Bruce Highway near Caboolture. Monday, 7am
I have managed to get on the highway before the traffic has got too intense. There’s already a lot of cars moving south, but I’m trucking along smoothly.
I packed up my Woodford Folk Festival camp last night when the temperature dropped to almost comfortable. Still simmering above 30 degrees, after sunset I was able to able to fold chairs, dismantle cookers, recycle bottles, and pack grimy clothes without feeling faint. I wanted to hit the road early today to avoid the traffic and – this really inspired me to prompt packing – to enjoy the car’s air conditioning.
Bliss. I turn it up to full.
In my centre rear-view mirror I see only the little caravan. I love this van. It saved me from a slow bake in the Woodford oven. Constructed in Lismore in 1958 by students at the Lismore Technical College, its wooden roof (as opposed to, say, nylon) made my stay at the festival bearable. Otherwise, like the tent campers, when the sun popped like a fireball above the Glasshouse Mountains at 5am, I would’ve had to take refuge in a shady bar, listening to hot fiddle players and drinking cold beer. That ’s a dangerous coping tactic if you have to do a gig that night. (Though it seems standard practice for players of traditional Irish music.)
Woodford Folk Festival is a world of celebration. But sometimes it felt like a world happily celebrating while sailing too close to the sun. Like Icarus, the thrill of flying ever higher on the wings of mass consumption is melting the very fabric of our society.
The temperature range in which humans can survive is a narrow one. This is the biggest danger we face. Presidents and prime ministers may chuck around threats of monetary collapse if corporations aren’t subsidised; they may warn, with furrowed brows and fake concern, of lifestyle change if capitalism is constrained; but they don’t face the big issue. Flying high is addictive. And privilege clouds your judgement. (There are dark clouds on the horizon.)
I spent most daylight hours lying in a wet sarong on the bed in my caravan with a fan blowing directly onto me. (That sounds strange…) At least there was no shortage of solar power for the little van.
It was an enforced rest, an imposed meditation. The rest was good after the pre-Christmas busyness. And the meditation emptied my mind – except for occasional fantasies of hiking in the Swiss Alps, dogsledding across the last snows of Alaska, and living in a beer-carton igloo inside the Caboolture bottleshop coolroom.
Only when the sun set over the parched hill behind me, was I able to peel myself from the mattress, shower, put pants on, sweat, shower again, put drier pants on, and participate in the festival activities.
On the road, it’s easy to identify the vehicles that have been at Woodford Folk Festival. They’re covered in dust. (I couldn’t locate my car in the festival car park after seven days of festival. The Superman logo on the bonnet that helps me identify it from the many other silver Subarus – a car favoured by the alt-chic – was hidden under a thick layer of dust.) A sprinkle of rain near the Caboolture turn-off has merely added a streaky patina to the dusty duco.
The streaked Woodford cars, windows saronged against the sun, are filled with camping gear, sleeping kids and sunburnt people wearing soon-to-be-retired festival hats.
Yes, we have flown too close to the sun.
But ahead, across the eight lanes of shimmering bitumen, squats a storm cloud as dark as the science, as heavy as the news, as wet as hope.
Hot and dusty, we rush towards it.