Musings & the Suburbs

9:22 PM



I’m sure what I did last weekend would be sentence one, paragraph one, chapter one of Stupid for Dummies 101.

I decided to make the most of my fabulous new, local surrounds and go for a trail run. And before you ask; no, I’ve never gone on trail run before but don’t worry - I was wearing sunscreen. Unfortunately, I forgot my phone, didn’t bother with water or the small matter of consulting a map even at a glance to see where I was going.

There is bush land around where I live and there are trail walks throughout. And like any adventurous little antipodean I thought I’d give one a burl. It was all going well until I started following a track that, in hindsight, seemed a little narrow but eventually narrowed into no track. And then it started bucketing down rain so hard I could hardly see a couple of metres in front of me. Lucky I wore that sunscreen (phew!)

So, what began as a pleasant jog though the north western Sydney scrub, became a tearful version of Tough Mudder. My legs were caked in mud and my arms were scratched to smithereens from passing branches. Gradually, I lost my sense of direction and eventually, my sense of calm.

I started out OK. I knew I was lost but tried to keep a cool head and focus on where I was going. The more the rain fell, the clearer it became that I had lost all bearings of where I was and where I’d come from.
As a last ditch resort to remaining chilled I mentally composed the day’s gratitude list: a trampolining centre has just opened up five minutes from my house; my new bright pink lip gloss; that the West Memphis Three were released from prison (I just read a book on the case); finding my long lost Jurassic 5 and Roots CDs; olive, feta and cucumber salad … oh my god, what was that?! Snake?????

I’ve never been one for panic, but it was intimidating and frustrating. The more I trudged on the more fearful I became of my unfamiliar surrounds. As I marched on, so did time and step after step, I got nowhere fast. As the rain fell, my clothes became saturated and heavy and insects descended from out of nowhere, freaking my face off and my frustration became angry fear. 

I had to keep going. No choice. I was on my own and no one knew I’d even gone running. Who was there to tell anyway?

I moved without thinking; it probably wasn’t even instinct guiding me because my head was racing so fast. The anxiety smeared my clarity. Who knew where the universe was taking me. I couldn’t see much beyond my next step so what hope was there. No logical thought processes to save me. And where was bloody Bear Grylls when you needed him?! He’s on Discovery channel every other program … if only I’d paid more attention to what he was saying than to how he looked while he was saying it!

But, I couldn’t stop. I had made the choice to embark on this foolishness, and I couldn’t go back. Well, I would have, had I had the vaguest idea which direction I had come from.

The lightning wasn’t helping matters either. It kept striking overhead, causing temporary blindness. I kept twisting and turning trying to outsmart that menacing storm. At one point I felt worryingly dizzy until I realized it was because the fear was causing me to take a step, stop, turn and step in a new direction over and over again. It was like when, as a kid, you would spin around and around, except back then the whole objective was to get dizzy and fall over, this time it was an unintentional panic spin.

And then I saw it. A slight clearing leading to rubble. It was once a church? It was a church that had crumbled to the ground in secluded neglect? Out here, kilometres and decades from human contact. “Don’t be stupid, Nat,” I told myself out loud (by then I’d reached the point of audibly admonishing myself). “You’re probably 500 metres from a main road and a Shell service station. You are not in the jungles of Belize.”

I walked towards what was left of the church. Or was it once a house? Or a brick barbecue? Before I reached it, again my attention was diverted - this time to a track canopied by a tunnel of trees leading to a wooden gate. And behind it a backyard and a house.

I couldn’t stop there, so without a second thought, I opened the gate and walked towards the backdoor.

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