Unearthed

Emerson

When the world appears all dark at times, it’s hard to see the light. So I sit and I write and I scratch and I dig until some small treasure is unearthed.

My journal, the pan used to sift through emotions, through thoughts, dreams and nightmares. My stream of consciousness slides through the gaps and onto the page for future reflection, inspiration, enlightenment, and hope.

Each morning I sit on my lounge, easing into my journal. What is it I’ll write about today? When nothing comes I tune in to sounds:

Kookaburras laughing.

Lorikeets screeching.

Cows bellowing.

Vacs blowing.

A car. A laugh. A bark. A hammer.

The sounds carry my hand and my pen across the page. Fast and furious, or long and languid. Or something, somewhere in between. Somewhere where the writing flows like the creek winding down the mountain, carrying messages that need to be told.

Some days the flow dries up: I don’t know what to write. I’m bored. What now?

Some days the flow creates a dam-burst. Words fly faster than pen strokes. Slips of the pen bring spelling mistakes and Freudian revelations.

Then the fast flowing words wash up something that sparkles. Could this be the treasure I seek?

“Saying ‘yes’ to opportunities is a good lesson to embrace. ‘Yes’ opens up many doors that lead you down unexpected paths. Sometimes they’ll be dark paths; sometimes they’ll be light. Either way they’re part of the adventure of life.

And perhaps that’s the way I need to think about that uncomfortable, unknown future. Without it there’s no real adventure. The adventure embraces the unknown. It has a destination it’s reaching for, but the space between Point A and Point B is the unknown, and it’s where the adventure actually happens.

So life is an adventure. Keep taking steps forward. Know that unexpected events are going to happen. Know that forks in the road are going to appear and choices are going to need to be made. And each choice is the right choice because it takes you one step further down the road. It’s when we finally stop that the adventure ends.

It’s fine to take a break and recharge, but when the energy’s back, it’s time to take another step and see what crops up. See who joins you on your journey, and who departs the path. It’s a much nicer way to think about life. Yes, it’s still scary, but that makes all the good bits that much more enjoyable.

Life is an adventure. Get out and have one!”

When the world appears all dark at times, it’s hard to see the light. So I sit and I write and I scratch and I dig until some small treasure is unearthed.

~~~~~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

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The Key

The Key

The Key

Sweat ran down the back of my neck as I clicked the padlock closed on the hot storage unit that now housed all my belongings.

“I’ll only be gone for a month,” I’d told my friends, knowing full well the key to this padlock might not be used for eternity.

A week earlier I’d climbed onto the usual E50 bus to North Sydney. The same commuters silently thumbing their iPhones, scowling when someone dared to assault the silence by answering a call. Even a whispered “I’m on the bus, I’ll call you back in forty five,” was dealt a series of eye rolls and snorts.

The miserable commute a preview of the depressing workday ahead. The company I worked for dying a slow and painful death. I wanted it euthanised. But euthanasia meant more than the death of someone else’s business. It meant a loss of purpose and livelihood for many. And in a city where housing prices were skyrocketing, it meant the potential loss of the tiny patch of beachside paradise I’d desperately clutched onto during a series of disasters; the last tiny glimmer of light in the looming darkness.

“There’s no money left,” my wild-eyed boss ran his hands across his bald scalp. “I can’t pay anyone this week.”

For months I’d watched reruns of this scene. When would it end? When would he put the knife in and let the damn business die?

While he held on with white knuckled refusal, so, unfortunately, did I. I wanted it to end, but I didn’t. An end here would be the earthquake that triggered the tsunami of my life.

At lunchtime I walked the same route past the monotonous shops, wearing my now permanent look of despair. My mind racing. Wanting it over. Not wanting the repercussions.

“What do I do? I don’t know what to do. What do I do? I don’t know what to do.”

In tears I phoned my brother. Blubbering the lyrics of the high rotation tape in my head. So many jobs ending in disaster. So many times my life smashed to pieces. The goddess, Kali, on the warpath, was sending the world crashing down around my ears. Again.

“I know you hate asking for help,” he said. “Especially from family. But that’s what we’re here for. Let us be your safety net. Just come up to Coffs.”

“I can’t!” I wailed. “My life is here. My friends are here. I can’t ask for help. It’s not meant to be like this. I’m supposed to do it myself!”

“You keep repeating the same patterns,” he said. “The same jobs, same relationships, same lifestyle. Break the pattern. Do something different. Ask for help.”

Six months on, cold rain ran down the back of my neck as I entered the storage facility. Hands shaking, the padlock clicked open. I knew full well the key to this padlock marked a painful ending, and the spark of a surprising new adventure.

~~~~~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

Image: Efrén Rodríguez Fotografía

Fear and Loathing and the Big Banana

Mint Green EH Holden

The Mint Green EH Holden

“Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent!”

We pulled onto the Great Western Highway as the sounds of You Am I’s Hi-Fi Way filled the interior of the mint green EH Holden. Our great Australian road trip had begun with rubber burning out beneath us.

‘Homebake’ beckoned us three mountain girls with its siren song to Byron Bay. We rode the Pacific Highway with festival dreams in our hearts, surf stops plotted and a campsite awaiting our half-way mark.

The old EH farted its lead-laden exhaust up the highway as I stretched along the caramel vinyl bench seat in the back; the cousins laughing and enjoying the view through the windscreen.

With windows wound down, Hunter S Thompson kept me company in the back seat. His drug-filled tales of fear and loathing painted Daliesque scenes in my mind. Sidewinder’s bass notes thumped from the stereo, and our road trip morphed into Thompson’s Mint 400 off-road race.

Excitement was high as we pulled into legendary Crescent Head. Surfers bobbed on the waves, a community of seal-skinned freedom seekers. We pitched our tent and left the EH standing guard. It’s mint green hue all summery new life. Yet its chunky brick body a sign of heavy things to come.

A peacock called out in the pre-dawn light from behind the EH’s back wheels, annoyed at our hefty intrusion. Our wheels on his turf, he demanded we roll on.

Spiderbait’s Kram slammed sticks against drums as beach breakfasts were downed, and we belched smoke in a northerly direction again. Red lights flashed on the dash as we diverted to Coffs Harbour, home of the Big Banana. Smoke poured from the chest of our mint green steed. A smoking Joe with somewhere to go, but no strength left for our final leg north.

In an unplanned campsite tragic news was delivered: the EH was dead and there was a three day wait for mechanics. Our Homebakey dreams crushed, the heavens opened up in mutual distress, dumping their heavy tears down on our tent and adventure.

We huddled inside as it rained and it rained and it rained even more. Invisible cracks encouraged a deluge into our shelter, our sleeping bags, our skin, and our dreams through the night.

The cousins huddled together keeping warm as I shivered and cried, “I hate this! I’m leaving!” And I peeled back the tent flaps as ducks swam past through the grass.

The EH watched on. Solid and silent. No saviour in sight.

I ran to a phone booth, sobbing for rescue: “Mum, I wanna come home. There’s ducks swimming in the grass outside my tent! I hate it here. I’m never setting foot in Coffs Harbour again!”

Nineteen years on, I laugh that there are banana plantations flanking my new Coffs Harbour home. Fear and loathing couldn’t stop me from taking another trip north. Only this time it wasn’t in an old mint green EH Holden.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story first appeared on ABC Open.

Um… Hello? Can You Hear Me?

 

Open Mic

Is this thing on?

In pursuit of storytelling inspiration, I grabbed a my friend, Xenia last night and headed to the Art House Hotel for a storytelling slam session. ABC’s Radio National holds a bi-monthly open mic night called Now Hear This! And I wanted to hear what This was all about. Being a storyteller with an ENORMOUS fear of public speaking, I thought I’d also challenge myself to get up and tell a story. Next time. Last night was all about research!

So, what I discovered is that you need to be really amazing at maintaining focus, not allowing yourself to be distracted by the live music being belted out in the adjoining bar. If you want to score big on the points, you need to tell a love story if you’re a guy, or tale of tragedy if you’re a girl. If you go first, you will never win. And if you’re an 8 foot tall Amazon woman with the inability to keep still, you shouldn’t sit in front of me because I’ll remember you next time and I’ll make you pay for your misdeeds!

But back to the stories. There were tragic tales of Nullabor Plain crossings, and several stolen goods stories (luggage, computers, unpublished manuscripts). Prose on picking up chicks in the Sistine Chapel. The memoir of a 10 year old Philippino boy who wanted to be a tall skinny Bond girl, and my favourite tale about a smelly ghost. I didn’t have the heart to tell the smelly-ghost-storyteller that her house up on North Head was probably not haunted by a ghost from the nearby Quarantine Station. But the likely culprit was the sewage treatment plant down the road, which was very generously sharing the fragrance of Sydneysiders’ insides with her!

Shhh! Do you smell something?

Shhh! Do you smell something?

As the storytelling slam came to a close and the ferry beckoned to carry me home across the harbour – past the Quarantine Station, in fact – talk turned to something with a much finer fragrance: coffee. Xenia let me in on a little secret of hers when it comes to ordering coffee. It’s something that makes the whole coffee experience that much more delicious. She uses a coffee name.

“What the hell is a coffee name?” I asked.

“Well, you know how they ask you what your name is when you order your takeaway coffee? It’s really annoying because they always get your name wrong because of all the noise, and they never understand my Hungarian accent. They end up calling me Zena or Anya, and I can’t be bothered trying to spell out X-E-N-I-A because they’ll get it wrong anyway. So I tell them my name’s Vicky. Now, every morning when I come in to buy my coffee, it’s all ‘Hi Vicky’, ‘Here’s your coffee Vicky’, ‘Have a good day Vicky’.”

“That’s hilarious!” I said. “So, what’s your boyfriend, David’s coffee name?”

“Guido!”

And with that, I boarded the ferry, safe in the knowledge that when I heard the barista call out “Heidi” in the morning, my coffee would be good to go.