So… funny story. I got married.
Ahem, we got married.
Yeah, right. We got married. Meet Alex, my Australian husband who happened to be camped out at Standing Rock the same time I was. I’ll let Alex introduce himself. He’s more eloquent than I am, anyways.
Hey, I’m Alex. Let me start with where I’m from.
I come from a city called Canberra, the capital city of Australia, that desert island down south full of spiders and snakes and scorpions (oh my). Australia is a land of extreme heat. You may have seen recent reports of heat waves through Australia: temperatures above 46 degrees Celsius (115 Fahrenheit); police officers cooking eggs on their car bonnets (hoods); flying foxes (actually, large bats) dying in droves of dehydration and overheating; etc. Canberra is neatly sheltered from those extreme heats by a well-forested series of valleys, its relative proximity to the east coast and its altitude (580 metres, or 1900 feet). The summers are hot, and the winters are cold — or so I thought. As it turns out, I had no idea what cold was. Standing Rock fixed that.
But let’s go back a little.
In the summer of 2015 I traveled across New South Wales, working on farms and homesteads in exchange for food and accommodation. I sought a life apart from modern society, free (as much as possible) of money, where I could live upon the land and learn a greater connection with Mother Earth. After some time of travel, I found myself in the company of a renowned Australian environmental expert by the name of Peter Andrews. From Braidwood to the Bylong Valley, through Tarwyn Park, into the Hunter and back we traveled, and I experienced the rare opportunity to learn first-hand the processes through which the Australian landscape manages drought, flood, fertility, and salinity. I came to an understanding the way that the land operated before human interference, the extent of the damage done through human civilization, and the immediacy and degree of the natural devastation to come.
I returned to Canberra and began the task of rallying friends and family to the cause of environmental reparation, and presented a pair of documents outlining my experiences and understanding. My peers, however, proved less radical or motivated than I had hoped, and I found myself disheartened. With the trail gone cold and my enthusiasm severely diminished, I settled back in to a comfortable Canberra life. Still with a passionate distaste for money (making money), I searched for the means to live comfortably without working for The Man, and found an agreeable arrangement in university studies — I do enjoy learning, after all. Now at this point many of you may be thinking, “Wait, you went to college to avoid needing money?!” And yes, while the Australian higher education system may not be as progressive as some countries (see: Sweden, Finland, Norway and France, among others), it does provide a scheme whereby course fees are suspended and a fortnightly (two-weekly) allowance is provided to cover food, rent, transportation, and the occasional cup of coffee. So, with my immediate necessities taken care of, I settled into the first year of my degree in secondary education.
At the tail end of 2016 (the end of the school year in Australia), I found myself free from the distractions of lectures, tutorials and assignments, and my mind turned once again to the environmental woes of our world. Spurred by the environmental documentary “Before the Flood,” my desire to be part of a necessary change in the world was rekindled, and I felt that it was here to stay. I expressed my concerns to those around me, applied frantically for jobs and volunteer positions with numerous climate change activist groups and attempted to keep up to date as much as possible with environmental happenings around the world (most information of which comes from social or small, independent media). Among many of these happenings, there was Standing Rock, and while I supported the movement, I knew that I had no way of being there.
That’s the funny thing about knowledge — it’s simply a subjective analysis of possibilities and probabilities, where that which is most likely is accepted as truth. I could have inherited thousands of dollars from a dead, long-lost uncle (unlikely); I could have swum the Pacific, walked the desert and the prairies (unlikelier still); hell, modern quantum mechanics tells us that it would be possible for me to spontaneously disappear from Canberra and reappear in North Dakota (unfathomably unlikely). What we know is what we feel is what we are — no more, no less, and even then only if you’re honest with yourself. This is all to say that I didn’t know what was coming next (and I definitely didn’t know that I’d be married to an American woman in 3 months).
As it turns out, none of those unlikely situations ended up occurring: My mother’s partner, a New Zealand native, offered to pay for my flights so that I could be there in his stead. Naturally, I said yes- while I was loath to support the airline industry (polluter that it is) I knew that Standing Rock would be more important. And so, 24 hours, three flights, seven time zones and 14,200 kilometres (8,800 miles) later, I arrived on the windblown plains of North Dakota.
And that’s where he met me!
And the rest, they say, is history.
You’ll be seeing more of Alex on this blog and my social media — more of us, that is to say.
Faith and I are now in New York, visiting her family, dealing with the complex process of immigration, and preparing to go to Australia in May. While we’re in Australia, Hayduke the van will be left behind in New York, but there will be many adventures to come, with or without the van. Perhaps we even have an Australian van in our future.
We’re trying not to plan things too much. We’re mostly just interested in being alive. Together.