Backyard Ponder

Views From a Bike Ride North
I sit here in the backyard of a house is mine for 3 more weeks in a bikini and a hat that I traded for a hat this past weekend at a festival. The hat is approximately 3 sizes too small, but just big enough to fit over my long sand laden hair, salty from days spent in the ocean. The wind is blowing the water out of my drying laundry and threatening to blow the hat off my head. The sun is gloriously warm, taunting me with the hints of a sunburn. I am proud to say I haven’t been burnt yet down under, which comes as a surprise due to the impressive number of warnings I received before coming here. That being said, there is always today, and I haven’t applied my usual 3 rounds of sunscreen. 

Well. What is there to be said about living in a town, full of amazing people, with a cool job that pays a living wage and easy access to endless beaches? Should I start with how wonderful and strange it is to consider almost-strangers my closest friends? Or how I now give directions to places without pulling out the map to decipher it all? Or should I start with the fact that homesickness still exists, though it comes and goes like spring storms? There is so much and so little to say at the same time. 

The balance of work and play is forever in question as a working holidayer. The traveler in me wants to savor every second of every day with as many different kinds of people as possible, learning their stories and their lives with limitless amounts of “yes.'” I want to say yes to everything. I want to go to as many social events, as many national parks, as many beaches, and camp trips, and adventures as possible. I want to do it all, though the reality of time and money seem to always be singing melancholy tunes on my eyelids drooping from not enough sleep and too much sun. Something in me keeps going though. As a barista, I question whether my happiness comes from the world around me or the espresso inside me, and usually I just accept the happy synthesis of the two. Without my undeniable attraction and addiction to espresso, I would potentially be one of the least productive humans out here. I am forever amazed by its simple power.

Painting with Friends After Work

So, what am I doing here? I am an American girl with a college degree working as a barista in Wollongong Australia. Is there any order to the chaos? Do I doubt my decision to jump into something so huge with so little forethought? Sometimes. Honestly. It is not easy to not have answers to the questions everyone seems to want answers for. I wish I could paint a pretty little map with a timeline of my life. The current section would be titled “That time I went to Australia to live life for a while because I wasn’t ready to commit to adulthood.” Cause the truth is that I am not ready to sell myself to a 9-5 in an office or to additional schooling that I may need for “Whatever I am doing for the rest of my life.” I am happy to be in a country, quite honestly doing what I love while being immersed in one of the most wonderful communities I have come across to this day. 

You see, coffee for me has always been a way to connect. A warm cup of coffee in the morning is one of the simplest and kindest gestures you can do as a host or friend or lover. So, making coffee in a coffee shop is in a similar way giving people a space to slow down before they speed up into their days, and catch up with the people that matter. Even if those people are just themselves who need to sip on a warm drink in a comfortable arm chair. I enjoy the rush of caffeine-crazed individuals, and the precision of weighing out each espresso shot, and the madness of grouping orders with milk types and numbers of shots. I love watching the community move in around me, just detached enough to watch everything as though I am living out my own personal drama. I love the coffee culture and I don’t regret for a second being immersed in it. In a sense I am living out my degree too. 

Environmental studies is the awareness of the environment around us. Working in high quality coffee brings awareness to high quality ingredients and therefore the quality of care which went into the products that eventually enter our bodies. The care it takes to make each individual drink is nearly magic in itself, and that people are willing to wait the extra 5 minutes to get their orders shows the attitude of patience that is being cultivated through the understanding that things take time. Great things take time. Great coffee takes time. Healthy bodies, minds, and nature take time. Time takes time to heal and change and craft everything in its path. And as I take time to make the perfect coffee, I take time to let myself become whatever it is I will. No matter how winding the path, I trust that time will get me there. Even though it is scary not to know, I know I am learning all the while, and enjoying the ride the whole way. 

Beach cafe before the Bike Ride
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Flowering in OZ

Gum Tree Flowers
I believe in flowers. Perhaps more than anything else, I trust flowers to exist exactly as they should exist. I believe in color, and the sun, and the way the moon waxes and wanes and the patience involved in it all. Nothing beautiful happens instantaneously. Walking through the tropical rainforest of Queensland, Australia is a reminder of this. The ground is primarily made of clay as if it is trying to say “We have enough water here, we can’t handle any more.” While the trees grow to staggering heights, nearly touching the stars, the roots are the most impressive part of the puzzle to me. The earth is deprived of oxygen in these soils, yet every plant finds a way to exist and grow and compete for that last inch of sunlight slipping through the canopies. 

A week in the rainforest of Northern Australia could never be enough to uncover all of the mysteries mixed into the GREEN that perpetrates everything in sight. Leaves the size of my entire torso shoot up and drop down like umbrellas with ridged leaves to help maximize sunlight and minimize the chance of being weighed down by water. Years of change, of life and decay, of growing and falling and growing and growing. The strangling figs, slipping up the sides of ancient trees while twisting and turning and growing until they completely take over the other tree, enveloping it and consuming it until the tree dies, and all that is left is a labyrinth of the Fig tree that won.

A Strangling Fig Stands Where a Tree Used to…

All of this life and growth and abundant nature fills me up in a way I haven’t experienced for years back in the dry homeland of California. The entire four years I spent in the redwood RAINforest only consisted of 3-5 major rainstorms, and while the beautiful sunny weather is hard to complain about, the lack of rain had started to psychologically stunt me. I ached for water the way the earth did, and I didn’t fully realize this until I was standing under the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest listening to the rain pour down from the sky, yet I was barely touched by the drops. The trees literally drank the water, and every plant that grows through the levels of the canopy reaches out for their own sip. The forest is alive with sounds and smells and an energy so vibrant that it is impossible not to feel awe amidst it.

To be fair, it is never right to compare something. Though, I guess I didn’t really know how much I missed rain until I saw it every day in violent storms that would last for about 5 minutes and pass. The climate of Cairns was strangely nostalgic of long days sitting on my grandmothers back porch in Florida. The hot, heavy hair clings to your body and clothes and you cannot escape it. Yet, everyone embraces and accepts it. It is like a never ending hug from the sky. The trip was the apex of my vacation expenditures in Australia. I figure getting the holiday part of my work holiday visa out of the way is a safe way to buckle down and experience the community of Wollongong. 

I have already landed 5 separate jobs, and have had to decline 3 of them as a Barista. It seems the tides are in my favor, and the gratitude I have for the people back home who have trained me and believed in me in the hospitality industry is immense. Though I don’t want to be a barista forever, I enjoy interacting with the community in this way. The two shops I have accepted remind me of home in the way the staff takes care of each other, and puts quality over quantity. Not to mention both shops being decorated with plants and wood. 

Though I would love to continue writing… The next subject breaches into the GReat Barrier reef which I will have to save for another time. Thank you for sharing my journey with me…

Yours,

Hannah

Climbing.

Gibraltar Rock, Santa Barbara

It takes gear, time, and friends to climb. Once the mountains start calling, they don’t stop, and when you learn the language of the rocks, you not only hear it’s whispers on warm summer breezes, but you feel it in the ache of your hands and body. It becomes a craving, an almost unhealthy addiction, and it is impossible to run. So you don’t.

Then you do, but all of the running is away from everything else deep into the home of the rocks. That is where you’ll find her. That wild woman that feels and reasons with equal gusto. And when you find her there with wild hair and a dangerously alive fire in her eyes, you’ll feel things that you’ve been afraid to. If you dare, she will let you, and she will hold your hand tenderly the whole time while pulling you deep into the heart of everything. 

Climbing is not exclusive. Despite popular belief, not all climbers are exquisitely fit and sleek Roman gods. Though, naturally, the field is full of such gods, every shape that a body climbs in can be found on the rocks. It is the puzzle solvers and challenge seekers and nature enthusiasts that inhabit these wilds. And I’m not saying everyone is good, heck, a lot of us aren’t, but at least we are out there. As climbers, as friends, as humans, we flee to the hills to slow down and unwind with babbling brooks and trees and birds. If we get exercise while we are out there, then it’s a bonus (you always do whether you realize it or not).

Remember that woman you found a few paragraphs ago? Yeah, she is still there, always there. She is anywhere you leave her or want to find her in the woods. She waits for you while you’re at work, eager to play again. She loves climbing because it takes everything in her to accomplish each climb. Her eyes, dancing up the moves barely before her hands. Her feet, seeking and finding each new step to push and lean and pull from. Her shoulders, tense and relaxed and strong. She has been waiting for you because she is the parts of you that are still wild. When you run out of breath, she pushes it back into you and takes you higher. She is the animal of your body that needs to move and love and explore. 

She climbs because she can because you can. If you doubt her, you doubt yourself and the parts of you that you have let wander away. When you see them floating in the little stream of your mind, bend down and take a look. What has come between you and them? What excuses do you make that keeps you from her? What stops you from climbing the mountains? And if climbing isn’t your dance, what is?

This is a blog about finding her, you and the dance of the two. Climbing is where I found her, and where I run to be with her. She, for me, is my true self that I lose sight of when I walk down the path of “shoulds and should nots.” And so this is for you too, as we find her and us and each other somewhere. After all, this is what it means to be human. 

Becoming.

 

Waves and Wanderings: Big Sur, CA

She found herself, alone again, by the ocean. The waves lapped at her feet, trying to pull her in and keep her out simultaneously. Her toes sent shivers up her spine, and she shook them out and she shook them out again as she reached up to the sun and ran into the water. She didn’t care that air slipped out of her. She didn’t care that for a moment, no one could see or hear her. She didn’t care about anything other than that moment of relief from everything else. As she emerged from the depths and blinked the salt from her eyes, she found a smile on her face. The surprise of the smile made her laugh; it had been a while.

Then the memories flooded back from their escape. She felt the weight of goodbye and the reality of loss. Him. Her and Him. She felt them and held them and when she was ready she set them in the ocean to float away. She kissed the anger and sadness and confusion into her hands and put them in the water. “Goodbye,” she whispered to the wind. Then she turned and walked out of the water and did the only thing she could do.

That night the ocean danced out of her eyes, onto her guitar, onto her bed. She let everything that needed to come, come and go when it was ready. Time happened for the next few days like this, allowing space for him to go and her to come back. She had been through the motions before. Luckily. And she planned to again.

It was a gentle transformation of untangling the person she let in from herself. She found there were some strands that weren’t quite hers anymore, and so she pulled them gently out into the pile she planned to shed. Once she had sorted through the keeps and dont’s, she wove a garden bed and planted seeds for the summer. She felt movement inside herself. An ember that had caught flame and started to burn. It was hers, and she had forgotten that she was responsible for it’s light. Another smile crept across her face, rooted in the flame, she was coming home.

The next month she found herself on mountain-tops and small streams. Coming back into her body felt as though someone was carrying her and showing her to all of the places she had known, but was learning again. As time passed, she slipped back into her body, first in the strength of her legs, then out to her fingertips, then into her stomach and chest and heart, and finally her head. She fit perfectly into herself and wondered where she had been the whole time.

The novelty of being in her own skin again caused her to dance and stretch and feel everything for herself. She had been lost, blind-sighted by the magic of loving another, but found the feelings of the world were there for her too. She took a breath. And then another. Everything was alive. She was alive. It felt like magic.

The next breath, her deepest breath, filled her lungs with sweet coastal air and she stepped out of one story and into the next. She was home. She is woman.