I began to realise something while wading in the middle of the lake. Looking around to see that it was at least an hours swim in any direction. I was pretty confident I wouldn’t drown but the sun was already kissing the horizon and it was cold. I must admit I started to panic. I tried to get my kayak seaworthy again. Old busted seals had allowed water in from the onslaught of unusually large waves driven by the cold winter wind. A trip I’ve done half a dozen times with no incident but this time it was different. I scooped out the water but with each wave the water returned twice as fast as I could replace it. I gave up. I accepted the situation. I laid on my back and prayed. Apart from my circumstance, as I looked around, it was astoundingly beautiful. I was there to escape. I was reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau again. Inspired by his words, “…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…” I realised there on the lake that this was exactly what I had come to experience… just wetter and colder than what I would’ve preferred. I made my peace with God. I’ve been in many life and death situations and I’ve learnt that they go better when you bring peace into the thick of it.
“…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach… I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…” -Henry David Thoreau
I went on a quest to discover the world of coffee in the old town of Melbourne. I found so much more. It’s no secret that Melbourne is home to some of the world’s finest coffee but it has also birthed some of the greatest social enterprises on the planet. Great coffee is one thing but using coffee to make great changes is truly brilliant. Structuring an enterprise that yields both financial sustainability and lasting social outcomes is like acrobatics for business. It ain’t easy. I met with many social entrepreneurs and asked them how they do what they do. It was overwhelmingly satisfying.
The coffee scene in Melbourne is simply electric. My first thought was it’s so cold that coffee was not a matter of taste but a means of survival. Simply a hot water bottle for Melbournian hands. And perhaps the taste had simply evolved to make the hand warmers more palatable and in turn more frequently purchasable. I still think the cold contributes to the quantity of coffee sold. Even my cafe Cup From Above sells twice as much coffee in winter as it does in summer. But something else is happening in Melbourne…
There are cafes everywhere. Every hole in every wall has been puttied up with
a bearded man behind a steam wand dishing out decadent coffee. The rest of the ancient cracked wall has been plastered with band posters and graffiti. It was a visual smorgasboard… but it was more than that… It was delicious both to the eyes and the ears and the heart. Even the worst coffee & food tasted to my tongue better than most I’d had in Brisbane. I love my city. I mean Brisbane is great. It’s young and vibrant and we can hold our own on the world stage when it comes to coffee. Comparing isn’t kind. But my eyes & my heart were searching for gems that could be replicated and made our own in my corner of Brisbane.
What I found is that people really deeply lived there. Their city was theirs. No rich man had paid an artist to decorate his walls. The people coloured it that way because they love it. They love coffee…so their barista hand crafts them their coffee and all the effort is appreciated. It occurred to me that they weren’t going to the city merely to work. They were living their lives amongst it and so they made it beautiful. On every level. Walls didn’t exist to make offices for humans to get their work done in. They were canvasses of art that kept coffee drinkers from the cold between brews. I’m sure they all shuffled papers one way or another, or cleaned or sold things. But they did that merely to live around their friends, art, music, great food & coffee.
I went and stayed with all of my extended family in Melbourne. These are the greatest people I know on earth. They all live and love well. The cornerstone of every community should ideally be a loving & generous family. In this dark & treacherous world it is simply a lottery ticket to belong to a great family. I’m proud to hold one of those tickets.
“the truth is everybody is gonna hurt you, you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for”
That’s what I learnt these holidays. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey. You know who you are. 🙂