Exercise is a major pillar that props up my ‘die of old age, not disease’ project. Every day, rain, gale or shine, I walk six kilometres before breakfast, mount my trusty treadly (Oz slang for bicycle) for a thirty kilometre ride after breakfast, and walk six kilometres before the evening meal. Exercise has a huge impact on insulin sensitivity, and the effects last for up to 24 hours after the exercise.

The route is always the same, yet always different.

My bike ride takes me through the lush, tropical parklands along the Cairns Esplanade, overlooking the glorious waters of Trinity Inlet. The stories I see are many.

Under the big fig tree an ancient Chinese Tai Chi master dressed in white linen garments directs his small band of followers by not-directing. Anyone can join in. The graceful movements remind of the vast, heaving ocean, up and down, towering to the sky, slowly and gracefully ebbing low, in synch with the Qi that throbs through this universe and us.

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.

A Chinese story.

The peace and grace of our tai chi friends contrast sharply with a nearby group of middle aged ladies dressed in very tight black outfits, sweating around a personal trainer. Here there is much friendly banter, much jumping and jarring, much pushing and pulling, all in the eternal pursuit of flatter belly and bum.

A modern story.

Near the Lagoon, gazing over the Coral Sea, a group of people sit on the wet grass, legs contorted in impossible positions, hands palms-up on knees, eyes firmly shut. Oblivious to the world around. This wonderful vista is but mere illusion, a samsara to be transcended.

An Indian story.

Their silence is undisturbed by a circle of skinny black men and women sitting on the grass in the shade of a banyan tree. Indigenous Australians. They have started a song, accompanied by banging two clap sticks together. Piercing yet haunting tones of a time long ago. Songs that sing this ancient land.

An Australian story.

I wonder: what would my story have been if the missionaries hadn’t come to my ancestral Netherlands? What if there had been no hell to escape from nor heaven to escape to? What if this were it? And has been all along?

A sense of unfulfilled longing fills me.

Meanwhile, I take up the thread of a story I know well: check sugar, inject insulin, eat starch, exercise. My story.