Fine people of the internet:
Holy goodness, it’s been a while. I have so much to tell you! This is going to be a long post, so fasten your seat belts, friends. Pour a cup of tea. The last month has been full of life.
Autumn always makes me think of new beginnings: the start of school, most intimately (I’m two years out of university, but the feeling still lingers)––classes and lectures and rowing practice and long shadows in the afternoons. It’s a time to go internal, to breathe deeply in that slippery light.
Everything starts in blue, right?
In mid-March I ventured north from the Kapiti Coast to volunteer for three days at WOMAD New Zealand, a world music festival that takes over New Plymouth once a year. The acts were something out of this world. Tami Neilson’s Album “Don’t Be Afraid” has been on heavy rotation in my world for the last six months or so; it was divine to see her perform live. You best believe I danced my socks off.
Seriously, go listen to her stuff right now.
And then there was DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian quartet who wear funky hats and dedicate themselves to preserving Ukrainian folk songs. Their creative process is something like this: 1) go to the remote mountain areas in Ukraine, 2) find the oldest living women in the mountain villages, 3) ask them to sing the folk songs they know, 4) record said songs, and 5) reimagine the songs for today’s audience.
The result is AMAZING. Talk about kick-ass percussion. And of course my inner folklorist is dancing.
From Taranaki I traveled north to Auckland for a wedding. Because sometimes surprise things happen on the road.
Speaking of which, I’d love to introduce you all to my travel buddy from here on out… Charlotte Chadwick!
Charlotte is a singer-songwriter, poet, and theater-person extraordinaire (actor / director / playwright / etc.) from Aotearoa New Zealand who also happens to be an awesome ESL teacher. She’s traveled all over and tells great stories, to boot. You can listen to some of Charlotte’s music here: charlottechadwick.bandcamp.com
The journey will be solo at times, together at times, and delightfully messy, as per always. Because that is what journeys are. Journeys change. And this change is most definitely good.
From Auckland, Charlotte and I headed to Tauranga to learn some coding skills from the delightfully talented Robert O’Brien, a software developer who has generously given his time to make the next phase of the One Bike One Year journey a reality. His son, Max, has also kindly volunteered his design talents.
Ya’ll know how I have been alluding to making a map on a website where you can click on a point and listen to a story from that place?
Well, it’s coming to fruition. Slowly, but yes. Things are happening. Stay tuned.
Then Charlotte & I started to plot a way out of Aotearoa. This wasn’t easy, because I had made a commitment not to fly.
Friends, we tried everything.
I went back and forth for four months with a cargo ship executive who had promised me a free trip out of New Zealand. Long story short, he couldn’t make it happen. There were insurance problems. Oy.
Then we tried for super yacht / sailing positions. But it’s the wrong season to sail towards Southeast Asia. The cruise ship companies we talked to didn’t have positions that would suit our needs, but we applied anyway and heard nothing.
Then, grudgingly, we looked at flights. There was a ridiculous sale going from Wellington to Bangkok in mid-May.
We bought the tickets.
I’ll be writing more about this soon, but weighing the value of travel and continuing to collect stories vs. the carbon footprint of a flight (or even a cargo ship trip, for that matter)… it’s sticky stuff. And stuff that it’s necessary to talk more about.
Honestly, poetry helps get me through.
And while I do have a small place in the “family of things”, it’s my duty as an activist to tread lightly on this planet while doing the kind of listening work that has become my life.
“You only have to let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves.”
So many questions. Mary Oliver is a goddess of questions.
In other news:
The cardboard sign turned three years old! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the wrinkly piece of cardboard that has helped me collect hundreds of stories in five countries during the last 3 years. There will be a new incarnation of the cardboard sign in SE Asia, most likely with words in more than one language. Woot!
Speaking of multi-lingualism, my work was featured in a newspaper in Vietnam:
And last week was pretty big: I did an interview with the German enorm Magazin for their June issue, plus an interview & photo shoot with Bicycling Magazine in the good ol’ US of A. Not sure when that print copy will be out, but I’ll post some sneak peak photos as soon as I have them to share.
It was a windy afternoon on top of the world where Jacob Howard took the photos for Bicycling––you check out some of his other work here. The big uphill climb up beyond the Brooklyn Turbine was totally worth it.
Big wind, big sky, bigger things ahead.