Pedalling the Elements


The earth, this ground
Earth where you brought up
This earth he grow you.
Big Bill Neidjie – Kakadu elder

I’m so frustrated with myself I swear out loud! Halfway from Sydney to Byron Bay and I’ve broken it for sure. What was I thinking? Where was my mind?

After packing up camp this morning my bike ride started with twenty kilometres of rough, corrugated, sandy, dirt road which took all my concentration. Once on the bitumen I relaxed, caught my front wheel on a verge and over I went, hard onto the road and onto my wrist which is now twice its size, maroon and purple, and swelling down my hand and out through the creases of skin on the back of my knuckles.

At dusk at the end of a sizzling hot day I sit in the dirt, the same dirt which contorted my mind earlier. My wrist throbs like a bastard. I pound my good hand onto the hard ground beside me and cry quietly at my pain and predicament. After falling off I rode another one-hundred kilometres – in denial probably, just a sprain – and in my bedraggled state now, I contemplate what I should do next. Can I finish this ride? Should I go to hospital? I’m on a strange, sordid, emotional high.

The tingles begin to ease in my ear-holes and down the base of my spine, the voices in my head start talking to me in softer tones as my bum flattens and moulds to the cool earth beneath. I feel calmness wash over and something say: “Don’t rush Blair, relax, you are alive”.

I lie down and look up through the tea trees in search of some more quietness, and listen to my breathing.

I shut my eyes. The gritty ground reaches out with its knowing arms and embraces my tired tortured self. I’m a puddle in the dust. I dig my fingers into the sand as if I’m a tree taking root. My body submerges into a feeling of consciousness and awareness, temporarily freeing me of the pain in my wrist.

I am everywhere and nowhere; moving and still; organic and artificial; microscopic and massive; growing and dying. I submerge into a subterranean place with a cycle of life so complex, mysterious and diverse, I totally forget about my breathing. Everything else can wait a while – I am in the present and for now this will more than do, thanks.

About Blair Paterson

Blair grew up and lives in Sydney’s Inner West. He first realised a love of nature and the outdoors during weekends and holidays with his family on the Hawkesbury River. From humble childhood pastimes building billycarts and tree houses to spending large chunks of time in the bush, Blair now embarks on outdoor pursuits whenever and however possible – by foot, kayak, bicycle or other. He has worked in Environmental Management and currently Outdoor Education. Some of his fondest travels to date have been around Australia and through the Indian Himalayas.
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