1. A nissologist is someone who studies an island on its own terms. What are the terms of an island?
  2. Australia is often called an island continent, sometimes the only island continent. Its terms are of being an island.
  3. If Australia is an island continent, then so is Antarctica. Australia is changed to the only inhabited island continent.
  4. Gondwanaland is an ancient super landmass. Australia and Antarctica were the last two pieces of Gondwana to separate.
  5. When I was young I thought islands floated on the surface of the ocean. Like glaciers. And that Antarctica was an island made of ice.
  6. A few years later I grew concerned about islands floating away from one another, of Australia losing its place. I decided there must be a thin rope of land tethering Australia to the sea-floor. An anchor.
  7. Often we speak of ourselves as being anchored to a particular place. A home. Anchors and roots become indistinguishable.
  8. I read in a book: ‘Down Home is a psychological geography.’
  9. From Houston I always refer to Australia as down, or below.
  10. Sometimes I picture myself standing, sending roots right through to where I imagine Australia is. In this image Australia becomes the sea-floor.
  11. When we look at the moon, we always say we look ‘up at the moon’. There are no directions in space. So really we just look at the moon, and it happens that we tilt our head.
  12. In the same book: ‘Moons bind all islands in two ways.’
  13. Often from an island the moon is the only other landmass visible. The moon also sets the tides. Tides form the littoral boundaries and edges of islands.
  14. I have most often looked for the moon from the beaches around Perth. These beaches are collectively known as the coastal plain.
  15. Australians are known as plain-speaking people.
  16. The best way of interpreting these two statements: Australians speak the language of the coast.
  17. I have no terms to explain what I see off the coast nearest Houston. From Kemah I can see land opposite me. It’s possible this land is an island. It’s impossible this island is Rottnest.
  18. Collectively, we have no terms for what came before the big bang. If time emerged in the big bang you can’t use the words before and after to describe the immanence of the Universe. It just is.
  19. My husband tells me to picture a piece of paper. To draw a circle on it. That’s our universe. Then another circle. A hypothetical other universe. He says none of our laws apply outside our circle.
  20. I say they look like islands.
  21. He also describes parallel dimensions using pieces of paper. He lays one on top of another. They touch, almost occupy the same space but aren’t connected in any way we are capable of seeing.
  22. This is like the squirrel I saw squashed flat on the road in Houston. There was no way for it to actually become the cement.
  23. We don’t have squirrels in Australia.
  24. Deep down I know I can’t touch Australia from Houston.
  25. All the words I know for winds come from the coastal plain. Easterly, Westerly, Northerly, Southerly. All our terms are directions for things coming to or leaving the island.
  26. On the coastal plain we tell time these by winds. The sea breeze means it’s the afternoon.
  27. When there is a wind in Houston I look for the coast that isn’t.
  28. One of the terms of our Universe is that light travels at 299,792,458 metres per second.
  29. The sun sets directly over the ocean on the coastal plain approximately 43,200 seconds before it fades over land in Houston.
  30. In a total vacuum, particles will randomly pop in and out of being. This means that there can never be such a thing as a total vacuum.
  31. Similarly, in our universe even if there is emptiness, there is always time.
  32. In her kitchen my mother has an egg timer which measures minutes in grains of sand.
  33. I haven’t been down to the coast in 20,563,257 seconds and counting.
  34. There is no term for how many grains of sand I won’t have touched.

Caitlin Maling (Western Australia)

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