Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Quiet Stroll

I have purposed to take a morning walk. This is not a New Years Resolution. Rather, having arrived back in Australia for a three week period to be a part of my mother’s recovery from a serious car accident, it just seemed like something I could do each day. I have no particular intention of continuing this when I return to sub-freezing temperatures in Denver.

Perhaps part of my motivation lies in the recent trivia factoid I heard before leaving Denver that over the Christmas holidays, the average American will see a weight increase of 7 pounds. I feel like I have been at least average this year! But part of me just wanted to get out in the surroundings that remind me of my rural upbringing. Every time I return to Australia, particularly flying into Sydney, it stirs deep emotions. Yesterday was no different. The muted greens, not the rich green of North American trees, the red tile roofs, the streets that wander with no apparent purpose, the large expanses of water with all manner of watercraft going this way and that, the cricket ovals, even the commuter trains. I am not a city boy, nor did I ever even live in Sydney, but these are part of the kaleidoscope of images that is forever home. If you wonder why not throw in the Sydney Harbor bridge, if not already an icon, made so in those first images of worldwide celebrations as we rang in Y2K, or the Sydney opera house, it is simply because they were on the other side of the aircraft.

So what did I experience on my walk? Leaving the house at six, the familiar strains of the ABC radio news theme were pealing from my parent’s bedroom, and the broad, yet very proper Australian voice that began talking about the floods reminded me that my accent has indeed faded, despite what my people who meet me in the States think. Floods, fires and no doubt the sad state of the cricket would have dominated the news had I stayed to hear the entire bulletin. It will be repeated again more or less verbatim on the hour, so I can hear all I need to know when I get back.

The vistas across rolling hills of cleared dairy pasture land set the backdrop, and the views over the escarpment down to the ocean are always breathtaking, if today a little hazy. I saw almost no cars in what was a short first outing (about 35 minutes), testifying not that it was terribly early, but that it is indeed rural. In the sub-tropical climate, lush grasses and other undergrowth flourish often encroaching on the road. I notice with humor they have painted a white stripe just inside the edge of the black top, as if to say to nature, you can come this far, but no further. Nature in some cases is not listening.

My parents have retired on the Sunshine Coast hinterland. These farmlets and rural hideaways have been threaded through old dairy acreage. Not surprisingly, when you live on Murray Grey just past the intersection of Hereford, the bass notes are cattle lowing. The calls of the birds are perhaps the anchor into my past. Along with the cows, I hear the crowing of roosters, reminding me of our farm. But more prevalent and varied is the symphony of different native bird calls. I see few but hear the laughter of kookaburras, the strident demands of magpies and butcher birds, the peculiar chirping of whipbirds and a host of others that I can not readily identify. And in those lush grasses, rustlings I cannot be certain of. I saw a dead snake in the drain, but perhaps a little early in the cool of the morning for that. Something small then no doubt; mice, perhaps a bandicoot or non native rabbits, or just as likely, a bush turkey.

All of these sensory inputs release a flood of memories, nostalgic memories. The great thing about a memory is it is yours to fashion however you want, or perhaps need. Today, mine are pleasant and deeply comforting. I am looking forward to tomorrows quiet stroll.