setting off

Outside my window was a morning so beautiful I had no choice but to go out in it. Thick frost on the ground, a pale blue sky above. Great swathes of fog below the Bullen Range, making the hills to the north appear as islands in swirling water. My feet crunched along the frozen track through two fields of adorably chunky, woolly-coated cows. Some of them followed my progress with their liquid, long-lashed eyes. Some of them just kept eating, blowing out steamy breath on the frozen grass. Miss Number 6 (so her ear tag told me) was especially interested and posed for several photos before going back to her breakfast.

No 6

I took the track I didn’t know, behind the hills. I was heading for the Murrumbidgee River, way off in the distance—who knows how far—hidden by a bank of thick fog.

fog

The temperature was still some way below zero, but as I walked through the valley the sun began to appear over the crest of the ridge, making the frosted trees sparkle. The world around me was cold and crunchy and glittering. Young roos with tiny joeys in their pouches hopped away, while the older males stared me down.

There was not a person in sight. I had space to think, and I thought about how a rip tide swept my life out to sea a few years ago and how it took so long to swim back in. This week, finally, I felt like I was back on dry land, with the wonderful news that someone dear to me is in the clear. For once, that bastard cancer didn’t win. Stable employment, a home, health: these are precious things we think of as our right, yet they can all disappear in an instant. I know I’ll never take them for granted again.

The fog from the river began to roll towards me, so I turned for home and started to run along the valley track. The air was so cold, the breath sharp in my lungs, but it was exhilarating and magical at the same time. On the way back I saw a man with two border collies walking high up on the hill, where there was no path but where the sun was shining, and I smiled to myself because I’d been following the path down in the valley when I could have taken the less travelled route and walked in sunshine the whole time.

the road home