My father is 74 years old and has become a bit of an internet sensation. And rightly so, for he is currently riding a pushbike from Freemantle, Western Australia to Sydney via Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road in an unsupported ultra road race called the Indian Pacific Wheel Race. A 5,500km odyssey to test even the youngest and fittest bucks.
To give my international friends some context that’s the equivalent of pedaling your way from somewhere offshore in the Bay of Biscal, across France, to somewhere in the Black Sea past Romania – via Bosnia, Macedonia AND Bulgaria. OR, roughly 2000 kilometres more than the Tour de France. He camps on the open arid plains, picks up meat pies for nutrition along the way (and a chocolate milk for the daily halfway mark) and rolls on. You can follow him on Facebook at Back Road Bicycle Adventures. This is my interpretation of one of his many photographs from the ride.
I told a friend about it yesterday and he replied “That’s mental”. After a few moments staring in to space, envisioning the feat, he said, “like fully PROPER mental”. You would probably agree, but I know better. I know he is out there with my sister. She is in his heart and if he closes his eyes she is there next to him. They rode together, she is from where the wild things are. She lives now in the rustle of breeze through trees, the warmth of the sun on your face, mountain views, star filled silent night skies, in streams and in waterfalls. This is why I camp so often, climb hills, splash through lakes and fall into waterfalls. This is why a 74 year old man is riding his bike 5,500km around the bottom of this beautiful land. To have his daughter by his side again, the wind at their back as they ride in to the setting sun. If your daughter’s spirit lived on the open road, and for just a moment, death did not stand between you – wouldn’t you want to be out there too?
It is not mental, it is love.
The Australia I know is green and brown as far as the eye can see. I was mesmerised by the alternate landscapes in Europe. Huge hills of reds, golds and yellow. The majesty of Alps. We have a thing called Alps, it is but an ant hill in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, Australia is beautiful. It’s just that I grew up here, in the country, so I barely notice it anymore. I often change the tones when I edit my photography – blasphemous!
Most of us live in the brown and green bits. Less of us live in the biggest bit in the middle – desert and Outback, red dirt and sands, dingoes and giant red kangaroos, feral camels and pigs. It covers 70%-ish (nobody really knows) of this continent and contains less than 10% of our population. That’s a lot of space. Enough for a single cattle ranch that is bigger than the odd European country or two, the worlds longest fence (to keep the dingoes out), longest stretch of straight road, and straight railway line. Skies so vast and clear that you can see up to 5,500 stars (I’m not sure who counted them).
All of the life decisions I am making right now are about seeing the big bit in the middle. Hitting the road in a 4WD camper and heading in to the Never Never. It takes some planning and preparation – she is unforgiving of fools.
My thoughts have been turning a great detail lately to where home is. In these musings and ponderings I have come to the conclusion that the home my heart feels is irrelevant to its bricks and mortar location.
The places I live are where my son and I move in circles with around each other within comfortable silence. The place there is no need to constantly validate the strength of our relationship through incessant speech. I am never as silent, and as peaceful in silence, as when I am with my boy. It is having a house that others use as sanctuary – a place they are drawn to when trouble strikes. It is preparing them food, hugging them, and telling them that it will be OK even when I’m not entirely sure it will be. It is the friends I visit when the same trouble strikes me, and the people who hold me, feed me and tell me it will be OK, even when they’re not sure it will be.
Home, I am beginning to understand, is the people I love who love me back so fiercely that I have moments when tears well and flow over in gratitude.
Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories”~ Zadie Smith, White Teeth
I have no interest in your opinion of the weather, or traffic. Sure, tell me the outside story – but only for context. What I want to know about is the inside story.
Is your heart still broken, or is it patched back together by love? Does it have a scar that runs across its width and breadth that will never fully heal – or have you found a way to live again?
I want to know what lights you up. There is no greater joy than to watch a person ignite from the inside. What lights them is less relevant than the warmth that radiates outward as they speak. There is no greater beauty than watching a person’s laugh lines etch across the corners of their eyes as their lips turn upward in to a smile.
I want to know what leaves you under the covers unable to move for fear that a single step more will break you for good. There is no greater honour than being handed another’s grief. I am interested in your humility, not your humiliation. If you hand me your heart I will hold it with care. Tenderly, so as not to do any further damage. I want to know what is behind what I can see, the beauty that lurks.
I’ve just never been much for small talk