Caloundra. Saturday, 6.55am
At least I’m not wearing polyester.
I’m just strolling leisurely along the shore of Pumicestone Passage in Caloundra, a seaside town in Queensland, wearing Earth-friendly, plant-based clothing.
Okay, it’s 7am and I’m over 50. Judging by those around me, this means I should be wearing polyester. And I should be running – or at least power walking. Strolling is so last century. Like plant-based clothing.
I’m not wearing polyester. I’m wearing hemp, and some cotton. Sustainable stuff. (Okay, my shoes are leather. That certainly puts a pin in my bubble of eco-righteousness, because cows are definitely not plants. But hey, think about it… Cows are plant-based! So, my clothing is plant-based and my righteousness remains unpricked.)
What I thought was a pleasant walking track shadowing the mangroved waters separating the Australian mainland from northern Bribie Island is, apparently, at this time of day, an exercise path. Populated by exercising types. Oh dear.
I came to stroll and drift back in time. But now, I feel an urge to swing my shoulders as I amble.
Years ago, as a kid, I used to play on this very shore when on holidays with my family. Caloundra, then, was a sleepy little town where the fish in your fish ‘n’ chips was local, and the buildings were more fibro than brick.
A woman in black tights and a yellow singlet runs past me. Polyester. I say hello. She nods her head which supports huge sunglasses and white cords coming from her ears. A pony tail bounces from a hole at the back of her cap.
The world has changed.
Going further back in time, I imagine life around here two hundred years ago.
At this time of year the mullet schools. Good tucker, mullet. Back then, the schools were huge. The waters would churn. Imagine that.
The Joondaburri people loved to eat mullet. So – and I love thinking about this – they trained dolphins to herd the fish into nets. Wow.
A pelican glides low over the water. Its wings barely move and when they do, they nearly (but don’t) touch the water’s surface, the wing tip wind creating pairs of phantom ripples which trace the bird’s path like an ephemral dot painting.
An older couple approaches. She is fully polyestered. She also wears fashionably huge sunglasses and a baseball cap. She power walks in very small steps so as to stay with her husband who moves painfully slowly in his Nike runners. His low-cut sports socks reveal varicosed legs rising up to arthritic knees and disappearing into beige cargo shorts.
Apart from the young woman, it’s mostly older people out at this hour. Exercising.
Maybe knowing that time is running out makes older folk eke out every minute from every day. Maybe the early mornings that parenthood once demanded of them have left a permanent scar on their habits, despite the children having long ago bought a mortgage in an outer Brisbane suburb.
Maybe it’s bladder or bowel problems…
‘Morning,’ the woman says, walking on the spot as she waits for hubby, her polyester wrinkle free and sweat resistant.
‘Morning,’ I say, wondering if it’s possible to stroll on the spot.
‘Have a lovely day,’ she says, taking off again as hubby trundles on.
I jog on the spot but the sweat stains my hemp shirt, so I stop.
The world is changing. The dolphin trainers are gone, the mullet schools are nearly gone, the fish in the fish ‘n’ chips is Vietnamese, and polyester has replaced plant-based cloth.
Oh dear. Oh dear. I should have stayed in bed.
But all is not lost.
Polyester comes from oil. Oil comes from ancient plants…
So, polyester is actually plant-based!