Wide open space. It was one of the first things I noticed whenever we came back from Seoul. We’d touch down at Hobart airport and be greeted by a blast of fresh air as we stepped out of the plane. As we walked down the stairs to the tarmac then on towards the arrival terminal, I was able to swing my arms without hitting anyone.
Hobart, Tasmania was my home from childhood to my early twenties. An island state south of Australia’s mainland. The contrast to the giant teeming metropolis of Seoul where we spent our school holidays was a stark one.
Life in Hobart moved at a relaxed pace. Change happened slowly. And there was space. Wide open space between people and the buildings did not crowd out the sky. Travel about 45 minutes away from the city and we could see open roads and fields under a clear blue sky.
My parents still live there. They have a house on top of a hill that looks over the Derwent river and the hills on the Eastern shore. Some days, when the conditions were right, we would see yachts sailing on the river as the sun slowly set.
My favourite spot in the house is just on the other side of the kitchen. In front of big floor to ceiling windows that overlook the river. I would sit on our old leather chair, curl my legs under me and just relax as I looked at the view.
My parents love to go walking. On the weekends they would travel to some nearby mountain to walk its tracks. When we were younger we would do that quite often. Mum and dad would bundle us into the car and we would go for a drive along the countryside to Mount Field national park. We saw rivers banked by willow trees. We saw waterfalls and verdant rainforests.
Autumn was particularly beautiful. I loved seeing the leaves turn yellow and red. Sometimes we’d drive the open roads when summer was just leaving us and we’d pick blackberries growing on the side of the road. They were sweet and juicy and stained our fingers purple. The autumn sun on our backs was still warm, but the air was fresh and cool.
I talk to mum and dad almost daily at the moment. COVID-19 has spread even to Tasmania and I want to make sure my parents are okay. They are in their 70s now and it seems their bodies are finally catching up to their age. They tell me they’re being good. They are mostly at home. But I think they still go out to walk the beach.
“It’s ok Agnes,” my mother reassures me. “We are always a meter and a half apart and we avoid people where we can.”
I suppose they still need their exercise. But I worry because of their age. Open spaces are not what they used to be these days.