given electrolytes, and it all goes dark and there is, at last, neither Oneness nor the pain of apartness. There is just the vague ache of silence, and a body repairing in a hospital.
Instead, the phantom of Arne Naess comes to visit me in my coma. "Didn't you die?" I ask him, but he waves the question away, telling me in Norwegian, "Technically, yes. Philosophically, maybe not." Naess says the view from the mountain Tvergastein gives him a feeling, of being connected in a deep ecology of the heart and mind, that all have a right to live and go and be acknowledged, that man is not the measure of all things, that we should think like a mountain, and I, in my coma, can't disagree.
Even the diesel I put in my broken down SUV was once connected to living matter, the zooplankton that died and fell to the bottom of the sea. It is all connected, Arne says, and none is more important than another in the history of Life on Earth.
I ask him, "Why don't people understand this?" He explains that it is too confusing for many, who have just broken away from race and nation to become individuals, to suddenly climb back into the webness of it all, and simultaneously hold on to who they are. I must have felt that, he suggests to me. "A bit dislocating, connectedness," he says. It will take time, he says, smiling to me, but the problem is that deep time is too long for most humans to pay attention. Arne smiles again, tells me I've been through a trauma, that I'm lucky to be alive, and to do something about it. The man from Assisi sits by my side and nods his agreement.
Then the hospital discharges me. I am moved by the wonder of the woman who finalises my records on her computer. She is tired, but she attends to me with small talk. I feel her kindness. Her hand has aged. She has the hands of one who works hard. Her hands may have done many things: made peace and made love. I want to cry with the beauty of it all, but she tells me that it is the drugs affecting me, that I have been through a trauma, and that I am lucky to be alive. Yes, I say, favoured indeed.
The breeze outside the hospital gusts into my face. I want to take the luck and miracle of life and breathe into it, to declare wild good fortune to the wind. I want to take the miracle that is me being alive, having been born, having breaths and heartbeats until I die, and offer it as something worthwhile, for others, for the planet. To be of service. To honour the life in everything, separate from human existence. The weed in the pavement, the cockroach, the dolphin in the port, all are some mystery of beauty.
Back home, sleep will not come. When my eyes close, I see the eagle's eyes looking back. The eagle climbs a thermal, and from upon high, sees the stains in the sea, and the black plumes across continents. It can spy the uranium waste, being stockpiled for a future mentioned in millions of years. The eagle flies above this, and does not flinch. It will be there for as long as it takes.