A Poem on Demand

Today I met a storyteller who would tell me a story about climate change––but only in exchange for a poem.

She brought me a pen and a pad of paper. I sat on her porch by the sea with a cup of tea.

I was nervous. Then this poem happened.

atclairviewpoem

AT CLAIRVIEW

The wind does not touch
the blue plastic swing
hanging from the tree’s
horizontal limb.
The grass here is a
sponge. Sometimes
the sea rises &
sometimes she falls.
When the moon rises
(in the east, of course)
the stories hang
thick like rope––
chain––orchid eyes.
I wish I were
strong, absorbent,
able to churn
& let anything
wash over my body.
The horizon––blue––
unhinges me.
Watch as I greet
what comes.

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Coal Dust

It gets everywhere: windowsills, tabletops, the kitchen ceiling.

coaldustfan

Marmor, QLD, Australia

This home is a good 3/4 of a kilometer from the train tracks.

Marmor isn’t a coal mining town, just a village on the transport route.

The starting salary for driving trucks at the mines out west, though? Somewhere north of $100,000. I can see why anyone would want a piece of that pie. Fly in, fly out. Live in a camp. Get the work done. Twelve hour shifts. Reap the benefits.

At what cost?

Always at what cost.

I’m enmeshed in reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Piece by piece. It is a dense, necessary text. Rich with insight. Please go read a copy if you haven’t already.

I want to be a part of making the world habitable for future generations.

This is my part. Listening. Breathing in the dust. Sipping tea with new friends on a porch and recording a story about the cyclone that passed over here in February of this year––eye and all––almost ripping off the roof and felling several trees. Interconnectivity in action. What fuels the climate system? What fuels the economy?

“We’re not tree-huggers,” the storytellers are quick to add. As if environmentalism were a dirty word.

Dirt.

Coal dust on the windowsill.

One of my hosts used to manage service stations out west. The miners would come in after work to buy a cola, still in their work uniforms. Save for a ring around their eyes they would be covered in the black stuff.

One day one of the workers changed shifts and came in with his face clean to buy a cola. She didn’t recognize him.

All is swirling but here I am, in the middle of it, probing the edges, crossing continents whole.

There is nothing else I would rather be doing now.

Big Coal

Marmor, QLD, Australia

Marmor, QLD, Australia

Impossibly long trains carry coal to the Queensland coast (for the power plant in Gladstone & for export overseas). 

I stopped to count: 125 carriages. 

Full to the sea, empty to the mines. And repeat.

The operation runs constantly. In a few hours of riding alongside the tracks this morning I counted at least six coal trains, plus a rogue passenger train. I’m about to go to sleep to the sound of coal moving (always moving) over the rails.

I am in awe of the scale of this operation.

Capitalism in action: the fuel. 

I wonder if I should try to visit a mine.

For the Love of Water

1770

Last night around dusk I went to the grocery store in a coastal town to buy supplies. I pulled up with my (unloaded) bicycle and was about to swing my leg over the top tube when a blonde woman with a Canadian accent smiled and said: “Hey, you must be one a big bike tour!” She could tell from the racks alone.

We got to talking and five minutes later I was riding to her house to stay the night. I planned to leave in the morning, but we stayed up late sharing stories and woke up to tend the garden, mounding dirt over the potato sprouts. By midmorning we were having too much fun sharing stories about water births and floods and gratitude and decided it was too late for me to leave. Then we rode our bikes to the beach.

On the way, Peg & I stopped at a path that goes through the edge of a national park / wildlife reserve. Holy goodness was it gorgeous out there. The walk winds through a swamp and a paperbark forest, alternating between wooden planks and stepping stones––tall cylinders of concrete––that are almost submerged in the wet season.

Right now the ground is dry, dry. There’s less than a foot of rainwater in the tank. We take short showers. The trees held me as we walked. Butterflies flew over our shoulders. It was a scene straight out of a storybook.

Some twenty years ago, Peggy traveled from Canada to Osaka to work as a ski instructor and an English teacher. She lived on the 13th floor of an apartment building in the city. One day she opened her door and stared straight into “the most gorgeous blue eyes attached to the most gorgeous man I have ever seen.”

That guy was Pete, who later said that when he saw Peg, his tongue rolled out across the floor and he had to roll it back up again before he could talk to her. Pete had a dream two years before this chance meeting on the 13th floor. In his dream a woman was walking down the beach with a child in each hand. When he saw Peg, he knew that she was that woman.

Talk about a love story, eh?

My favorite question to ask couples is “how did you meet”?

Peg relocated to Australia to be with Pete and raise their family. They have two teenage kids and live ten minutes from the beach. Pete is a woodworker and Peg works for a company that makes shampoo and dishsoap and vitamins, etc. for a safe (toxic free) home. This morning she gave me a purple pendant to wear as a necklace that gets rid of bad energy. I’m into it.

Peg introduced me to a new word: “furking.”

“It’s a combination of fun and work,” she explains, “which is more or less your life collecting stories on the bicycle, yes?”

I couldn’t help but nod. I learn so much from the people I meet along the way. May the work and the fun in our lives always be joyfully intertwined.

While it’s lovely to unexpectedly stay in one place for a while, I hope to sleep outside again soon. I miss my five billion star hotel.

And as much as I enjoy being transient, I’m looking forward to growing a vegetable garden somewhere down the line. I will pour my heart into that veggie garden. It will be delicious. When I mound potatoes, I will think of Peg.

It’s 5:55pm and almost completely dark, but the days are getting longer down under. Minute by minute. Heat-wise it already feels like summer to little New England me. Chances are I’m going to bake and sweat and bake some more for the next few months. Not that I’m complaining. It just requires carrying more water.

agneswater

And this is my bliss.

During my time in Agnes Water I had my last surf for the foreseeable future with a handful of neighborhood kids. I can’t stop smiling. From here on up it’s reef reef reef (and no surf beaches).

A few nights ago I dreamt that I was swimming with turtles in the most glorious blue waters — hopefully that dream can become a reality!

I love water.

I wonder if I’ll ever live in a place with a surfable beach. I would be out there almost everyday.

My sock tan game is on point.

Great Barrier Reef, here I come!

helloroad

Listening is my Jam

listeningismyjam

This water jug bounces along with me for every kilometer of the trip.

Hey lovely people.

You know what’s awesome?

Tunnels. Bike path tunnels, especially.

tunnel1

Yes, I shout “ECHO” every time I pass through.

Yes, I am almost 23 years old.

tunnel2

Mooloolah, QLD — wheeeee! 

Glorious. There’s a moment where my voice becomes so distorted and magnified and wave-like that I can’t even recognize the sound. I love that blurring.

When people ask where I’m headed, my default answer is: “north.” I’m hoping to find a boat in Cairns or Darwin to take me to Indonesia. From there I’ll travel as overland as possible back to North America. Somehow.

Some places stick to the inside of my ribs, though. Good places.

Brisbane. Brisbane was full of movement.

storybridge

I love rivers. Rivers and roads. 

There’s lots more road ahead of me, but I can say without a doubt that Brisbane’s cycle ways are the best I have experienced.

brisbane

Ah, the joy of being off the road and on a bicycle-only pathway!

storybridge_2And YES, I did collect a story about water from a cyclist on Story Bridge!

The total story count is in the 370s now. Numbers aren’t the most important part of the journey, but I am sticking to my goal of 1001 recorded stories about water and/or climate change. Every day is a step closer.

I didn’t record it, but yesterday at a reggae event a woman told me a story about waves. “I’m going to sound like a hippie when I say this,” she exhaled, “but for me, surfing isn’t about riding the wave. You’re not conquering a wave, you’re traveling with it. Think about the journey that wave took. It started as a little ripple, a breath of wind in the middle of the ocean. And what an honor to accompany it to shore.”

All journeys begin and end, yes. And all journeys are ongoing.

I tried to channel that story while I rode a shortboard for the first time in the surf on the Sunshine Coast. It was, shall we say, a work in progress? I think I’ll stick to longboards for the time being.

koalahug

I loved taking an afternoon to visit the Australia Zoo, home of Steve Irwin. What a legend. After hugging a koala and feeding the kangaroos and admiring the giant tortoises, I went home and devoured Terri Irwin’s book in one sitting & then had a dream that I wrote a book of my own.

Crikey. Here’s to words on cardboard signs and the places they lead.

One bike, one year, and beyond.