I am a Modern Serf. I live on someone else’s land, work for someone else in exchange for food and safety, and will pass on my social status to my offspring.
I’m also a sixth generation Vandemonian.
The first Tasmanian Townsend is buried in an unmarked grave with his scandalous tattooed wife, banished from Hobart Town to the north-west of the state. When older folks meet me today, they identify me as “from the north-west” even though my father left that coast nearly four decades ago.
I have never lived in that part of this state but, like my dad and his dad, I am somehow a part of the land there and that land is a part of me.
I am an artist, my old man is a pastor, his father was a builder and his father was an aspiring doctor forced to work on the family farm. Serfs, the lot of us, working on someone else’s land hoping one day it will be ours, and all the while the land of that north-west coast was somehow seeping in through the soles of our feet into our very being.
We wanted to own those paddocks, but the soil ended up embedded in between the lines on our palms, billowing in our slow-moving speech and our gale force hearts.
Of course we never really possess land, do we? The stuff slips through our fingers like what it will always be, the pursuit of dirt being one big distraction from what we’re actually alive for. One day, the land beneath our boots will possess us, transform us, turn us into something new. Maybe today.
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