This year, I’ve started running again. The need to run hits me sporadically, but it usually only lasts a few weeks before I run out of steam – and then it’s another seven months before I feel the urge to start again. This time however, I’ve been running for almost three months, thanks to a very simple rule: I go for a run every Sunday and Thursday. The Thursday slot sometimes gets bumped for burgers with a friend, but Sunday is non-negotiable.
A side note: running to me does not mean following the intense regime of a track star. It means I put my running shoes on, and I run, and sometimes I walk, or stop to admire some wildflowers or a bird, and I don’t overly hold myself to account. This is the only way running works for me – and frankly, the only way I care for it to work.
Anyway, this past weekend I was in Nowra visiting my family, which meant a new location for my Sunday morning run. I woke up before my nephew and niece (no small feat in itself) and headed out, the morning sun rising over the hill behind me. I ran up to Hanging Rock Lookout, where I was rewarded with this quiet morning view over the Shoalhaven River:
My original plan was to keep running along the road, but I was intrigued by some secret looking steps, descending down into the scrub.
Looks totally fine and not at all ominous for 7 am on a Sunday, right?
It was only once I came upon this old, swaying suspension bridge that I remembered I had been here before – plenty of times with cousins and uncles and aunts. I could almost hear the stampede of footsteps and chattering voices behind me – “small” is never a word that comes to mind when I think of either of my extended families. (Neither is “quiet”.)
I ran along, enjoying how the track hugged the river, traversing along impressive limestone rock faces and through quiet paperbark forests.
And sure, as I ran past hidden burrows and caves in the silence of the morning, I accidentally thought back to that horrible horror movie The Hills Have Eyes and suddenly going for a random run in the bush by myself at 7 am no longer seemed such a wonderful idea. I texted Mum:
“Found Ben’s bush walk down past Hanging Rock. Beautiful morning.”
“Nice, it was Pop’s favourite walk.”
Well, I thought. At least if I go missing they’ll know where to look.
The next weird thing to happen was that I noticed some strange ripples near the water’s edge. Platypuses, I thought! I stalked over to the bank and squatted quietly, watching the ripples and waiting for the little critters to rise to the surface. I’ve seen wild platypuses in my creek at home, and this is what they do at 7 am in the morning. I waited, but nothing surfaced. No duck bills, no otter bodies, no beaver tails. Nothing.
Then I remembered where I was – a salt water river. And then my eyes adjusted to peer past the surface, to the sandy bottom where a different kind of creature lazily disturbed the waters. A stingray! Not as cute as a platypus, sure, but cool all the same. I laughed at myself and thanked my senses for not grabbing my phone and declaring to the world I was seeing platypuses in the Shoalhaven. (And then I wrote about it on my blog and ruined my cover anyway. Oh well. It was early morning, after all, and everyone knows I’m useless before 9 am.)
Just as I started to question whether I should turn back, I came upon a sign that announced the Scout Hall was just up the hill. This brought the track to a very leisurely 3 km (until I had to run up the zigzagging path back to the top – didn’t feel so leisurely anymore).
I added a quick detour to run past Nan and Pop Ring’s old house, a place bursting with so many happy memories from my childhood. I even ran through the park that was midway between the houses of my grandparents. Seriously, I was such a lucky kid to have both sets of grandparents within walking distance of each other, and even a park between where my siblings and I could muck around, having as much fun on the “EXERSITE” as we did on the swings. We used to float between the two houses every Christmas, getting utterly spoiled with endless food and company, as there was always a cousin or two (or twenty) in town to play with.
The EXERSITE. Exercise was bleak in the 80s.
Nowra will forever hold a piece of my heart as a connection to family – it’s where my parents met and married, after all. And it’s where my Nannie lives – who is as sweet as maple syrup and just as Canadian. I love her.
It’s not often that my whole immediate family – five of us – gets together. It’s such a rare gift, made even better by my sister’s two kidlets. I adore them. When their candyfloss voices call out “Auntie Woo-Woo” (family nickname, no time to explain, couldn’t if I tried), my heart melts. They are simply the bee’s knees, in my opinion.
This is why I always laugh when people say, “My family is crazy”, because it really is the most superfluous statement. Every family is crazy – there are far too many personalities and dynamics going on, even before you factor in partners and in-laws. But there’s a special and unique weirdness to your own family, that you seem to fit right into, without having to try. Not like a jigsaw puzzle but more like a wild garden, growing all over each other and competing for space and air in a horribly tangled mess – but when it all bursts into flower together, it somehow works. It will never be perfect. But in the right season and the right sunlight, it will be beautiful. And at the end of the day, it’s yours, uniquely – which makes you love those crazy people even more. 💚