June 11 was a very special day. Holly and I had embarked on our tour de Australia and were hitting the Great Ocean Road with full force. On day two of our long drive, we were informed that we'd be stopping. Koalas en masse lived along this stretch. After about a half hour of ecstatically searching through the trees, there were no koalas. Dejectedly, I moped around the little side street like Eeyore, feelin realll blue. Finally, one was spotted. High in the canopy of the Eucalyptus tree, there he was. I think. I could barely make him out. No matter, I stared up at him for a solid few minutes, crickin my neck and wondering how it would be received if I put my tree climbing skills to the test - just to become one with nature you see. I had not realized at this point Holly was not next to me until I heard a "Casey...come here." She was whispering. "What is this fool doing?" I thought. Why isn't she staring at this koala with me? "Fine, I'm coming." I followed her off the path and into some front yards. And there, 8 inches from my head - was a koala. A real, furry, grey eared, beautiful koala. My eyes filled with tears and I didn't breathe in case he heard me - just stood there staring. Holly started laughing. This is the first time she fully experienced my ridiculous love for animals...not the "oh yea, I LOVE puppies" kind most people have. This is the kind where you can feel your soul connect with theirs when you're around them - the kind where you feel a common empathy across the wavelengths that flow between your heart and theirs. AKA - It's freakin serious man.
Because of Holly's brilliant execution of the koala mission, no one followed us, ensuring that we had prime time access to this leaf plucker. After about 7-10 minutes of intense eye connection with the koala, I realized that he really wasn't that interested in me. Was I green and in the form of a toxic leaf? Nope. I think this sealed the deal as the end of our relationship, but I still had a hard time walking away. As we sat back down in our little bus a few minutes later, I broke out my little blue notebook to pen down some thoughts. I am not sure what happened to my penmanship at this juncture (not that I've ever had any) but the stuff that ended up on the page is barely intelligible.
From these scribblings, some real gems - "Furry grey ears, heart almost stopped." "Freckled nose and long dark fingers. Pluck from the leaves as he snaps them from the limbs." "Wondering if he was real. He looks like a little bear, fat and soft. Maybe yoda. My heart feels happy."
The next day, we headed to a mini wildlife refuge. For ten bucks, you could have a "koala encounter." I'm not sure how much closer I could get to one, but Holly looked at me when I was considering. "Yea, right. Go give them your money." Oooookay. Great days in Australia.