Adaptation, 3 Ways

Pandemics have a habit of placing humankind on the back foot. To everyone around me, I may have looked like I was (finally?) slowing down, but my brain was on high alert. Anxiety does that. Thoughts take you where they will – rationality, optional. My mind, nerves and heart revved constantly, gearing up for destinations unknown. Meanwhile, I left a few crumbs in case I got lost … which, for a while, seemed to be often.

But it recently occurred to me that I wasn’t lost at all. I was simply changing. 

We’re blessed to have a rainforest on our property at the coast. A beautiful expanse of evergreen vegetation – moss, ferns, trees, shrubs – that knows no seasons. A remarkable world of diverse ecosystems, home to countless species. A place that sustains life, both ancient and new.

Like so many rainforest inhabitants, I’m a living, breathing adaptation.

Stay with me.

How do animals adapt in a temperate rainforest? First, they hibernate, especially in the colder climates when food is scarce. They slow down and sleep, stirring only occasionally. That was me, from June to September, emerging from my slumber in October to launch Fragments. Except I didn’t lose half my body weight like most hibernating animals. In fact, I gained a few kilos but I’ll reserve that lament for another blog. The point is: Though my mind was still a whirlybird of activity, and I was occasionally quite productive, I did slow down, relatively speaking. This enabled me to get reacquainted with myself, and I was surprised to rediscover that I’m still good company.

Another way that animals adapt in extreme conditions is to migrate. It’s not too far of a metaphorical reach to say I did this precisely thirty years ago when I moved from the U.S. to Australia. More recently, I travelled back and forth to the coast – avocados and walnuts, though low maintenance, do need tending. Quarantine upon return to the ACT was a nuisance especially as we never saw a soul at Jamberoo except for the odd wombat, echidna and lyrebird. Migration is nature’s way of saying to species under threat – Here is potentially dangerous, I need to be somewhere else. I migrated many, many places during the pandemic, most from the comfort of my favourite armchair. A change is as good as a holiday.

Rather than risk offending by stretching out the adaptation metaphor any more than it deserves, I’ll quickly add that camouflage is also a form of adapting. Temperate rainforests, like the one we have at Jamberoo, aren’t nearly as colourful as their tropical cousins, which means the animals that live there are less colourful, too. Thanks to social media (not), everyone wants to stand out but sometimes it’s more healthy, more meaningful, to blend in. That can prove difficult for an older contrarian expat (three strikes) but, I’m pleased to say, I’m getting the hang of it.

Speaking of adaptation, I’ve been working most of the year on adapting my play, Fragments (now in paperback – there’s a plug) for a web series, thanks to support from the ACT Government via artsACT. Procrastination has often taken the form of children’s poetry, with a few of my pieces coming out next year. Selected for The Street’s Early Phase Program, I’ve started brainstorming, developing, writing – insert verb of choice here – my next play, which explores complex ethical issues at the end of life. When that’s done and dusted, no pun intended, I figure I’m (over)due to write a comedy.

Now, pardon me. I’m going to get lost in the rainforest.