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

Bones

Elk Bone, Montana
Skeleton. A frame work holding something together. The legs on a chair. My legs. Her legs. The legs of the buffalo, strong and sturdy. The stem of a flower, holding the colors up to the sun against gravity. Water flowing in a river bed. The bones in her head. Her head, an entire universe expanding on itself. The clash of past with present with future simultaneously. And stories… So many stories forming on the lips of the musicians on the stage and the limp in the store clerks gait and that fleeting glance of a stranger. She felt her own bones creak under the weight of her sadness and happiness. She was in flux and slipping down the rabbit hole as she opened to her own gifts. 

She had always wanted to be a writer. She had always been scared. She loved run on sentences, that had a million commas, and led into Infiniti because she didn’t like endings; they always meant something that was wouldn’t be. Like the animal of the bone that she held. A plate in the spine of a creature that moved and breathed and danced in the wind. And loved. Maybe this creature loved another creature. Or loved the way it felt when it ran over long hills and the river water splashed on its belly. She loved the way water held her when she lay back and floated off to anywhere in the world. I love the way that water holds me and makes me feel less like my bones and more like everything else. 

She spent her days trying to decipher what was her and what wasn’t and she realized that everything she experienced was her in what wasn’t. So finally, we decided to let them all run free. It was dangerous. The game of depicting the world around you in sounds and smells and sights and feelings all separately in order to piece them together again. Noticing things comes at the cost of awareness and awareness comes with responsibility. Once the bones become an animal, it is impossible to see the bones without them. Her meals had become hands. Hands that planted seeds and hands that harvested them and hands that moved them and cleaned the food and hands that bought it and the hands that cooked and cleaned. The hands that did all of this loved other hands too. Hands love other hands.

The human hand has twenty-seven bones. Fourteen of these are in the fingers. She clasped her hands together around the Elk bone to feel her own. “I am small,” she said to me as I peered into her eyes, watching her slip away into a million other words. We sat together in our bones, growing and decaying at equal rates. She drank a sip of water that slipped through her rib cage and danced through the rivers of her body. I left her there thinking. I could tell the bones were becoming her, and she needed space to fill in all of the words that clung to her own spine and kept her contained in one vessel. She has been fun to travel with. I have never seen the world in such a clear and cluttered way before. It is as if everything has new life again. I ask myself, “Is this what it is to be alone?” often, noticing it is the first time I have been for years. I am alone with her as we learn each other again. She is kind and confusing. She is still mad at me for ignoring her while I tried to play along with ways of seeing the world I didn’t understand, while she sat outside explaining everything in poetry behind a window. 

She always knew how to explain everything that no one else seemed to understand. I just didn’t know how to listen. I didn’t know how to bring her around my friends, though she always drank with us. 

She has known me all along. I feel her slipping back into my bones.