It’s day 11 of a 4-month road trip and we have been slowly meandering our way north, enjoying endless sunrises and sunsets over the beautiful beaches of Bagara, Agnes Water and 1770. Learning to make home in the great outdoors – with all the blessings and challenges that it brings.
The slowness has been welcome, a relief from an otherwise manic life of work, household responsibilities…life. The road and outside living invite this slowness, a depth of observation and connection to the natural cycles – sun, moon, tides, birds. So much has been explored and discovered. So many new beings met through this broader exposure to life and all its elements. It’s a wonderful decolonising from convenience which also feels (mostly) welcome.
And now, here we are in Middlemount, Barada Barna and Barada Kabalbara Yetimarala country, approximately 300kms west of Mackay. As Peter delivers one of many Community Development workshops to local council and community workers, I have a day to rest, explore, reflect, reset. I sit atop ‘Middle Mountain’ a hill that overlooks the small township and I observe the vast open landscapes stretching right out to the horizon covered in large pockets of acacia and eucalypt. And in the middle of it all sits the big dirty coal mine that the town is created for – intermittent explosions blast through the landscape and huge grey clouds pollute the sky. I suspect the explosions are common as even the birds don’t seem to notice the sounds of the earth been torn apart.
It's hard to not feel equally moved – by this big open powerful country and devastated by the way in which we humans pillage from it, with no regard, no reciprocity – land and everything on it seen as merely a resource for consumption.
And the despair sinks deep for I know that while I don’t cut into or explode the land with my hands, still I am implicated – for don’t I enjoy the benefits this very coal offers? Energy, transportation, gadgets and goods?
But there is nothing good about it – not for my soul or for the soul of this dear earth. What is one to do? What is the way out? My privilege means I can outsource the dirty explosive work to others – but this in no way makes me any less culpable – perhaps it makes me even more so. I know better, but do I do better to reduce my reliance on fossil fuels? I try, but really is it ever enough?
This town is made possible only by this very mine – owned by a big multinational – all services and supplies ultimately serves the mine and its minions. It is unsurprisingly a town made up of mostly men, the standard uniform high-vis work gear – a sea of bright orange and yellow everywhere you go. Last night as I sat and awaited my meal at the local popular restaurant – I observed a room filled with bright orange and yellow clothes, heads down in phones, waiting for the takeaway orders – perhaps a necessary reward after a gruelling day and a needed disconnection from people and reality. No connection or community – at least not in the evening – at least not what I witnessed. Perhaps the Tavern was a different story…
And yet community is filled with paradox, and here the people are also helpful – country folk usually are in my experience. Open, warm and friendly. It’s something I love about remote places. Without the plethora of modern conveniences, consumer goods and distractions, people connect to each other and welcome us visitor folk with all sorts of helpful information and great stories.
The town is simple and charming, a small 'square' made up of a playground and coffee shop seats centres in the middle of a rectangle of simple
shops. The Australian equivalent of an Italian piazza (functional, but with much less soul). The town is surrounded by bushland and miles of walking tracks with little tin covered gym equipment along the way. I walk and run noticing and greeting all the new birds that I wish I knew the names of. Kangaroos enjoy the beautiful native grasses that softly shimmer golden in the morning sunlight, and two even hop down the main street as I run on by.
An iconic Aussie moment that I am grateful to witness.
Tomorrow, we head into the rainforests of Eungella National Park, an opportunity to disconnect even further and I for one will be thankful to be sleeping again under the stars way up high in my roof top tent.
Onwards with love, Rachael