Monday, April 13, 2015

Long Journeys: Tracks, About a Woman's Walk Across Western Australia


Robyn Davidson. Credits: Rick Smolen, National Geographic,


In the late 1970s, Robyn Davidson walked across west Australian deserts with camels and her dog. The trek was more than 1700 miles. 

She wrote a book, Tracks, and there is a recent movie by the same name. The movie is perhaps not as engrossing as the book might be (which I haven't read). I didn't feel the weight of what that lonely, long walk must have been.  

A loner extraordinaire, in the movie, she says: "I don't know why a desire for privacy has to be defined or defended. All I know is that when it's just me and my animals in the desert, I feel free." 

Robyn Davidson, with her resistance - or inability or lack of caring - to articulate her  drive to do this long journey, reminds me of another long walker, Sarah Marquis, a Swiss woman. From a New York Times profile on Ms. Marquis: 
As Francis Spufford writes in his history of British polar exploration, “I May Be Some Time,” for ages, men have wandered intentionally into extreme hardship, and they “are notoriously bad at saying why.” Marquis and her female peers — women who, say, walk across the Sahara alone with a camel or pull a 200-pound sled to the South Pole — don’t explain it much better. “People always ask, ‘Was it something in your childhood?’ ” says Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica. “I’ve thought about it endlessly: no.”
From this Dumbofeather interview, Ms. Davidson gives her view on the question of why one does this sort of thing: 
InterviewerOh yes, people will all start chiming, ‘Oh that’s why.’ That’s why she walked across the desert, that’s why she’s like that or this.
Ms. Davidson: Yes, all that derivative determinist sort of thinking. Life is not like that. Life isn’t simple—it’s not just one thing causing another thing, and really to try and reduce things, this need to reduce everything, somehow to me, it makes more sense to keep it all moving.
There is a recent interview with Ms. Davidson, following the premier of this movie. Now in her early 60s, Ms. Davidson said something provocative: ''I'm less confident now. That arrogance of youth and that kind of ignorant confidence can get you through a whole lot of things, and then life does its stuff and you get smashed around and beaten up. You get full of doubts and you end up making a person out of those bits and pieces.'' 

You can listen to a 2012 interview with Ms. Davidson here with Phillip Adams. Don't be surprised to hear a man reading an excerpt from her book at the start. 

I am attracted to stories of long journeys. Sure, it's about the adventure. It's also about the overcoming of obstacles, of fear. 

Here is a compendium of journey posts.

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