I sit here by a wood fire, Macbook on lap, gazing out over a forest. Further still, I can glimpse the sea.
We are in Denmark, on the south coast of Western Australia, enjoying a week away from routine. I’ve done nothing all week. I’ve barely used a stove, I’ve not cleaned. I’ve not been near the kids’ bedrooms. I have no idea if they’ve made their beds and I don’t care. They dressed yesterday, so they obviously still have clothes.
I came away this week aiming to read lots and write even more, but I’ve neither read nor written until today. However, I did have a little adventure …
On Monday, I went for my usual walk, strolling along the roadside, appreciating a verdant paddock and its grazing cows on one side, and forest on the other. Then I reached a sign saying, ‘Lights Beach’, and an arrow pointing to a path through the bush.
That would be more scenic, I thought, and quicker.
So, I hauled my middle-aged bum over the stile, and set off through the forest that skirted the paddock. It was much more scenic and pleasing to the senses: no cars; soft mud beneath my feet instead of roadside gravel; and all around me, the forest with its dappled shade and dewy fragrance.
It was cooler here amongst the trees, so I pulled my thin hoodie on. The forest became scrub and the mud became sand, so I was heading in the right direction. I felt a twinge of thirst but I hadn’t brought water. Never mind, I thought, I’ll be there soon.
About an hour later, I was still walking. In the distance, I could see the cliffs that sloped down to the ocean, but they were no closer than they’d always been.
I checked my phone and its Google maps app. No coverage.
I had to admit I was lost. Okay, not to worry. It’s the middle of the day. Just get your bearings and keep heading towards the coast. There’s still plenty of time ’til dusk. I’m proud to say that my heart didn’t race nor did my breath come faster. I felt no anxiety or panic.
I meandered on. Nothing. More scrub. I felt like I was wandering around in circles in the middle of the scrub, and for all I knew, that’s exactly what I was doing.
I decided to turn back, but I had no idea in which direction to head. I had only my nose to follow, and it had just failed me. I walked more slowly now, searching for something familiar. Unfortunately, I’d been so lost in my thoughts as I’d walked in, I hadn’t paid attention to the landmarks.
I felt stupid, a complete idiot. Who in their right mind would go walking alone through the bush, with no water, wearing only a thin long-sleeve top and carrying only a mobile phone? What’s more, not a soul knew where I was.
I spotted a granite boulder that I was sure I hadn’t passed on the way in and climbed to the top. From there, I could see the cliffs to the south-east, the wind turbines just to the south-west, and to the north, Monkey Rock. I checked my phone. One bar of coverage! I could ring my husband and ask him to come and get me.
I imagined the conversation:
‘Umm, can you come and pick me up?’ I’d say.
‘Okay, where are you?’ he’d say.
‘Somewhere in the scrub between the wind turbines and Monkey Rock.’
I didn’t think that would work, so I scrambled my aching, scratched body down from the boulder, and headed towards Monkey Rock, knowing the road was somewhere between.
Finally, I emerged from the shade of the forest into the sun of a paddock. Never before had I been so glad to see a paddock. As I walked, a cow looked up from its grazing and fixed me with its eyes as if to say, ‘What took you so long?’
Spurred on now, I leapt over the stile and jogged most of the way home. I threw open the door and stood there, panting and grinning. My husband was at his computer with his earphones in and the boys were playing X-box. No one looked up. No one had even noticed I was missing.
I filled a glass with water from the tap, and my husband spotted me. He lowered his earphones. ‘You’re back?’ he said.
I nodded and gulped the water.
‘Where’d you go?’
I finished the drink and put the empty glass down. ‘Oh … just exploring,’ I said.