Seeing the Light
(This is part 2 on Australian author, Robyn Davidson. To see part 1, click here.)
Fortunately, there was water when they arrived to the next well though Davidson continued to feel off-center. Her luck seemed to change a few nights later, however, when she was joined in a sand dune by an Aboriginal man she affectionately calls Mr. Eddie. She never learned why, but Mr. Eddie decided to walk with her for the next month. “Being with him transformed me from one way of being into another. It’s not that he said anything in particular, it was just by being with him and watching how he was in the desert. He sang his country as we went through, and in that singing he was following a map, a kind of map of the landscape and a map inside his mind.”
Though the two had no common language, Davidson says they communicated well and describes the time together as a rewiring of her mind and being. “When I left him, I had another long stretch on my own through the Gibson Desert and I approached that as a completely different human being. I was so confident and so sure of who I was and what I was doing. That next five weeks on my own kind of shifted something inside my psyche and, in some sense, I think I never came back from that,” she says, acknowledging the abstract concept. “It’s difficult to explain. … I was as remote as possible for a human being to be and yet I felt so connected to nature and to the world; it was the antithesis of being lonely. I was in total solitude and at the same time, connected to everything – it was a marvelous feeling. And I think possibly that’s why I had gone, without consciously knowing that that was why I had done the journey.”
There’s one lingering question that media, fans, and even friends and family seem to fixate on in the almost 30 years since she took the trip – why the heck she did it. “It always seems such a strange question and I think it should be turned on its head. I always wonder why people don’t do those sorts of things more often…Through human history, there have been these periods where people go off on their own, and I think it’s partly to do with that quest to become part of something, and not be constructed by the social requirements.”
Davidson was asked how she was able to hold on to the new-found sense of self as she navigated the world beyond the desert. “It’s very hard to hold on to and I don’t have access to it as it felt then, but I remember that I did have it, and that has given me a perspective, an angle which to refer to. That’s been important to me in terms of how I live my life within my own culture and how I see my culture.”
So what’s Davidson’s opinion of the film portrayal of her experiences, we wonder. “[I’m] happy enough with how it turned out. I think the film makers tried hard to honor the sense of the journey,” she says.
To see Davidson’s talk in full on WAB’s website, click here.
Photos: Rick Smolan and Courtesy of WAB