Mid-Semester Break Part V (whew!)

The third night was bittersweet. It was hard to believe I’d be back in an office in two days, in a concrete city with steel bridges and stone arches, wearing all my manufactured things and surrounded by stuff. I was already asking myself, how can I come back here? How can I fix my life up so I can come back and do an expedition trip in the Tarkine? I slept with my camera battery as usual that night, clutching it as though it were the images I had taken that day. My camera gives me a purpose in places, and it helps me get through the leaving part of every departure, knowing I take something of the places with me.

In the morning we woke up and ate muesli and yogurt and toast. I’ve been eating muesli and yogurt for breakfast ever since, psychoanalyze that for what you will. 

Everyone was happy and cheerful around the big wooden table, seated on big wooden benches. We were up especially early because it would be a long day back to Hobart. Everyone was all packed and ready to start off down the track to the van when someone realized Phun and David were missing. 

We had made it all that time with no incident, and now on the very last day someone had to get lost, I thought! It was easy enough to do– the forest all looked the same and was so tall you could never see a marker to get your bearings.I could barely make it from the kitchen to my tent at night without panicking I’d missed a turn.

Trevor called for Phun, at first using her name and then switching to yelling COO-WEE! COO-WEE! COO-WEE! A sign of three– three calls, three sticks in a path, three of anything, is a sign of distress in Australia.

No one answered.

Daniel went to check near the shower, while Gerry and Trevor hiked back to David’s tent, as he had the farthest accommodation and was pretty darn isolated. Daniel came back and shrugged his shoulders, no sign.

Finally Trevor and Gerry returned, chatting to one another as they walked up the path, and someone, Kate I think, from our little gathered group of hikers, asked, “Well?”

“All good,” returned Trevor. But it was very vague, for a disappearance explanation, and Kate pressed further. “David was having a little trouble rolling up his sleeping bag,” Trevor said, and his gaze fixated on mine in one of those silent communication deals I’ve always been real terrible at. But I sensed I ought to add something, for some unknown reason, so I said, “Yeah I had trouble with mine too. It’s hard to stuff it in the bag.” Which is too right.

Anyway, we all started off on our walk, with Phun and David tagging in behind us once they caught up. I savored my last minutes beneath the shaded canopy.

What is it about sunshine that makes it sparkle? Is it just something in the eye’s of the beholder? 

As we walked ever closer to the van, to our departure point from this magical place, I couldn’t help but wonder at how everything was glowing and golden and shining. Every word for light that we have, the forest was doing that. 

I don’t want to wax poetic to much here, but it was happening inside me too. I felt light. There is a reason we have the same word for weightlessness that we do for illumination, and I could feel a beautiful, feather-like, airy, bright sensation inside me.

I think what happened there was my soul came to the very surface of me, and for once my mind wasn’t dominating everything, and my body signals of ouch-that-was-a-big-rock-dummy and oh-I-love-to-stretch faded into a far distance, and like I said, that shining, buoyant, ethereal, cloudless (emotion? state of being? transcendence?) took over. 

And then we were back at the van loading our luggage and stripping off layers and trying to find real world objects like our money and cell phones and driver’s licenses.

We drove to a place called Warratah, which was a little dying town where almost nobody lived, and there was once questionable looking server, Australian for a gas station, where Trevor pulled the van into and announced we would be ordering our lunch from. I inwardly groaned, this place looked like bad news to me.

We piled out of the van and we all ordered a burger with “the lot.” The lot consists of a lot of things to try and hide the old, greasy taste of poor quality meat. Gross. I hate to talk about it, really. I did insist they leave the egg of my hamburger. I simply cannot be eating eggs on my hamburger. It’s just not right.

After placing our order and telling Susie we would return at 12:30, we got back in the van and drove a little ways to the entrance of a walk to Philosopher’s Falls. James Philosopher had discovered a gigantic tin mine as Tasmania’s economy was collapsing in the late 1800’s, and for twenty years the mine had been the most prosperous tin mine in the world and employed lots of people. Then it dried up and closed, but continued leaking sulphuric toxins into the water supply and land for a solid hundred years, and is still leaking. It cost the government more to try to clean the whole mess up than the entire amount of precious metals was worth that was hauled from it during the life of the mine.

This is just a classic example. Lots of industry is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can focus on creating jobs all you want, but if you have to create a job at the expense of future lives, is it still worth it? Of course it isn’t. 1 in 2 Tasmanian men will get some form of prostate cancer, Trevor told us. 1 in 2.

Even from a business perspective, purely focused on money, the mine wasn’t a good idea because it ended up costing so much more than it was worth.

But anyway, these falls were named after James Philosopher, and we began our walk down to them in the rain. It was beautiful, of course. It was also really easy, as there was an actual maintained trail, complete with 207 steps down to the waterfall. One minor oversight of whoever had built the trail was the material used for the steps, which proved to be ridiculously slippery. Trevor told us after the trail was built, it had to be closed for a year because neither the parkland management nor the forestry division wanted to be liable for falls and injuries.

Thankfully none of us fell or were injured, and I got a great picture of the waterfall! It was pretty big and roared down to depths we couldn’t see because of the foliage. Great clouds of mist drifted off of it.

We hiked back up, went back to the server’s, ate our questionable hamburgers (I could only bear to eat half of mine, and I was so hungry), and then found ourselves back in the van. The ride home was silent. When we got out at the Elizabethtown bakery to get coffees and stretch Daniel came over to me.

“It’s a weird part of the journey,” he said, “isn’t it?”

It sure is. I had only known these people for four short days, and even now I didn’t really know them, and yet we had all shared a unique experience with each other. The Tarkine had met something different to each of us, and what we took from the Tarkine would be different, but across all of our individualities lay a universal emotion for the place, an indescribable connection.

On the way home Trevor played Tom Waits and Modest Mouse (below, for you to sample). 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTAud5O7Qqk 

And one by one our little party disbanded in reverse, until it was just me, Penny, Gerry and Kate, Trevor, Daniel, and Phun bound for Hobart. The moment we unloaded my luggage I was incredulous it was over. Such is time.

The rest of the trip is mundane. I ate more fish and chips, I walked the city, I wrote postcards, and then I boarded a delayed plane (of course) and flew home to Adelaide, where I found a dirty kitchen and scrambled room from my frantic departure. I sighed. Real life is very disenchanting sometimes.

The next day I went to work.

I can’t tell you how thankful I am I had the opportunity to go to the Tarkine. Sometimes in the wondrous moments of life (and I’ve had so many lately) I stand and feel bewildered that not only are all the good decisions I’ve made, all the good things I’ve done, and all the good people I’ve met part of the reason I’m there, but that the sad things that have happened are just as much part of the reason that I made it there.

Not that my life is a story of tragedy by any means, but I think the important thing that I’m trying to say is, when you find some incredible moment in the world, as long as you’ve tried to make it to that moment, as long as you’ve done your best, as long as it’s all in good faith– the mistakes are forgiven, the sad things fade, and reward will come– and it won’t be what you planned, probably, but it’ll likely be even better, and maybe you won’t have any idea what it will look like or what you’re searching for, but it will find you as long as you don’t give up on searching for it.

If you had told me, one year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, that I would stand in the Tarkine in Tasmania, Australia and have a quiet moment amongst the trees I would have thought that was a little far out there, extremely unlikely, just a fantasy or a dream that I’d never fantasized or dreamed of yet.

But I was there. 

And it was a miracle. Life is a miracle.

 

 

 

Mid-Semester Break Part IV

So we trek up the hill to camp from where we park the van, and it’s not too far although it is uphill, and I immediately realize proper hiking boots were needed for this. I’m just in my Brooks PureConnect runners, and they’re great shoes, but not waterproof and not stable and not high enough up my ankle and as if that weren’t enough, they are not built with the traction for this slippery, slippery terrain.

The leaves are wet. The ground is wet. The moss is wet. The stones are wet.

The whole place is just as slick as can be. Therefore, I have to carefully pick my way up the hill behind Trevor, and move in a princess-like way to place my footing. My backpack, bless it’s backpack-soul, is incredibly comfortable and fits me perfectly. No troubles there.

Actually, my backpack and my rain coat are the only two pieces of equipment I own that are fitting for this trip. While I wear star-patterned Nike spandex up the hill, my counterparts are in Columbia water-proof khakis. While everyone else puts their Tevas and Chacos on to cross the stream, I go barefoot. While the others wear thermal fleeces, I have a sweatshirt that says New Zealand on it underneath my rain coat.

But hey, it was inconvenient, but totally do-able and it just goes to show you don’t need to spend a fortune to survive the wilderness, although it certainly makes things easier.

When we make it to camp, I’m pleasantly surprised by how nice the kitchen/common area is, and equally disappointed in the “shower” facilities, which equates to a bucket you pour over your head while standing naked on the side of the hill. Needless to say I didn’t shower. The common area is a long sort of covered picnic area that overlooks a steep decline in the side of the forest, an insignificant gully as Trevor would say, and there is a huge wood-burning fire stove in the middle.

Daniel designates me as fire warden for the trip, which consists of me putting logs on when I feel like it, but that is soon taken over by the always-eager Gerry, who also always knows more than you. Nice guy, annoying spewer of facts and corrections and irrelevant self-importance. 

Anyway, I get to share a tent with Penny. The tents are really nice and dry and snug. You get a cot and a pillow, but I pry could have slept standing up in the pouring rain at night because I was so tired from being active outside all day. (In the best way!) There is shockingly useful stump outside each tent which we used to put our toothbrushes and contact stuff on. It was covered by a little porch tent thing (technical term).

Penny was very quiet. She had just graduated from the University of Tasmania with a degree in conservation rangeland management or something like that, and the owner of Tarkine Trails had “shouted” (Australian for given) her a trip in thanks of her volunteer efforts at Greg’s other business, Bonorong wildlife center. Greg, the owner, was Young Australian of the Year a few years back. He’s twenty-eight now, turned a bankrupt Bonorong wildlife center into a booming business, and rescued Tarkine Trails from financial ruin recently. Tarkine Trails doesn’t make any money, Trevor told us. Not enough business. 

This seems as good a time as any to talk about Tarkine Trails and the forest’s current challenges.

In short, the Tarkine, the world’s second largest tract of continuous cool temperate rain forest, is under heavy threat of being damaged and lost to the mining industry. Tasmania was formed from volcanic expulsions, and due in part to this, the minerals on the island are spread shallow and wide. Tasmania is a mineral-rich place.

Because the minerals can only be gathered from open-cut wide and shallow mining, retrieving the resources requires the destruction of the land, of the trees, of the forest. As China and India grow, they want resources. They want wealth. They want all the things the US and the UK and Australia have had in their unsustainable lifestyles of consumption and consumerism for years. The production of electronics, of cars, of building materials, of plastics, and of basically everything you buy that’s a durable good requires resources to be extracted from the Earth in sometimes brutal, dangerous, and heartbreaking ways. More on that later.

Anyway, the life of an open-cut, shallow mine in the Tarkine might last 10 years. And then the workers will pack up, move on, and open a new wound to get their next paychecks, leaving the Tarkine with irreparable damage and in a sorry state of loss.

Many people in the world understand the Tarkine’s ecological importance– it’s the remnants of what Antarctica’s plant life looked like millions of years ago. The Tarkine is a pristine natural place undesecrated by the human touch of greed and want– it’s important to Tasmania’s unique species of flora and fauna to keep the place safe. It’s sacred.

And yet the real trouble is within Tasmania itself. Unfortunately, nearly half of Northern Tasmania is not literate enough to prepare a legal document. As in, these people cannot write a will, and it’s due to a failing of the Australian government to supply decent educational opportunities to the people there. 

There is an attitude where parents say to their kids, “Well I didn’t need school, I made a good life without an education, what do you want to get an education for? Think you’re better than me?”

It’s very sad. It’s a place that relies solely on heavy industry like mining and forestry for employment. The communities understand that money flows into Tasmania when industry arrives, even when it’s foreign-owned and employed companies. And that’s the language they speak.

Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, says Australia is “Open for Business.” It’s an invitation to places like China and India to bring their check books and come on in and exploit the natural resources of the country. And that’s not being negative towards China– countless other countries have exploited natural resources, it’s just an era where the population and wealth of China is demanding more stuff, and it’s constraining the resources already vied for by Western countries.

Anyway, mining operations have already been scheduled and are about to be up and running in the Tarkine. In the next twelve months the place will change.

Twelve months.

It makes you feel like a little mouse knowing how bad, how awful it’s going to be on this environment and just not being able to do a damn thing to halt the whole thing.

Money talks. Or rather, money comes in and destroys the things that could enrich you for free.

Sigh. Anyway, Greg bought Tarkine Trails to try and turn it into something that might showcase an alternative economy to the Tarkine. As opposed to ruining the land for a few years and hauling out some iron ore or whatever, the Tarkine could sustainably be a tourist attraction that brings internationals and their money in to stimulate the Tasmanian economy.

It would reasonably cost the government of Tasmania MORE to put the infrastructure of roads and bridges and railroad tracks for the mining companies than the worth of the minerals in the forest. Seriously. In a business sense, it would make more sense for the government of Tasmania to protect the forest and make money off people coming to see it for years and years and years to come, but instead, in looking to make a quick buck, they’ve shown a willingness to destroy the whole place for foreign companies just passing through.

But as we all know, across borders, there is no talking sense to governments or politicians.

It is my personal belief that the Tarkine ought to be protected from any attempts to profit from it. It should be a memorial to the Tarkinia peoples who passed through it for forty thousand years before being horrifically extinguished by Europeans upon their arrival. And when I say horrifically, I mean look it up and be horrified. I don’t want to talk about how mistreated and abused and terrorized these people were.

And yet the history books and our culture passes over the tragedy of the Tarkinia. I won’t start comparing tragedies, but for all the war memorials of the fallen whites in the world, for all the history on this persecuted religion or that, this political opposition or that, somehow there isn’t a memorial anywhere for the Tarkinia. Their lands are all that’s left and those are slipping away, too. 

But while the idea that the Tarkine could remain untouched in remembrance of the stewards of the land forever is just foolish. It’s not in our society to do things like that at all, so the best path to take is to try and protect it and build an economy of tourism.

Greg runs Tarkine Trails in hopes of showing that there are patrons, there is money to be made from the Tarkine, that it is a viable business plan.

I’m glad I could be a part of that.

Anyway that was huge tangent, but a necessary one. So Penny volunteered at Bonorong and came on the trip. The first night we had some pasta for dinner, and Trevor, for all his last-century seafaring looks and sturdy composure, turned out to be a five-star chef. It was delicious.

There was a running joke the whole trip about how comprehensive guide school must have been, because Trevor and Daniel were both phenomenal cooks, Daniel was a dedicated photographer who laid sideways on a hill to get the best shot of our group, Trevor knew his geography and history and statistics and horticulture and all sorts of thing like you wouldn’t believe, and both were just the fittest people you’ve ever had the challenge of walking with. 

They could bandage you up, bake you a cake, haul you up a mountain on their back, brew beer, and weave a condo out of tree ferns without breaking a sweat.

That first night we sat around the fire, and I knew it was going to be a great trip. Jeff was just a riot, telling us how he got kicked out of Melbourne University, explaining the virtues of different woods, and telling us about his trip to China with his daughter Jess. Gerry told us how much marijuana he smoked. Kind of unnecessary, but whatever. Brett and Maureen told of their trip to Nepal, and Phun told us how she’d climbed Cradle Mountain two days prior.

It was just a great time, drinking cider and sitting around the fire. 

The next morning we got up and ate a leisurely pancake breakfast, had a lesson in the issues facing the Tarkine, looked at some maps, and started on our way to Tiger Ridge. We at lunch on the trail, wraps we had packed back at camp, and then some of us (me included) continued on with Daniel for the most challenging walk up tiger ridge, while the others returned with Trevor to camp.

It was definitely a hard walk because of how slippery and obstacle-filled and graded the slope was. We crossed over many huge fallen logs. I cannot say enough how impressive Maureen was on the walk. 

The floor of the Tarkine is called Duff. It is actually the most sustainable sort of walking cover you can have, because it’s very springy and soft. There is no impact on your joints from walking on duff. My young knees will get to feeling a little unhappy if I run on city concrete or stone too far, and many of the older people on the trip had bad knees or whatever, but you can walk on the Tarkine duff for hours and hours without having your joints put in a bad way. Trevor himself admitted to being unable to walk on stone or hard ground for very long, and yet in the Tarkine he could walk for twelve hours and be fine.

Duff happens because the tree roots are so intertwined and connected, and moss and fallen leaves and dead lichens fill in the gaps over thousands of years to create this lace of green, springy duff. It’s unbelievable.

The view from the middle of Tiger Ridge was beautiful. Emerging from the thick of the forest to see the horizon is breathtaking. The hills looked so blue, and my camera couldn’t capture how spectacular the view was. I said “Wow” out loud and involuntarily. It just escaped!

After eating some chocolate and nuts on the ridge, we turned back to go home, and our little party walked in silence through the big trees once again. 

I will freely admit I am terribly out of shape. The walk back was hard. Downhill, if anything, is worse than uphill, because on a slippery surface it takes so much more control to keep you and all of your weight from going into a uncontrolled hill-tumble. I fell on the way home, just like I’d stepped on a banana peel in a cartoon, and it makes you laugh, the silly feeling of falling, but it’s oh-so-hard to play off casually. You just landed on your duff on the duff.

And everyone is like OHMYGOD AREYOUOKAY?!

I mumbled yep! great! fine! And got up quickly (a mistake on slippery surfaces) and skidded again. Daniel was highly amused. Phun fell too, so that made me feel better. Maybe it was a charity fall so I didn’t feel alone in my clumsiness, but I was pretty grateful to her because I felt so silly falling. We all laughed.

When we returned to camp we drank more tea and laughed and ate cheese and crackers and dried figs until dinner. I think we had lamb and rice or something like that. It’s hard to remember now which day we ate what.

After dinner each night we ate brownies, or baked pears in raspberry sauce. Then we went around the table, and the first night we told why we were there, and the second night we shared something we liked about that day, and the third day we talked about what we’d gotten from the trip and where we’d go from there.

We all got headlamps to go back to our tents at night, but let me tell you something about forest darkness; it is a black for which there is no pigment, no paint, no representation in our manufactured world. The headlamp was powerful, but it barely cut the dense darkness of the forest and it took absolute concentration for me to get back to the tent without falling or passing the tent.

But upon my successful return to the tent each night I put on my hat, pulled up both my hoods, and slept in my rain jacket in my sleeping bag. Goretex traps heat marvellously well, which is not so marvellous on uphill walks, but is completely marvellous at bedtime in the cold Tarkine. I always slept with my camera battery with me– heat preserves the battery while cold saps it. Sleeping with my battery made me feel like I was on a true expedition, hacking it in the wild, haha.

The third day we went to the Huskerson (sp?) River and Trevor cooked us some kind of Indian stir fry which was scrumptious, per usual. It rained on the river that day, and the drops on the water were so perfect and gentle. The forest is at it’s best when it’s raining, and though my feet were wet and cold on the third day, my eyes have never drank richer scenes. The spread of foliage before us was awake and full of vitality. The forest was silent as always, but thrumming with life. 

To be continued 🙂

 

 

Mid-Semester Break Part III

And then I went into the Tarkine.

Tarkine Trails picked me up from my hostel at 5 a.m. in a twelve passenger van with a luggage trailer. Two guides helped me load my luggage, Daniel, who looked to be about 25 or 26, and Trevor, who seemed like he might be fifty. Trevor was a great big strapping bald guy who looked for all the world as though he belonged as the captain of a ship. Daniel had a big wide smile but was very quiet and always walked with his hands in his pockets.

Penny was already in the van. I couldn’t really see because it was still dark out, but I thought she was around 27 or 28, and she told me she was from Tasmania. That really surprised me, I thought, like all things tours, it would be all internationals, mostly German and Asian. Trevor immediately asked me how I’d heard about the tour. I was surprised at that too, and I told him I’d just googled walks in Tasmania and this was the one I chose. 

Next we picked up Gerry and Kate. Gerry was American, from Detroit thirty years ago, but a Tasmanian since he’d married Kate. They lived in Hobart too. Gerry was 63, Kate was 57. I was starting to think this might not be like all the other tours I’d done.

Then we picked up Phun. She was Malaysian but living in Papua New Guinea, and only on the tour because another tour had cancelled on her, apparently. She was the light of our little party, always happy and laughing, and she spoke excellent, excellent English.

David had a cultivated British accent. He came on board in the same town Phun did. We had been driving about three hours when we picked them up. He worked for the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and, as I’d come to learn later, was the typical patron for this tour: a mainlander Australian fed up with having his life run by others, far removed from nature, controlled by his job and money and city. Anyway he was educated, you could tell as soon as he spoke that it was going to be something well-articulated and true. I constantly felt the urge to say “here, here” when he said something.

Ah, Jeff. Jeff has a special place in my memory, forever. He was a quintessential explorer, a little scattered, very good-natured, a mischievous glint in his eye when he said something cheeky, and just completely forgetful and all over the place. He wore a knitted cap with ear flaps the whole trip, but his head got hot, he told me, and so it was perpetually pulled up so it just barely stayed on his head and poofed up a little haphazardly. He also frequently wore it backwards so the ear flaps would be like blinders near his eyes. What a character!

Brett and Maureen were picturesque grandparents, soft-spoken, friendly, genuine, and just lovely people. They were the oldest on the trip I think. Everyone (except me, Penny, and Daniel) was between 57 and 70. Maureen didn’t look it, but she was shockingly fit, and never once said she was tired or anything, even when we’d trek over big logs or go up steep hills or have to cross streams and such. 

I mean, my legs were BURNING at times, and Maureen was just trucking along fine. Sometimes she’d have to stop to catch her breath, but I cannot express how much sincere respect I have for this woman. She was just a jewel.

And that was all of us in the bus! Before I got to know these people I was a little caught off guard, I expected this little excursion to be full of outdoorsy young hikers. Not so, and as a result I wasn’t sure how the trip would go for me.

The Tarkine is a utopia.

The air is cool and refreshing, carrying life-begetting water in every breeze, in every breath. The crispness that flows down and fills up your lungs and wakes up your eyes and makes your skin tingle is so edged with being awake and being alive. I stepped out of the van and just breathed. Just drank the air. 

You don’t know you’re dead until you can come alive somewhere.

We packed our backpacks and waterproofed everything by stuffing it in plastic bags, and then we tightened our straps and straightened our backs to enter onto the track. 

Green sunlight streamed through the overhead canopy, sparkling as it hit on leafy dew drops, illuminating patches of fungi, and punctuating the silence of the trees with a golden aura. And the trees, the trees are so quiet, so wise, so sturdy and reliable in their skyward reach. There is something steadfast and anchoring about a big towering Eucalyptus, five hundred years old and fifty times your height. That tree watched the hunter-gatherers of the Tarkinia people trace through the forest, stealing through time, before Europeans ever landed here, before the Tarkinia were wiped from the face of the earth by guns and steel and hard-hearted men, ignorant.

That tree was quietly standing there as the Revolutionary muskets sounded across the ocean, as the Civil War cannons fired on young men, as World War I ravaged families, as the bombs of World War II were dropped, as the Twin Towers fell. 

It is a good reminder that not only are you, a human, just a speck in the race of humans across the world, across the great cities, the country sides, and the towns, but you are a just a tiny particle floating in the wider natural world, and in all that, you are an infinitesimally small blink in time.

Immediately I submitted myself to this place.

I am nothing. I am young. I am weak. I am foolish.

And once you get that straightened out with yourself you feel a lot better. I have to say, I have never felt more in my place than standing amongst the forest trees. This place was magnificent, teeming with life like the waters of the ocean, and just as brilliant and vivid and varied. You want to be a part of nature after standing there. You feel amazed and humbled to be a of a variety connected to all that life.

We spend our whole lives as great societies trying to distance ourselves from the natural world through technology, and by building great metropolises. We have been trying to achieve the utmost distance from nature, ever, since always. And by we I mean white European people. The Tarkinia lived with the land for forty thousand years.

Gerry said on our trip, there was a book he read about a poet that was exiled and met a wolf-boy. The poet looked at the skies when they grew dark and said to himself, “It is raining,” but observed that the boy, standing there beside him was thinking, “I am raining.”

That absolute one-ness with nature is what is happening in this forest. You feel a part of it somehow. We talk about ecological systems and biodiversity and such as if we are removed, as if we are above it, beyond it, somehow better than it. But to be a part of the Tarkine would be the biggest honour I think. 

Someone else, David I think, said there was a Jewish philosopher who reasoned that if God is perfect, and nature is perfect, then nature is God. And I cannot think of a single flaw with that line of thought, because I felt more inclined to throw myself at the feet of the trees and cry for the bad things that have happened in the world and all the hurt than I have ever felt like doing in a city church made of bricks and mortar and steel and white paint.

The trees die and fall over, silent until the end, when they crash over and you can feel the ground shake, their only farewell before starting a new journey as a life source for stunning arrays of lichens, fungi, and mosses. The logs are cloaked in colour, graceful in their graves, content to go back to the Earth and come back anew in a thousand different ways.

I would like to die like that. We fear death, we dread death, and death is a sad thing in the way that it takes people we love and cherish. I don’t want anybody I love to ever die. But I know when I die I want to die like those trees, happy to return from whence I came and come back anew in the petals of a flower, in the soft tendrils of moss, or in the rough bark of a great Myrtle. 

Some people don’t believe in incarnation in the sense that your soul or mind will come back as someone else, and I can’t comment on that because I know nothing of it, but I actually thrill at the thought of turning into a beautiful flower, forever part of the earth in some way as I’m passed on from life to life to life. Nature is just pure limitless potential.

Anyway, I can’t commit enough words to describe how beautiful the forest was, I really can’t. It was graceful, it was timeless, it was unreal and ethereal all at once. 

Tomorrow I’ll post about the trip itself and what an education the whole thing was. 🙂

Goodnight!

Mid Semester Break Cont.

I did eventually make it to Hobart. 

Hobart reminds me of Fort Collins. It has a lot of art, a lot of micro-breweries, and a good sense of community. It struck me as much more laid-back and easy-going as compared to Adelaide, where it seems you cannot hustle or bustle fast enough.People are always trying to out-hustle and out-bustle each other 🙂

The first day I checked in to the YHA and then went around and toured a few galleries and ate some soup by the docks. It sounds boring but it was just what I needed. Once you get exhausted, it’s so hard to catch back up. I sincerely feel I haven’t been well-rested since I left my farm when I was eighteen. But anyway.

I loved the art. There was an artist named Peter Burroughs, and his stuff was amazing. He mostly did oil paintings of the city and wharves and piers. Some art just speaks to you, and I certainly felt instantly drawn to his. The great thing was, I got to meet him! He looked a lot like Albert Einstein and was just as cheerful as could be.

Over the next few days in Hobart I went to Daci and Daci, a famous, unbelievably masterful bakery, just totally undeserving of the title bakery, because it’s so much more than that. I hated to eat the treats I bought there because they were so artistic and pretty! I also wandered over to Sandy Bay beach, I went to more galleries, I went to Salamanca Place quite often, and I took a lot of long walks.

Hobart is an amazing city to wander because the history of the place is so extensive, horrible, and fascinating. It was the second convict settlement in Australia, and also the largest. 70,000 convicts were shipped to tiny Tasmania in the early 1800s by the British. I bought a really good book called “For the Term of his Natural Life,” and it was written in like the 1830s or something and is a totally fictionalized and sensationalized account of convict life in Port Arthur, very near Hobart. I loved it. 

I also went to MONA, which if you are ever in Hobart, definitely do that. MONA is a huge private museum. I’m not really into modern, weird, abstract, avant garde type art so I wasn’t sure I was going to like MONA, but it was great. It provided a very thoughtful day for me. Many of the exhibitions were a sort of commentary on life and society, and it was just truly educational to go there. It’s also massive and underground.

On my last night I ate Flipper’s fish and chips, which is nothing like you’ve ever imagined fish and chips to be. The fried coating is really light and crunchy and hot, so it’s not like fried chicken or something where you feel like there’s just as much breading as meat! And squeezed lemon over it? I think that’s the best food I’ve eaten traveling! 

On my last day in Hobart I volunteered with Conservation Volunteers Australia and we went out to Port Puer, which is across from Port Arthur, and cleared off brush and weeds and bramble from the ruins of one of the buildings. Surveyors and/or archeaelogists are supposed to come and and look at the place soon. It was really strange to think about what had happened in that place 200 years ago, who might have been there, what they might have done on any given day. 

The convict history of the Tasmania is a little eerie in a way, and it’s sad, too. Many of the convicts were convicts because they stole bread, or a warm coat, or something that they desperately needed. At the drop of a hat you could be transported, and some of the kids were as young as six years old!

On the way back from the site, our team leader stopped at a place called Remarkable Cave, which was maybe the most beautiful place I’ve been. It was so unassuming. New Zealand was beautiful, but it’s chock full of tourists and is very commercialized, whereas Tasmania is just wild, and quiet. You truly feel like you’re on the edge of the world.

The cave was a big yawning tunnel that led on to a beach where surfers were catching some big waves. These weren’t just any old surfers, either! They were really good, and it was fun to watch. The place itself was just beautiful, and quiet.

And that was my time in Hobart.