Walk With Me

Almost every night I go for a walk. It takes me about an hour. I guess it’s a few miles.

On my walk I usually see more than 100 kangaroos. I know this because I have counted them.

This time of year, there are dozens of tiny joeys peering out from wiggling pouches. Their faces are merely little triangle shapes with two dark eyes and a small dark nose. They remind me of Chihuahuas, so that’s what I call them, even though it’s not easy to say over and over the way I do when I talk to them.

Some of the tiny roos are learning to hop. Their legs are scrawny and their bounce unsteady. Some drink from their mum’s pouch. I love to see the curious babies stand up and stare. It’s hard to describe this – you just have to see it.

I keep walking and talking out loud to the roos. Overhead, the screaming Galahs make a raucus. They’re always here, no matter what time I start my walk. They’re noisy, but I love their little red chests and pink Mohawks. They squawk from the tree tops and wobble on the powerlines.

I keep walking and now the roos are grazing close to the edge of the road. I speak softly to them and try to walk by without scaring them. It makes me happy when they let me get close and don’t hop away. When the light is just right, like tonight, they form silhouettes as I pass and look back. The tall grass surrounds them and the gold light makes the roos and the grasses glow. I take this image with me.

Now, I look further ahead and try to spot the resident Kookaburras. There are two. Most nights I see both. Sometimes only one. They like to sit atop the power pole and in the very small trees standing alone in the paddock. They are easy to spot with their white puffy chests and pointy beaks. If it’s too early or too late, I will not see them, but when I do, they swoop to the ground and feed, gulping down a prey I cannot see and returning to their perch. They never laugh, these two, but they are stunning.

Now I start to climb the big hill. It’s steep. At its foot is a creek. Sometimes I wander down to the water to look for frogs or stick my shoe in the soft mud, just because, but most nights I keep walking.

I climb the big hill under a canopy of eucalypts. They are not gentle giants as some might describe them. Their limbs are heavy and often drop. They can kill you. But it is the noisy parrots that are the main culprits of danger. They hang in the branches screeching and nibbling on honkey nuts that drop to the ground with a heavy thud. They have yet to hit me atop the head, but let me tell you, most nights, they come very close. Sometimes I call out to them and tell them that they’re jerks, but I like them and they always make me laugh.

In these eucalypts, I often see black cockatoos rustling around, sometimes with white tails, sometimes with red. Both are somewhat uncommon, but I see them a lot here. They are noisy and pretty.

When the light is just right, this part of the walk is like a dream. Peering through the trees on this incline, the silhouettes are perfect, and the light gleams gold and shimmers over the rabbit-tail grasses. Blinding rays glimmer through as I keep moving uphill. Everything seems bigger and more dramatic on this slope. I try to press this vision deep into my brain so that I will never forget it. It makes me feel warm. It is how I imagine the feeling of happiness would look if you could see it. I am reminded of this every time I see this view.

At the top of the hill is an organic citrus stand. It is homemade and usually empty. When in season though, the mandarins are a delicious treat. “By Donation” is scrawled in black letters directly onto the wooden stand, but sometimes even when I forget to bring coins, I take one anyway. I’ll leave extra next time.

Now I start to descend gently. More parrots and honkey nuts on this stretch. The road begins to curve around the bend. Now I can hear the waterfalls rumbling because it’s still spring. The roos in this area are very timid and often hopping in all directions. Because of this, it feels like this part of the walk changes somehow. It’s more hearty.

There is a small black cat who lives around here. I have only met him once. He followed me from the bushes and then ran into the road, asking for attention. I gave him some. But then he met my foster puppy and hunched his back like a Halloween cat. I have yet to meet him again, but I usually call out to him here.

I keep walking and now the air smells sweet and floral. I see the flowers. They are white and probably common and easily identified, but I do not know their name. I close my eyes and breathe deep – I know the smell won’t last long and I try to concentrate on taking it in. I guess closing my eyes helps me do this, because I do it without thinking.

Now the waterfall is to my right. It is rumbling. It is my favorite place to explore when I don’t have to share it with other visitors.

I cross the road and walk to the edge of the smooth, uneven rocks. In the winter and spring, the water is plentiful from the rain, but in the summer it dries up, almost completely. I like to check in here at this spot to assess how the water level is changing.

Sometimes I dip my hands into the cool flow and press my palm against the slimy rock surface below. I keep my hand still until it goes numb and then I lay it on the back of my neck. I love this feeling.

I creep to the edge of the waterfall’s face. I am quiet and set my steps down lightly. There is a black King skink who lives in a crevice just over the edge, and if I am sneaky, I will see him scurry to his hiding place. He’s there! And then he’s hiding.

I climb down the edge of the waterfall face where the water has long since stopped flowing and peer into his dark crevice. Where he hides, he cannot wholly fit, so I can still see his tail, shiny and black. I know I should not bother him or touch him, but sometimes I cannot help myself. I gently rub my fingers across the skin of his tail. He twitches but then he is still. I secretly hope he becomes used to me petting him, but I know he won’t. He probably thinks I want to eat him. He is wrong, but it’s a good instinct to have.

I am now standing level with the face of the waterfall. Water flows beside me and the face of the rocky falls stretches for a quarter of a mile. It’s not a very high drop, but it’s taller than me by a couple of feet. From this vantage point, I look into the distance at a wall of gum trees. Depending on the light, they might be glowing. It reminds me of my favorite movie, Jurassic Park. They are tall and old and strong looking.

Sometimes I focus on the water pouring over the falls and it reminds of the creeks in Colorado. Sometimes I look down at the almost-still pools of water below and pretend I am home, peering into a shallow part of the river. Sometimes I close my eyes and just listen to the rumble. I pretend I am somewhere that I have only visited once and don’t remember well. Git Git waterfall in Indonesia. Marakopa falls in New Zealand. It makes my heart flicker for a second – I feel a pang of adventure.

I can’t stay here long though. The light is too low – even if I started my walk early – and the mosquitos are awake.

I scale myself down the edge of the falls and to the shore beneath. Here, I look for marron. I’m not good at spotting them and they are very timid, but sometimes I see them. Alex always spots them.

I follow an overgrown path up the bank and back to the road.

Across from this path is a patch of purple honey suckers. They are delicious. Some nights, I pick one and steal its honey, then I carry it home and put it in my fruit bowl. Their sweet taste is familiar yet completely unique. Tonight, I just gaze at them in passing.

I keep walking along the river.

Another favorite spot is up ahead. It’s a fallen eucalypt that rests itself across the river from bank to bank. As I get close to its dead but unearthed roots, the ground beneath my feet feels different. It makes a different sound – hollow and springy.

I step up onto the trunk of the giant eucalypt and I have to hug and shimmy my way around a big overhanging branch. The trunk beneath my shoes looks shiny and smooth. I like to run my hands over it. The best part comes next.

I am standing over the running water with no earth beneath me, and now I have to hug and shimmy around another big branch. I feel like I’m playing a game. Don’t fall in! I like the feel of the branch against my skin. Smooth and soft, just like the trunk.

Now I am in the middle of the trunk. It’s surface has rough bark on it here. It’s rotting and uneven. It’s harder to balance. Water runs beneath me. I hear rumbles from the rapids behind me and the water slowly bends and snakes along as it stretches out before me.

My favorite view though, is up. The eucalypts here all have bare trunks. Smooth and soft. So minimal. And they sit high enough to catch the light even when it’s fading everywhere else. Their limbs are always glowing. It’s hard to describe but it makes me feel warm and energized.

Sometimes I stay here for awhile. If the mosquitos are awake, I can’t stay long.

I shimmy and hug my way back to the springy dirt and head back toward the road.

I cross a small bridge where a spider’s web has been hanging for months, yet I have never seen its housekeeper.

Now I am reaching my final incline. It’s a long, steady ascent. At this time, I am reminded that soon my walk will finish. This is my last challenge. This hill makes my heart beat fast, but that’s not why I am walking this way. I am not counting my steps or measuring the rate of my pulse. I am not eager to get this over with. I like how it feels to walk up this hill. I am doing it BECAUSE my heart is beating, not because I WANT it to beat. I am always reminded of this, each and every night. I want to soak it in.

There is another sweet, floral smell in the air. It’s different than the one before. The flowers I see next to me are white but again, they are different this time and I do not know their name.

In the trees ahead lives another kookaburra. He is noisy. He makes one of my favorite sounds. Until tonight, I have only ever heard him laughing. I have stopped many times and peered into the tree tops looking for him but never have I caught a glimpse. Tonight he lands on the tippy top of a lone branch and I can see the laughter leaving his chest. Behind him, on this angle and at this height, I can see Jurassic Park trees glowing orange. I think to myself that he only showed himself tonight because he wanted to be part of my story. I’m grateful. I liked meeting him.

Now I’m coming to the top of the hill. My mind usually wanders here and I think to myself that my walk is nearing its end. It always gives me a little ping of sadness. It is at this point that I contemplate walking straight ahead instead of turning, just to stay outside a little longer. I do this almost every night, but I always turn left when I reach the top. Afterall, I still have about a mile and a half to go.

Before I turn though, I stop to look at the vineyard that sweeps down into the valley. The leaves are always lime green. I look into the distance. It’s a tidal wave of old, towering trees. A wall reaching into the sky. It never feels real.

It is now that I turn my back on the beaming sun – if it’s still up – and embark on what feels like the last leg of my journey.

This part always goes quickly. Until writing this, I never realized why. But now, I think I do.

First though, I will tell you about a lady who lives near here because she rescues wildlife. I know this because one night when I was walking my foster puppy, she was out front gardening and Nugget desperately needed to meet her. We chatted for a while and she told me about two baby kangaroos she rescued and raised who still visit her every day and love to cuddle. I came back on a different night, after Nugget found his forever home, and I met Lucy and Fran, the rescue roos. They were curious and happy to meet me. I pet them and scratched them. It was surreal. I’m allowed to visit now whenever I like, but I haven’t been back yet.

Tonight I am passing the home of Lucy and Fran but no one is outside so I keep walking.

On the left is my favorite tree. It’s not flowering anymore, so it’s a ball of big, green leaves that droop to the ground, but a few months ago, it looked like it was on fire with vibrant red flowers. These flowers though, are very unique. I like to pick them up from the grass and tuck them between my index and middle finger: a raptor claw! That is their shape, like a half-moon bird of paradise. I like to take them home with me and set them on my window sill in the kitchen. They wilt quickly, but they are beautiful. I miss them now, where the big ball of green leaves stands.

Now I come into magpie territory. These magpies, hiding in the grass and lurking in the trees, might swoop because they have nests they want to protect. They watch me with concentration and it’s a little intimidating. Sometimes I walk with a skip. Their swoop is frightening.

This is where I think this part of my walk goes fast. There are lots of houses here. The paddocks are cut short. Fences and wires and rainwater tanks come into view.

I have associated the animals who live in this area with human traits. The bogan roos who are always fighting with each other. Lots of little joeys with their single mums. The lonely juvenile roos looking scruffy and dirty. The mean magpies chasing each other and swooping. Even some mean roos, but that is another story.

I am distracted by this environment, not for its beauty but for its odd marriage of human and animal.

I keep walking and the roos are very close to the road side now. It makes me nervous because there are more cars around here. I worry about frightening them into the road where cars are coming to the T-junct. It’s a different feeling than when I first encountered the roos on the beginning of my loop. It’s feels more human than wild.

But then I see a little chihuaha face poking out of a furry, wiggling pouch. I forget these thoughts and I drink in the wildlife around me. It’s magical again for a minute.

But now I am back to the intersection of my walk, where we began our story. This is not, however, the beginning of my walk. We aren’t home yet. We still have another mile. This is just where I started to miss you and thought I would share tonight’s adventure.

I turn right and now I am retracing steps I have already taken. This is the way back. Another little pang of sadness hits me.

I walk for a few minutes and turn left onto the gravel track. It’s a shortcut between two roads. This is the home stretch.

Sometimes I walk this path in fading light. If I have stopped to visit Lucy and Fran or if I have taken too long at the falls or the eucalypt, I might have to walk in complete darkness. Then it’s a slow walk because I have to be careful not to roll my ankle on the uneven gravel and chunks of loose rock. But tonight, the light is merely fading. It’s easy to see.

This is when my mind starts to wander. I am hungry. What’s for dinner tonight? I left my washing on the line. A hot shower sounds nice.

Beneath my sneakers the gravel crunches. When I started my walk, this is the part that would remind me of my old foster puppies. This is where I used to take them to test them off the leash. This is where we went for quick walks during the day. I think about them every single time my feet hit this trail at the start of a walk.

And then before I realize it, my feet hit the bitumen again. I am on home ground. My walk is only a hundred feet from its finish. I remind myself to enjoy these remaining steps.

I peer through the mess of tree trunks and look into the distance into my own yard. I think to myself, “This is what other people see when they look in.” The thought crosses my mind almost every night.

I turn left and my feet land on gravel once again. My driveway is steep and covered in honkey nuts from the parrots.

It’s a little bit slippery too so I have to step carefully and bend my knees.

And then, one of my favorite parts (I know, there are many of these!). I wander into the driveway and under the carport where I take my shoes and socks off. Then I step off of the concrete landing and plant my feet on the cool grass in my big back yard.

My view here looks like Jurassic Park. At this point, I am reminded how much I love this space. I feel calm and relaxed. I feel this way every time I plant my bare feet on the grass in this yard.

I stretch my arms into the sky and press my shoulder blades close to my spine. It feels good. And then, I wish that I could share this feeling, this experience, this walk, this evening, this fading light, with more of the people I love.

At least tonight, I feel like I did.

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