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.

When All Else Fails, Reboot!

Talk about excess baggage!

At least it’s not the kitchen sink!

What do you do when life just doesn’t go the way you’d planned? When the job folds; the house crumbles; the relationship evaporates? When you reach that age when you should’ve been living a life completely different to the one you’ve woken up in? What do you do? Do you fall into a screaming heap – like I did? Or do you finally shake some sense into yourself, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and see it as a grand adventure – like I’m doing?

For most of my life I’ve been terrified of ever becoming jobless and/or homeless. I’ve run like the wind from those nightmare concepts and they’ve finally caught up with me; grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and latched on tight. And you know what I’ve finally realized? They’re actually the dream of freedom that I’ve also been chasing for the same amount of time; they’re the big mamma/papa cat, carrying its kitten to a better place – I hope. Weird huh?!

Yep, so I’m a complete and utter failure. Couldn’t cut the mustard. Couldn’t make it work in the big city (and couldn’t make the big city work for me). Failure = freedom in this case, so I’ve decided to go troppo for a spell. I’ve headed up to Big Banana Land for some much needed R&R. I’m switching off my head, switching gears, and switching channels. I’ve packed my life into storage and a small suitcase and am ticking another achievement off my list: #164 – Go vagabonding!

 

Leg it!

Leg it!

Joseph Campbell said:

Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege!! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow. Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures, followed by wreckage, were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

What was the last crisis that you went through? What was your last failure? Are you able to look back at it and see the positive in it yet? Are you going through a crisis or a free-falling failure right now? If so, can you flip the double-headed coin and see the fear as excitement instead? It’s taken me a bloody long time to get to this point, and I don’t doubt that there will be more potential screaming heaps to fall into, but today I’m turning a shitty situation on its head, and turning a bucket-load of loss into a big-arsed adventure.

Will I see you on the road?

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Get off your butts!

In the spirit of adventure I’ve decided it’s time to buy myself a sleeping bag, some hiking boots and an enamelware cup and head out on a microadventure. “What the hell is a microadventure?” I hear you ask. I’m not quite sure yet, but I stumbled upon the idea today and it sounded good! So it seems that here in Australia we’re a bit behind the times. (Or maybe it’s just me). But there’s a movement happening across the globe right now that’s getting people off their butts, out of their houses and making the most of the 5 to 9 outdoors.

Alastair Humphreys, National Geographic’s 2012 Adventurer of the year (see how behind the times I am!) seems to have been pushing the idea for years, and I’m wondering why I’ve never heard about it. Especially with people heading out to fantastic destinations close to home; jumping on a train and heading out for a slice of rural adventure, walking down to a local beach or through a national park. Alastair Humphreys even microadventured alongside England’s M25 motorway! It certainly sounds a lot easier than climbing Everest, or setting out on a polar expedition. Although, that could be fun too. And with so much access to nature, even within the walls of Sydney, there’s really no excuse not to have a microadventure, is there?

Climb Every Mountain

Climb Every Mountain

Perhaps the reason for my lack of microadventure knowledge is because I’m a camp-o-phobe. There’s a good reason for my fear of camping. Rain. Whenever I’ve gone camping it has rained. Every. Single. Time. Seriously.

When I’d finished high school, some friends and I went on a road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay. Only we didn’t make it to Byron. The car broke down in Coffs Harbour. We had to camp there for days. Days. In the rain. There was so much rain, in fact, that by about day 3, there were ducks swimming past our tent. As my family can attest, I was none impressed and vowed never to set foot in Coffs Harbour again. Now half the bastards have moved there, so I don’t have any choice! Not that it’s a problem though. Because I don’t have to camp there anymore. But I’m thinking it might be a nice spot to go for my first microadventure. As Alastair Humphreys says:

Adventure is a state of mind.

And I think my mind is (almost) made up. How about yours?

 

Magical Mystery Tours

The Fortune Teller

 

What a momentous few days I’ve just had. Where to begin? Thursday night sounds like a good place to charge out of the starting blocks. My lovely friend Sarah invited me to The Firehouse Hotel to have a glass of wine and a tarot reading. The fabulous Frankie Starr is there each week offering up fee-free readings. How can you resist?

With trepidation I cut the cards. Please don’t belt with doom and gloom! I prayed.

As Frankie dealt the cards, her nails sparkled a mystical red, and I held my breath, longing for good news. Movement, passion, creativity, adventure and love on the cards! Magic! Just what I need. And a decision: Where to next?

“Pick a place, any place,” she said. “Get up and go. And don’t look back!”

“Where to go? What to do?” I thought. “I’ll see what transpires on the weekend before I make any rash decisions.”

Cue the weekend: I ride into town on my trusty green and yellow steed, pulling into the wharf at Circular Quay with an hour to wallow in a bowl of coffee before wandering down to the Sydney Writers’ Festival, where I was greeted with front row seats (on the floor) at a wonderful talk on myth and fairytales.

View from the Front Row

View from the Front Row

“What do you want to write?” I was asked as I scoffed down my lunch in preparation for a talk on small ‘l’ love.

“I haven’t found my story yet. But I love stories of magic set in reality. And true tales of adventure. So, maybe something that combines those things.”

And from fairytales to explorers I went, to hear tales of polar expeditions, Himalayan hikes and my favourite, a nomadic adventure across the Eurasian steppe. For years I’ve been fascinated by Mongolia, so when I saw Tim Cope’s book, On the Trail of Genghis Khan, on the shelf at my brother’s house, I had to read it! What an inspiring story! He had a dream to cross the steppe on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary to understand the nomadic way of life. He followed that dream, faced incredible adversity, and lived to tell the tale. As did his dog, who I was delighted to meet at the festival!

Thank you to all the adventurers, and trailblazers, dreamers and visionaries. All the people who have a goal or a dream. The ones who take the road less travelled. The ones who take the road more travelled and re-purpose it! To all of you, thank you. I’ll see you out there on the road. Because I found my story that day. My tale of magic set in reality, that’s taking me into a true adventure story. Look out Ireland, I’m headed your way!

Will I see you out there on the road too?