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The mountain and me

Updated: Jan 2

I’m a car-driving city dweller, routine and orderliness characterise my life these days. I rarely gaze at the night sky, swim in the ocean or run barefoot on the sand. And it’s a long time since I’ve got soaked walking in the rain.

I’d decided to trek to the top of a mountain not far from my home. It’s not really a mountain, more a big hill, in one of Canberra’s Nature Parks. The walk from my place to the top and back takes a couple of hours and used to be my regular go-to for exercise 2 or 3 times a week. But gym sessions had become my substitute regime: time-efficient, more social and an all-weather alternative.

For months I’d done neither. An a-typical sedentary phase had taken hold. That was all going to change today, I told myself. As I headed north towards the mount, the air had a slight chill to it, and black clouds sat ominously on the hills to the south. But my weather app promised no rain; so I headed out.

Not long into the suburban approaches I was beginning to puff. There’s an honesty about the mountain – by the time I was halfway to the top, it let me know I’d been slacking off since my last visit. As Sinewy runners and walkers passed by effortlessly, I headed for an easier and less popular track.  It wound through a canopy of thick bush that offered welcome protection as I gasped unobserved towards the summit.

Rain started as I reached the top; not heavy, just wet. No time to linger. A brief glance at the familiar view of neat suburbs, patches of bush and well-groomed playing fields, before beginning the easy downhill return.

The rain fell more heavily and walkers scurried, shoulders hunched, jackets inadequate, towards the base. But despite the trickling discomfort, each smiled a greeting and exchanged good-humoured comments on the weather. I saw no one I knew. Yet I felt strangely connected in this shared experience of the elements, the bush track and stoic good humour.

My thoughts turned to the movie I’d seen the previous night. The story told of four Port Headland teenagers, two Aboriginal and two non-indigenous. All were struggling with life and their worlds. Thrown together in an unfamiliar outback environment, the unlikely bunch found connection across their differences, to meet a challenge they faced in the vast red landscape. The film spoke to me of the power of shared experience and the healing potential of the natural world.

I was pleased I’d trod the mountain, and glad it had rained.

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