It’s night two for us on the road with the band affectionately known world-wide as ‘the Oils’. The crowd has poured in with the insistent rain soaking through to their skins, into a Brissy-green amphitheatre right on the rivers edge. Below them the stage is alive. Around them nearly 10,000 peoples veins are pumping with rock’n’roll. For some, it’s their first oils gig in 30, 25, 20, or 15 years. For others, their first ever. Beams of desert-red light illuminate the falling atmospheric rinse, as a harmonica washes over our heads towards the city behind, instigating an essential Oils hit.
I cannot recall what led my 11 year old self to permanently borrow the Oils greatest hits from my folks’s music collection. It’s still there on my shelf, with the red $20 ‘Brashes’ sticker on the front sleeve the only physical reminder I have of the now deceased record store. The band occupy the full front cover, with a centralised Garret in a lengthy blue t-shirt with ‘What’s your excuse?’ emblazoned over it. Maybe that’s what drew me to the music, the idea that maybe the world I pictured as a primary school kid wasn’t exactly as I thought it was. The idea that outside our front living room in eastern Melbourne, some adults weren’t too keen on something.
‘What’s my excuse?’ Excuse for what?? I dunno, do I need one? Most lyrics went over my head those days – fair enough for a Grade 5 kid, but others didn’t. Beds are burning? Even the limited/zero exposure I had on the treatment of indigenous peoples that we received in the suburbs was enough to join the dots there. With a desire to increase my ever-expanding view of what actually occurred outside the front door, the Oils offered – I was hooked on them instantly.
Many years and events later, we meet on the Great Circle tour. The crowd sways and yells in and out of tune to favourites, b-sides and covers, all with the infamous corrugated water tank rusting away stage right of the drum kit. From our stall at the very back of the crowd I dissect the tunes embedded in my sonic memory – the drums beaten to half-death cut through yet meld together so bloody smoothly with bass and guitar it’s perfect. When the rising and rolling riffs of Truganini take shape over the steaming masses, I literally laugh I’m that happy to hear it in the flesh. And of course, there’s the frontman pacing around, elbows stapled to his waist, lanky arms flailing around and all of us clasped in the palm of his hand forever. It’s seriously just how I imagined it would be. In a word: Solid!
To me, the Oils embody Australian rock’n’roll like no other – music that sounds like the landscape that shapes us all. Choruses and words we all know, topics we can all understand, and above all – an over riding sense of the all-inclusive, the potential of a positive future for everyone, not just a select few. It’s wholesome music.
We dance into the evening, see out the rain, embrace the double encore, and close our five our stint informing a stream of concert-goers about the plight of our greatest barrier reef, exposing people to the Fight For Our Reef campaign, and how they can get on board and help.
With smiles our faces and a mass of conversations and petition signatures under our belts, we remain fully energised to continue to empower the Australian community towards a cleaner, healthier, and environmentally sound future for this grand landmass.
That’s the power of great music. The power of quality, tasteful songwriting that captures the urgency of the moment whilst keeping you dancing and singing along the way.
One vision, one people, one landmass, one ocean, one policy, one passion, one movement, one instant, one difference, one lifetime, one understanding.
Where’d we be without the Oils?!
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The craft of storytelling, in music. A fine concoction of experience, a twist and play on words, a tune to itself or part of the greater journey (or record). It’s a sweet moment when the mix of instruments and lyrics can reach you, penetrating thoughts and describing just exactly how you’re feeling and just what you’re thinking. Or maybe you’re no longing worried about what had you stuck. Beautiful storytelling becomes a journey when the listener surpasses instrument and lyrics to a time and place where the wine’s a little cheaper and the smiles last a little longer. The room isn’t so cold anymore, even in the darkness of winter. It’s not just music, its describes your part in time.
Rattling surrounds me as I sway and close one eye to focus on the one-hundred-and-sixty characters in front of me and hold tight hoping not to fall. At a slow and steady pace, I make my way back home no longer aware of tomorrows stupidly early start, instead lost in the increasing cool breeze from the Melbourne dark beyond. There’s a place where my bed is, in a tight expensive room trying to strangle the joy of life out of me. The isolation, the price, the proximity to debt, the long hours commuting to work and family – instead becomes a reason to share a story, to build around what it was like to live in a scene of people in town, and to be an observer that just so happens to keep diaries and enjoys writing.
I ended up surviving that tram ride up Lygon Street, and as an outsider who wore lyrics on his sleeve without turning them to permanent ink, I saw the scene grow. Six years on, formative memories visit over a glass of quality red and tonight I realise something special.
My memories of living in the thick of things are vivid – never a day goes past where I don’t think of the bands and artists of that time growing up in Melbourne. Walking my Brisbane mate around town recently, and in pointing out all the venues, recalling the late nights, later cab rides and trying to find the best hot chips at ridiculous o’clock, the adventures on the street were flooding back to mind. I couldn’t shut up, and the stories kept coming as I was reminded how much went down through those many doors off streets like Lygon, Gertrude, Brunswick, Johnston and Queensbury.
The beautiful places for the dirty types. Patchy floors, patchy clothes, and beat up broken bathrooms. Graffiti, stickers, handwritten band posters and broken windows. Punks (whatever that means) dressed for the cold (or over dressed for the warm). Upcoming gigs and shouts of cheap beer, mostly Coopers Pale. Yelling until you’re sore in a pit of temporary heat, body busted and alive, then pouring out into the frosty cold, awaiting the next one.
In places you’ve never heard of, or won’t hear of again, a small (yet actually pretty large) group of people lived in the music we heard. We became regulars in a community. All the faces were recognisable, and most I never met. Everyone was searching for something, whether they knew it or not, and the music gave them the answer.
That was why the scene changed for me. I found what I was looking for, what we’d all dreamed of – the chance to make my mark on the world – and my passion for the coast and underwater world surpassed that for music. I changed, and in turn so did my perception of the scene, literally overnight. I took a long time to come to turn with this. Years. I tried all the regular things, but nothing worked, and despite returning continually for gigs and sweet nights out, the fun was there but the buzz and excitement of the music just wasn’t there for me anymore.
I was equally sad and angry that things had changed for me, and along the way I forgot something. My music wasn’t hijaked by trendy newcomers, or wasted by near commercial success like I thought. It’s still there hanging around the same dimly lit venues filled with black jeans and hoodies, still written by the artists you haven’t heard of yet, and still in the brilliant songs maybe destined to fade away onto an older mp3 player, or into a dusty record sleeve in a bottom draw somewhere.
I was wrong, but glad I’ve come to learn this. The music never left, it’s still there doing it’s thing. It’s not the old friend I can’t connect with anymore. We’ve rekindled an older and wiser flame, and despite the lengthy gaps between hanging out properly at a gig, we get along oh-so-sweetly once more.
“Immersed in a poisoned city we sang for a better world, and whatever happens in my life I owe a lot to those that gave us all the chance to dream of something awesome.”
Last weekend we were Making Tracks in world class rainforest only ninety minutes from Brisbane. It’s an awesome place Lamington National Park, have a look at my collection of photos here.
It’s been three years (!) since my sister and I embarked on international sojourn and the forty day trek across Spain, bruising our ankles as countless others had done for many lifetimes before. One foot then the other, day after day, for over eight hundred kilometres westward. The simplicity of walking brought us back down to what we were walking on.
This lanky, bleached haired Australian trekked sometimes in thongs, with camera in tow and notepad in pocket. And with the help of all those we befriended on the way, I captured what I could from the adventure, in my own, erratic special way.
I’d recommend this to anyone, in a heartbeat.
This piece is brought across unchanged from my old website, appearing just as it was broken into five parts and composed on a trusty travel laptop seemingly forever ago. Enjoy!
Camino de Santiago (Pt. 1)
Begin our walk across Spain – setting off from the foothills of the Pyrenees, heading ever west to Santiago de Compostella, and further on to the Atlantic Ocean..
The Camino stretches as far as you wish – for us, a good eight hundred kilometres from east to west. Here, there’s plenty of time for reflection and thought..
For those on the trail, you face a period of your life stripped back to near-bare essentials. A time where all you have to worry about is placing one foot in front of the other. A time when the most important moment of your day is your next meal. A period of vast socialisation. I chose also to make it a time without technology, in particular social media, creating a disconnection between those I know back home, leaving me with only those around me at any particular moment..
Here, begins a collection of notes ripped from my ripped, tattered, back-pocket diary. Thoughts of home, thoughts of the road. To give one of my favourite lyrics my own twist: ’empty wine bottles, full hearts, sore feet, and no regrets’..
As i hit the hay at the conclusion of day one, the tiredness gave into my thoughts of home and how we’d just walked twenty odd kilometres..So, now it’s night, I’m driving out through Warrnambool, out of Dennington, past Tower Hill and the revegetated patch for the local ‘big three’.. Oh the songs, and my home. Fields of cut straw forever as the sun set and I sat. Sat staring a a windmill, his silhouette, and the future of always walking always leaving, but growing ever attached. With feet out the window too, and the odd cat a’passing, I realised this is real. I am real. Human life is just emotion – and no emotion is stronger than love. I love my land, and I love this music. Come, feel the eight o’clock breeze as we march into the ocean, shake the clean crisp southern ocean water from our hair, and smile the biggest smile – now you’re starting. I’ve started. now we’re living..
Camino de Santiago (Pt.2)
Fields. Fields! Birds, birds, birds! And a broken lamp shade above us. Sun sets into my shockingly long, fading, bleached hair. I sit on a ruin, maybe a few hundred years old, and break down my hasty, loud, typical scarce vegetarian dinner. Escape the sounds of town by skirting the outskirts, and it’s.. (notes lost)
(A day later) my feet are a little worse for wear. No sleep, to the bar, where the group at large gathered naturally, and laughed and laughed and laughed over a pint or two, before receding back to the albergue for a vast communal dinner nobody could complete. Awesome, so awesome. Multiple ages (though typically young), and multiple backgrounds, multiple languages, yet one goal – happiness..
Now after shooting some hoops, a beautiful cup of tea and teeth cleaning, I create in the moment: the sky still alight towards the obvious horizon, even though it’s ten thirty. Only two stars light it up, and we expect tonight be cold like yesterdays. It’s cold up here on the plateau! The spasmodic yet intrinsically detailed spanish town sits mostly quiet and inexpensive around this upper storey staircase – rolling tiled roofs, their peaks like unbalanced spines; one tree peaks out behind the nearer house; a crane hints at redevelopment; and across, a light turns off, the last to do so in the complex – all that’s left is a European clothes line, clothes dangling until ‘manana’. It is night here in Spain, a good night for good people (even if I don’t agree with the pathetic cooking synonymous with the pilgrim menu – the ‘menu del dia’), and now we shall sleep a sleep in our single beds, before we do it all again tomorrow..
Goodnight! It feels great!
And I think, and sing: ‘let’s start something, bigger than us’
Camino de Santiago (Pt.3)
Lying in bed – I’m somewhat sleepy, somewhat eager to go out exploring. I know that rest for me is right, especially in my deteriorated state. And, what is more, the weather has blown in overcast from the south-west, and who would want to hang around an empty town in that? So, instead, I sit full of beans, shook beans, in fact more like a can of beans that’s been dropped on the supermarket floor and kicked three isles away.. and here, I let the thoughts wonder at the conclusion of an hours reminiscing – an hour of photos, music, and old text messaging – mostly those sent to Brendo en route to a gig or sent whilst the incomplete group sat wondering where he may be, whilst compiled in the regular booth, draped in the same winter glow and feel of ‘The Curtin’.. I think, we wanted to be there..
Along the Camino de Santiago, an old Roman route, lies Leon. The place is such a beautiful city! The language barrier we were up against made it difficult to absorb the history of the route freely – in Leon, however, we made our way to the Leon museum, for an injection of the regions history. Romans, Moors, Visigoths, and so on! Incredible! The European melting pot of history..
We spent ours here, but the following quote caught my eye more than any fact. Words..
“Landscape is memory. Beyond its limits, the landscape bears the marks of its past, it reconstructs memories, it projects the gaze of the shades of another time that now exist only as a reflection of itself on the memory of the traveller or on anyone who simply remains faithful to that landscape”.
Camino de Santiago (Pt.4)
‘To know, is to remember’.
This evening I’m feeling a little stretched. I sense the scarce, terrible excuses for vegetarian meals are taking their toll come week four..
The walk today was incredible – the fazing out of the crops, as we rose into the scrub/bushland, and further on into the heights of the mountains! I sit and I hope that this, this scenery, is what I can come to expect (and receive) for the remainder of the walk west..
A beat day. The most tired I’ve been in ages. Utterly spent. I found relief and distraction under a fruit-filled cherry tree, with an American smile, and I climbed a suspicious table to reach beyond the previous tallest person to grasp for hanging bundles of fruit..
Into the pages of ‘The people of the abyss’ I plunged – writings of hunger, pain, tiredness, sadness and complete loss. From the pages of a novel printed over one hundred years ago I escaped refreshed, embarrassed from my temporary ‘pain’. Well in to the fourth week I needed a wake up, a refreshment. This was it, and I left the day with this quote..
‘If one man lives in laziness, another dies of hunger’
It’s so green – a refreshing green, unlike the glaucous, bleached, hardy, and battered green of home. A new green, at least to my eyes, but no doubt an old green. Up ambles a path walked by us and those prior for over a thousand years. It winds around the trees. It’s framed by an ancient, crazy old wall, one so much so that the vegetation, the mosses, ferns and various plants I’d probably call weeds in another country, only rarely reveal that the wall may even exist..
In the under-darkness, here, the odd leaf catches the six o’clock Spanish light; the floating green..
Here, is a well trodden path – this is the single greatest, most beautiful segment we’ve encountered on the camino..
‘We must first forget, to access memory’
Camino de Santiago (Pt.5)
Galicia – the country of a thousand rivers (“o pais dos mil rios”)..
Each step couldn’t be counted. The eucalypts flicked past, so’d the hillsides of gorse (of which, the flower, or ‘chorima’ is considered the national flower) and pine, and so did everybody else on the way when we stopped for a light lunch and to throw banana at each other..
From the mind of Jack London, words to the effect of ‘a man needs his own castle’. I’m yearning or a day of privacy (or maybe three!)..
The end. One thirty in the morning. Realised when pen hit paper we’ve been awake since five yesterday, and I really smell like smoke.. There’s ‘soothing ocean sounds’ piping out of a phone on the simple bedside table, probably unnecessary considering the bottle of vino, the friends, unexpected roasted marshmallows, and the fire – in a traditional galician style, using the dead wood from the gorse shrub atop Cape Finisterre – the end of the old world..
Pamplona to Finisterre: eight-hundred kilometres. We felt the scope of what we achieved only somewhat. No breakdowns at the conclusion, no massive realisations. Just a seat with the view, at the base of the cliff away from the rushed crowd of tourists, with ‘March into the ocean’ playing though just once..
It’s the people who’ve made the walk so special..
I’m done: there’s no more descriptions, thoughts, observations of this here life along the Camino de Santiago..
To a playlist of Chuck Ragan, Gaslight Anthem, and Ceres, it ends. I want some new clothing, I’ve earned it! A new shirt, something that can survive the next two months through Europe. If I’ve learnt nothing, I at least now truly appreciate clean clothing..
Three years (and counting) have passed – blows my mind how quickly time flies.
For something more recent, how about some photos from my recent trip on the Wilderness Coast trail in eastern Victoria, here?
There’s a breeze in the air and I’m surrounded by the tune of once great buildings. A curtain dances in a window propped open by a small off-cut of wood, hiding yet offering wind blown glimpses of the lengthy renovations preceding inside. The planks of weathered wood and blistered paint persevere. The patchy, rusty corrugation lifts at its corners. Scenes I related strongly to once; championing their battered unique and shambled beauty.
On an intermittent blue sky backdrop an inner-city Brisbane summer faded seemingly overnight, from blistering hot sunshine to rummaging through lower shelves for something resembling a jumper. A welcome and comfortable change.
Today’s a good Friday, as far as Friday’s go, and I’m planning for the greater outdoors. To explore a new patch or learn something else about another I’ve encountered in the past twelve months. Despite the incredibly inviting smell of Indian curry filling the air at lunch, and the empty house and room stacked with to-be-read books and an out of tune guitar screaming out for a play, I’m hanging for the dense underneath sensation of a dimly lit rainforest, the open warmth of an undisturbed grassy woodland on a west facing slope, or of course, the total immersion and liberation found under pumping waves fresh off the pacific ocean.
The quiet of nature, the counterbalance needed to hours of weekday punk music powering me through office weekdays. “All I know is that I don’t know nothing”, on which a foundation of expectation can be built.
Here we’re walking a line between tradition and progression. Celebrating a long past event, one now resembling a mere shadow of its former self. But whilst the celebratory holiday is more likely to mean family adventure, the non-secular connotations are still harmlessly abound – on the bread that we eat and in the fish that we don’t. Instead of paying homage to a crucified martyr, we pay exorbitant prices for alfoil wrapped chocolate eggs.
There’s a unique comfort in traditions – the ability to forecast events, settle into daily/annual/lifelong routine, and even base our world views on them being maintained. The counterpoint of your future shared with those around you, complimenting intergenerational connectivity through the common ground it grants.
What happens when tradition becomes stale like days old bread? It’s chucked in the bin by most, and some clasp onto the taste-memory of ‘what was’, refusing to change and embrace the new flavour of accepted, collective perspective. Change can be utterly painful; image basing your life on or around something, then having your friends, family, and fellow publicans abandon you for something new you just don’t understand? Your social circle contracts, and the pockets of surviving believers evaporate rapidly like muddied water in regional dams caught in the coarse, increasingly warmer, summer heat.
It must feel threatening, isolating; down right terrible.
How importance is the need for education!? Not specific, specialised education like the need to have a masters in soil ecology or TAFE certification in web design. Neither the need a ‘complete education’ consisting of a heavy dosage of periodic curriculum for twelve intense years, herded into lots marked from A to F.
Instead, what of the propagation and nurturing of expectations among everybody. An education of how to be content and yet driven to achieve. How to embrace real purpose in any task. How to better yourself continually for all of life, and abandon the intent of just being ‘smarter’ for strengthening your standards, your values, and becoming invaluable to the world around you. To expect a better life, even if that means changing or challenging traditions.
I see examples of where we’re struggling together and fighting out-dated traditions everywhere, everyday. Between the limited yet regular traditional newspaper and radio options to a beyond-flooded news-scape of internet news satisfying every superfluous opinion, leaving you with no idea what to believe. I see a few deeply frightened individuals and a mass of others not built for accepting adoption of change, from those that insist on not recycling, those continuing to buy and eat fast food, or to those insisting on spending Saturday nights pissed and Sunday mornings hungover from the ages of 16 to 30 (or beyond) instead of realising the amount of fucking money we’ve wasted, your damaged health, or that you just wasted large portions of your never returning youth. I see examples of breakdowns in communication leading to unreasonable stresses, blaming, and elongated problems causing a wealth of pain. From the incorrect grammar in text messages, to the stripping back of essential human rights by fascist politicians adamant about being ‘right’ in complimenting their own argument for a few, rather than enriching the lives of many (see: the ideologically stale current Australian Federal Governments attitude towards indigenous rights, their attitude to immigration, their stripping back of workers rights such as penalty rates on weekends, and not least of all their terrible and pathetic stance on environmental issues).
And most importantly, I see the same excuse – “what can just one person do?” – everywhere. The dominating attitude of accepting a lack of desire to challenge, not necessarily oppose, but truly challenge and question traditional ways is drenched in low expectations of ourselves and for everyone around us. Tradition cannot serve us well if we’re not prepared to adapt when necessary – and we cant know when that’s necessary unless we question it with a ‘why?’
Our actions are our overriding thoughts come to life – if we have a strong quality thought, strong quality actions will follow.
Now “traditions’ are broad. It could be deeply entrenched in your life, such as a families approach to marriage and family name retention, the sports clubs you follow, or what religion you abide by, down to the simple task of how you set the dinner table for guests. I had the same breakfast of five wheat-bix with a banana on top for eons, literally every day for a solid decade. They were great, but I found diversifying to musli, toast, eggs, yogurt, and fruit on a regular rotation offered a wider variety of nutritional benefits and a broader pallet to enjoy. I didn’t just think this up, I was challenged and had to search for a broader option, driven by the expectation that there is no absolute. There is no settling on perfection. There is always an alternative, and that alternative can be extremely beneficial to you and those around you (no I’m not suggesting switching to musli or that even making your bed every day will save the world, although some would).
Remember: “Tradition is rules enforced by the dead”.
Look at the technological, mathematical, social, political, astrological, physiological, medical findings and implications from the past ninety years. They’ve resulted in massive changes in how the world is perceived!
Arguments can be justly shaped by tradition (a historical reference is utterly necessary), but current day arguments cannot be defined by it. For what justice and hope do we offer our collective future if we possess beliefs and ideologies held by those pre-1927? If our actions don’t embrace the actualities of the now, how can anyone expect a richer life for everyone into the future when expired ideologies are your foundation? Can you ignore the discovery that the world is round and not flat? Can you uphold a repressive governmental institution over one who’s constitution is founded on fairness for everyone? Can you ignore the benefits of simple sanitation on your health?
Tradition once said otherwise. But we found a way beyond that, by not only believing in change for the better, but in educating ourselves to expect such.
Pump up your tyres of expectation:
Give ‘The Seven habits of highly effective people’ a read.
A fan spins away slightly inconsistently in the corner of the room. Propped up on its end in the draw, it lives on without standing upright. The metal and plastic base was smashed when it tumbled over one day, and got caught in the curtains then wedged between the door and door frame. Leaning it against the wall creates this very dull, almost unnoticeable vibration, just almost beyond the limits of your hearing. Life rolls on and the fan remains ignored, spinning away in inanimate servitude.
If you’ve survived reading, making it through the foundational and yet mundane life of a broken fan, I have an ask for you: can you think about what you’ve inherited during your life, from birth or somewhere along the way.
What attitudes, memories, family, geography, environment, tradition, heritage, expectations?
After you’ve done this find out why this piece is called ‘Another cup of tea’.
Earl Grey tea – standard. No coffee. No sweetness (actually, maybe a little honey). Just tea and simple. In the same cup every day – one emblazoned with a West Australian eucalyptus branch painted on the side. Stunning plant, with pin-cushion-hakea-esk crimson flowers.
The final dregs drain from the bottom of the cup as the clock ticks ever closer to knock off time. Tonight is special in that it’s the first time I’ve been able to pick up the pen and contribute to the book I set out to write six months ago. The mini-book of sojourn observations and photographs of my favourite patch.
It’s back on track, and focusing on a shared inheritance.
Inheritance, what’s around us and built us, is essentially what drives us each and every day, even if (like the fan in the corner), I don’t make a point to recognise or acknowledge it.
We’ve inherited a fantastic patch of world, one of beautiful land-and-sea-scapes with incredibly unique plants and animals throughout. I’ve inherited a safe place, an easy going place, and are surrounded by intelligent, inspiring and loving people. You can explore on your own without crowds. Put up a tent almost anywhere (if you’re careful) and feel right at home.
We’ve also inherited a mess – climate choking on heat, ironic plastic pollution, subtle (and obvious) racism and sexism, a disgusting history of white domination, widespread land degradation, environmental arrogance, faulty democracy, in-balance, and a heavy dependance on alcohol. That’s just how it is remains a pathetic excuse I deplore.
Even if (and sometimes especially if) we ignore these, they shape us. In writing our future, we must think about and delve into the past, the ‘what actually happened to get us to where we are now’, so as to learn from the successes and failures alike. So we don’t have to spend our whole generation learning what a previous generation spent a whole generation learning. So when people lie and make up stories about the grandeur of the past, we have a safe and anchored understanding of actuality, guiding us through perpetual bullshit.
An understood past with a common future in mind – it’s time to begin with the end in mind and strive collectively for something incredible, for a place where the inherent positives drown out and strangle the negatives.
That’s what I’ve inherited, what I write about, what I photograph. The most beautiful patch of land, water and everything on it.
Here’s to a new years burst of energy, and the bound concoction of photos and words once again writing itself!
Does home change on a regular basis, or is it the town you grew up in? Or is it the city, the region, or state you’ve spent most of your life? Is it where your parents settled? Or is it simply where your bed is located?
The definition of home, it’s so contextual, that I’m sure we all have a different definition of what it means to be home.
Over the past nine days I’ve spent the most time ‘home’ in almost a year. It was bloody amazing, even refreshingly inspirational. Now I’m dangling once again 20,000 feet over the sea and here is my reflection on time well spent.
Victoria is gorgeous. Right now, after a lacklustre summer, we haven’t seen any (major) fires and there’s even a hint of green hanging in there around the place. the sun beats down hot still but people generally aren’t over it. The past week has continuously been blue skies and close to thirty degrees, and super comfortable (a welcome change from the sticky humidity of Queensland). Stunning, and very conclusive to exploring the outdoors – Victoria’s mountains, valleys, heathland, cliffs, beaches, and rivers.
Despite much of Vicoria being cleared for farming, residential, commercial, and industrial purposes (as seen quite extensively from the sky), there’s still a few (small) patches of gems out there.
The natural places I sojourned to – outlined above – albeit a (significant?) importance to me in that I have made (and continue to make) extremely important memories with people surrounded bob them. Exploring their beauty and ecological uniqueness of the land and water around me, prompting me to share this with many others. This week I’ve ventured out with some of those same people, to create new memories in the Victorian countryside.
Alpine offloading with my family, taking time to freeze my legs in the beginnings of a mountain stream polluted by Coke bottles (even this remote there’s rubbish!!), then teaching the next generation the negative impacts of pollution. Then, further down the road we turn a bend into a logging coupe once home to towering Mountain Ash trees only found in the Victorian highlands and Tasmania. Even at seven years old he deplores the destruction of these giants.
I tiptoed through the Great Otway heath dodging basking tiger snakes and staying amazed at the biodiversity of a simple ground layer. The coastal fog burnt off on cue, blue skies put on a show. Returning to last summers patch made me realise how much I’d missed and fallen for the west coast that faces south east over Bass Strait.
Then for a swim in the cool temperate ocean waters by iconic yellow sandstone cliffs. Low tide and no breeze; my favourite beach to date on the coast. I notice the little changes, both human and natural, and whilst thousands of feet have walked the path down to the ocean since I last took a dip at Addiscot, it’s dominating cliffs and welcoming blue to me it was like I only left a week ago. We might complain about cold water and inaccessible beaches, but when I left to warmer waters I begun to truely appreciate the invigorating nature of ice cool Southern Ocean water.
Finally an unnamed waterfall or cascade in the states central reaches. Simple and hemmed in by paddocks – a common scenario out here for areas unfit for agricultural practices (where solid immovable rock trumps ploughing). It’s out of the way and a perfect year round swimming hole.
Making Tracks this week rapidly brought together and reaffirmed the reasons I’m writing this and will continue to for many years to come.
Because I understand these areas ecologically and have learnt to read their importance and acknowledge their changes. Walking (or swimming) through them is both a confirmation of what I know and an excuse for adventure to experience something new and exciting. The changing of the seasons and the typical variability of them means species numbers rise and fall, plants grow and die off or even drop limbs to save themselves. Cliffs erode and creeks clog up. Sand moves, exposing/covering rocks to create/eliminate habitat for marine life. Change keeps everything guessing what’s going to happen next and provides us with continual exploration.
However, I can’t read my new home of South East Queensland just yet. Maybe in the dry eucalyptus forests I have a slight grasp of things given the similarities with Victoria, but stepping foot into a sub-tropical rainforest is like experiencing a new country or planet, whilst lukewarm sandy beaches stretching beyond the horizon without sign of a cliff still throws me!
Despite her obvious beauty, it”s still like being on a second date with SE Queensland – I’m attracted, dig her vibe, but have no intimate idea of what she is. And yes, I do want to know more.
I’m experiencing what I’m calling an ‘expansion of home’. I have no reason to pull a Paul Kelly and write my version of ‘Adelaide’ – one day I’ll happily return to the Victorian coast and once again live within a stones throw of the water. I just can’t say when.
This is a glimpse into how and why one becomes attached to country, to the land and water and everything in between. Without ever setting out for it to happen, it just happens. The landscape becomes intertwined with memories shared with people you love.
We’re all the one landmass after all, so home is the whole patch, plus I don’t think I’ll stop until I’ve lived in each state and territory, and spent my fare share of time making a home amongst the gum trees, whatever species they might be..
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This morning I woke up and jumped straight into my (now routine) morning run around the block and along the edge of the Brisbane river. Pretty typical start to the day in this part of the world. All the while I was basking in the classic Brissy summer warmth sweating away, and I get to thinking – how good would a nice cool oceanic body of water be right now?! Each step I kept thinking of going for a dip at the end of the road..
Truth be told I do long for the crisp southern ocean waters that have beaten Victoria into the unique shape it is. Working closely to and with it, teaching about it, advocating protection and respect of it – all brought me closer to really knowing and even feeling the place. Nowhere does the coast make such a noise against resilient rocky cliffs like the southern coast of my home.
It can be harsh and rough, or on the right wind (or lack thereof), as flat as a tack.
Some days I’d rock on down to Pickering Point in Warrnambool and be caught completely off guard. Other times I’d race home in Anglesea and out to the cliffs to stare down the easterly gale and waves berating the weak sandy base of those towering cliffs. Then the next day inspect the damage and litterally watch huge swathes of ancient cliff be swept back into the big blue.
Or, at the Prom, we could race to the top of invading sand dunes and in the glow of another stunning sunset cast shadows towards a placid Corner Inlet and our eyes to a confused Cape Paterson jutting out into Bass Strait.
Living and not necessarily travelling away from my roots has made going home something ultra special, more so than ever. When you’re making and carving a home out of a new scenario and location – for me, Brisbane and south east Queensland – the differences in climate, culture, terrain and what every else that I’m adjusting to make returning highlight the subtle (and massive) variations in the same land mass so much more obvious.
The same way when sojourning overseas you’ll notice how much better or worse (mostly better) we have it, I’ve felt it without crossing any body of marine water (sorry Tassie, it’s been a while I know!). Given those areas down south are what I know ultra well and are the basis for so many killer adventures and memories, I radiate towards them – even long for them, like I did this morning.
Like never before we can move around comparing and experiencing new terrain, and that’s pretty awesome!
Photos from our last trip down the incredibly beautiful south eastern coast can still be viewed here.
Darkness. I’m consumed by sand. In every direction I hear the sound of beating hearts. This multiplies as time ticks on by slowly. I know where I am, somehow. I have no memory otherwise and don’t know if I’ll even remember this. For some indescribable reason, I’m possessed to wait. Something is coming today and when it does I’ll just know what to do and how to do it. I’ll be awesome and I’ll just know how.
For now though, i wait..
Who knows how much time passes, but the beating hearts are anticipating movement. All of a sudden, there’s a scramble upwards. Digging digging digging – together. I’m gaining strength by the second, and just as quickly as it began the moment ceases. More waiting.
Here I notice a power reducing, causing our dark sandy space to reduce in temperature. Since the darkness began, and the journey upwards, I’ve been anticipating things cooling down so I can continue safely.
Like piercing through a weakened dam, the heartbeats thrash into an erratic scramble ever upwards. I push, many times the length of my body and BANG! No time to waste I’m into the night and completely exposed. The heartbeats are popping out of the sand in every direction, their bodies shaped just like mine – four curved appendages made for swimming in water (yet surprisingly capable for the job of scrambling) and a top casing circular in shape with a symmetrical pattern through it and to the edge.
My destination – it awaits.
I scramble. I’m moving towards the dim horizon light before me away from the deeper darkness of towering, swaying silhouette figures. I know that my purpose is towards the light and towards the crashing noise, waves of never ending energy pounding the coast and guarding my destination.
Each movement I make with my body the swaying of appendages propels me forward. I make ground on the sound, hurrying intensely stopping only briefly to catch my breath.
Forward. Forward. Forward. We’re spread out now in a rough line, all intent. The sand below me becomes damp and compact and I sped across this fresher surface with relative ease. The sound has become a roar. Whatever it is is crashing and getting closer and looming larger. I arrive, and in in a moment, I’m gone.
The current takes me. My fins, designed and powered to propel me through the water, do so effortlessly.
From sand pit to ocean in a matter of minutes.
The first few moments of a turtles life are well known to many. These moments are incredible. It is a joy to experience the presence of such small beings being thrown straight into the deep end of life without a grain of parental guidance to send them on their way. It’s almost humbling.
Humans are fascinated in animals void of parental nurture. We struggle to comprehend the ‘how??’. ‘How does it do that, without going to school!?
It blows our minds.
There are places you can go to witness fresh turtles leaving the nest and making their hurried way to the shore and the big blue. I did this recently, and here’s what I learnt about the endangered Loggerhead turtle, and what you and I can do to help them.
For every female that makes her way up out of the water to the sand dunes, she will lay on average 120 eggs. The females, extremely exposed on land (being quite sizeable, weighty, and mostly aquatic beings), will not begin to dig the nest and lay if there’s any activity or disturbance, such as the presence of humans nearby. If the coast is clear, she’ll take around an hour to see the job through. Each female can lay up to five times (maybe six!) per season that stretches from October to March. Once the season is over, it’ll be another two to three years before she’ll return, the time needed to build up her fat reserves to be able to withstand the whole ordeal once again.
At the largest rookery of Loggerhead turtles in the southern hemisphere, 350 or 400 females can come in each season to lay. This means tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of turtles hatch each season.
The eggs incubate under the sand for a few months, with the sex of the turtle being determined by the temperature of the sand. The warmer the sand, the more likely the egg will produce a female hatchling. Too warm, and the egg will cook (occasionally the mother turtles lay their eggs too close to the surface, and, to help alleviate the already mounting pressure on the species, rangers shift the clutch to ‘cooler’ and safer sand).
After hatching they make their way across the sand at night – without any guidance. It’s amazing. The crossing of the beach to the water is like the GPS positioning of a new satellite navigation device, with the hurried scamper to the ocean programs them to know exactly which beach they came from, and allows them to return to the exact same place to lay in thirty or so years. Without this shuffle to the shore (for example, if someone saw a baby turtle and ‘helped’ it across the sand and straight into the water), it would essentially be lost forever, with no bearings to its beginnings.
For every 1000 eggs, only 1 survives to sexual maturity. Naturally, the sheer size of offspring numbers accounts for their difficult and highly predated life ahead of them.
1 in 1000 – crazy odds!
What’s more, is they now have the increased (and ever increasing) presence of humans in their lifecycle. Plastic pollution, boat strikes, increased visitation of beaches, coastal development and industrialisation – it’s intense, the human turtle relationship..
I don’t have to try and write or attempt to be creative, it just flows. No writers block, it just means it’s time to experience something somewhere that will drive my motivation again, like fuel to the flame of inspiration driving me to scrawl across a page void of any friction. A trip away or chasing a quality thought can do this.
But like all sources of fuel you can run low if you aren’t careful to replenish – no bushfire can burn forever (that I know of anyhow)! I’ve learnt the hard way these past six months when it comes to keeping mental stimulation constant and independently creative, and have learnt that as my life shifts and changes so to must my focuses on the pages I carry around with me everywhere. I cannot go searching for motivation from the past continually without refreshing the experiences in the present.
I must explore more of my motivation – the great outdoors.
Last year, weeks turned into months at the blink of the eye as I ran around the country fighting for marine environmental protection. My focus on activism was unrelenting and utterly intense, dedicating huge swathes of my time and life to it. I was creative, but on the clock and for an organisation. The personalised words of my own dried up, and come December I was hanging for a wet spell to beat off the creative drought I was in.
I can now appreciate how people loose their craft, and opt to pack it in rather than beat there head against the machine they’re tied to. It’s a difficult scenario to find yourself in, void of those creative priorities and flat out otherwise, your instruments gathering dust, desks and benches strewn with unimportant mess, sent to the back of rooms, cupboards and garages.
And still, this could be me one day.
It’s the New Year. I’ve travelled for three weeks through coastal scrub, forest and gutted agricultural land along the Newell Highway, refuelling constantly along the way. On the road I’d wake up without an alarm, and say to myself “let’s do this – todays hanging to be explored”.
Now I’m refuelled and hanging to continue to write on a future worth living in – one filled with experiences, void of boredom, charged by motivation, and of course, one with our fair share of time in the great outdoors!
When you’re faced on a daily basis with the end of the world – with the continued destruction of dwindling reefs, forests, grasslands, and ecosystems – it’s imperative you remember and recall the good things in life. Those things that are unspoilt and still standing, the intact beautiful things. Because without them and without the good memories, we are nothing.
And when we’re nothing, we’re….
It’s great to be back, let’s see where 2017 takes us!
Work never ends. There’s always a job somebody can do and there’s always that task waiting to be ticked off by someone..
Even around the house – you’ve dedicated the day to sorting the place out and you feel like you’ll get ahead, yet the deeper you delve into the fixing, the sorting, the cleaning and the organising, there’s always more..
We’ve all been there before – on one of our days off or even whilst on holidays. My sister and I have watched our dad restlessly spend weekends and semi-retirement chipping away at jobs around the house, cleaning the shed or mulching the garden after a hefty session removing the never ceasing bombardment of weeds. He rarely stops, despite our vocal desire for him to hurry up and retire, and when he does it’s usually to retreat to the living room to be in front of the source of winter warmth in our Victorian home – the cosy fire place. This isn’t a unique story, and can be appreciated by most of us who run our own homes year-round..
Yet unlike work and its continual checklist, the ability to create – that is to be inventive with your thoughts in a creative fashion (writing, painting, drawing, building, singing etc) – isn’t so guaranteed. Typically we need a catalyst – some form of motivation – to do so. It doesn’t take much, humans need very little reason to be creative. This is why I laugh when people say they’re not so. They haven’t given themselves the chance to be, as they are human and incredibly creative, even inherently genius – if they only allowed themselves to be..
The simplest way to do so is to remove all distractions – remove the need to continually work, the need to fix, remove things like tv and phones – and you’re almost there. Think of when you were a kid, or even of your own kids – in front of a tv stunned into near silence, yet when it’s switched off instead creating a whole world of imagination with each step and breath. Cubby houses, hide and seek, even ‘fortresses’ made of pillows and blankets – they are completely imaginary worlds and games bought to life by the creativity of humans..
I maintain that we’re fucking brilliant creatures!!
This afternoon the sun is setting casting older light through my lofty window and over my page. Below me is the story of land and water that has been told over many millions of years – the formation of the ancient, unique, and beautiful array of earth that I call my home. From a few thousand feet in the air the vastness compacts, the grandness becomes a little less daunting, and the ‘ecotones’ (stark differences in geology and vegetation i.e. a sand dune meeting the scrub, or a fresh water river meeting an ocean) become noticeably easier to interpret. Instead of slowly hiking for hours on end through the bush to encounter these changes – it’s rapidly played out before you to be taken in all at once..
What’s more is the colour variation is fascinating, the whole spectrum is represented – slowly fading from one green to another as the vegetation shifts, or rapidly from rock, to water, to mud. From the air it is evident that this is one solid network utterly interconnected, where no moment in nature goes unnoticed or fails to influence the future of another..
Here in the Gulf country, where Queensland and the Northern Territory meet on the coast, is some of the most pristine examples of the wonder and brilliance of the natural world. Mud brown snakes slowly wind their way from the tablelands down towards the coast – approaching their terminus they fissure into an array of aquatic exits, as the battered floodplains give way to the coast and huge plumes of muddy sediment gush out into the sea. The turbid blue oceanic waters are in stark contrast to the flowing brown rivers, whilst in parts the sediment has exploded into patches of muddy ocean larger than many cities..
It’s grand at this height, and although seemingly frozen change and continuity is still evident – the white caps of waves indicate a decent wind bustling parallel to the coast, and a white washed shoreline of the off-shore islands perimeter indicates where they finally crash into land. The rising smoke of a bush fire whips off an island hinting at a human presence too..
Like many of our shared memories the act of staring down from the wings of a plane visually exploring the condensed land below is one shared by many. At one point in our lives (or more) there is that wonder in all of us of the grandness of what’s below us – that wonder is almost never grander than when taking flight over Australia.
The speciality and vastness of the lengthy list of landscapes, seascapes, geography, and plant and animal communities is simply brilliant. It’s all one stunning country, split only by invisible ‘borders’ such as the one I’m casting my eyes down now – the 138 parallel that divides Queensland and the NT that instantly took half an hour from my day..
From up here the worlds of wonder and beauty collide perfectly, and it is utterly easy to get caught up in the moment realising how special this place really is..
But I didn’t set to writing because of the beauty that lay below me..
It was instead the sight of devastation that did..
Mangroves are a tree that spend most of their lives partially immersed in salt water. They are an incredible plant, living with the marine exchange between flood and drought every day, soaking up salt water (that would kill most plants) and excreting it through their leaves. What’s more, is on the coastal fringe they are subject to the coastal barrage whipped up by storms and cyclones, and cast a relative calm on the land behind them..
In the Gulf, right below me, mangroves are dying off or become defoliated (lost their leaves) literally overnight. Not one or two – but hundreds of kilometres of trees along the coastline. This event has never happened before in living memory, and is not too dissimilar to the coral bleaching event that recently smashed our Great Barrier Reef..
As the stronghold species of so much of our coastal environment, this is a huge concern. Without living mangroves, what plant or animal remains and which relies on them being alive is simply screwed. The flow on effect, from the increased run off of muddy sediment into the ocean could in turn accentuate further erosion and the smothering of underwater habitats like coral reefs and sea grass meadows..
As a rule, when writing in a way to introduce to and inspire people to explore our great outdoors, I shy away from negativity surrounding environmental catastrophes in an effort to no overwhelm and take the time to encourage further self-education. In an over simulated world awash with a variety of negativity – exploring them only leads to people switching off..
I don’t know why these huge expanses of mangroves have carked it – in fact, no one has been able to ascertain exactly why given it’s sudden occurrence and the extreme remoteness of the Gulf – only time will tell..
I do know that we’re fortunate enough to be able to create a positive future for any environment under stress..
This lays in our collective creativeness – and our ability to escape from our distractions!
We can decide to create our future where the beauty of the world is protected, where we live without events such as the one playing out below me (and if you want other examples where humans are proven to be the cause of environmental destruction, I have plenty to share – just ask).
We’ve already got our friends and family – we just need to involve the sea, mountains, bush and rivers on a more regular basis – we just need to really fall in love with the beauty around us!
Because when you love something – you don’t treat it like shit or fuck it up. You protect it, forever..
I’m certain that caring and learning about the world around you can stem from that first appreciation of natures simple beauty, from when you find yourself surrounded by and a part of the world around you. From there an amazing future awaits all of us..
By now the ink is fading, my text truely lagging, and the sun far past setting. Queensland disappeared long ago, as a layer of clouds looking more like mashed potatoes slapped onto a plate than clouds finally blocked it from view, leaving me to wonder what’s for dinner in Brissy tonight..