I could trace the lines of the fences that crisscross this land with my eyes closed and listen to the sounds of the pink and grey galah’s as they sit amongst the stubble paddock, feeding on dropped wheat grains hidden in the dirt and basking in the evening sun.
I have committed to memory the roads which lie within these fences. The rustic red tracks that are the veins of this land. Roads that can be seen covered in footsteps and hooves or imprinted by the tyre tracks of the farm vehicles – utes, motorbikes, tractors. Each impression recalling a story of history past. Yet often too they are manicured by the blowing winds, erasing all traces, as if nothing has ever passed. Tonight is one of those nights.
The wind overnight has blown away all impressions of yesterday and our tyre tracks from last nights drive have disappeared as if it had never happened. Tonight is a new night and I get to create a new story.
With one foot in front of the other my journey begins. The sun is still high and with my sunglasses on I begin my brisk walk.
The first hill is always sandy and I leave divots where my shoes have broken the wind swept earth. I can’t say that they are footprints, my toes have sunk too deep as I push back into the sand causing more of a stepping stone effect. Beyond the first hill, the double iron gates leading into the tank paddock, known simply by this name due to the concrete cement structure that stands proud on the hill in the distance. It feeds water via the underground pipelines to the water troughs in this and the neighboring paddocks. Standing tall and watching over the once golden paddocks and knowing too that they need rain. The gates signal a change in the ground and road becomes more compact. But it is not for long.
My iPhone app tells me it’s time to jog. It is not something I normally do, preferring more to walk, but its a New Years resolution to learn to run. Slowly at first the road appears to disappear beneath my feet, and then slightly quicker. This road runs parallel with the fence line to my left and I keep my eyes straight on the road ahead, seeing only as far to the sides as my preferential vision will allow.
“And brisk walk.”
My heart rate is up but the land before me still amazes me. The gateway leading into Lynch’s paddock is open to my left and a murder of crows scatters from around the water trough at the sound of my footsteps..
The 90 second intervals of jogging amongst the two minutes of walking are beginning to become routine after almost 10 nights. Again the road passes beneath my feet. This time the hill is barren and windswept. It is good because it is hard, but difficult because the wind erosion has caused numerous potholes, large and small and the wrong placement of a foot could result in an rolled ankle. Just one more hill and then it will be flat ground. I can see it in the distance.
I love the blueness of the sky. It is bright and a stark contrast to the red dirt and golden stubble that lies beneath. A single jet stream leaves two lines across the blue canvas, a simple reminder that our lives carry on unknown to many, both near and far.
With each jogging step I’m aiming for those next gates. For the road that is flat. For that road which is harder under foot. It gets closer and closer but with the words ‘“brisk walk” I fall 10 steel posts short of the gates. I will walk through them.
The steel posts that hold up the wire fence to my left have become my distance gauge. The fewer there is to the intersecting fence line that meets the road, the more distance I am gaining with every training session. I know it’s mind over matter and my app tells me my stats at the end of the session, but it’s simply my competitive streak.
Through the gates and into Kingies. The site of the old house block is still peppered with cactus plants and the tall gum trees line the old house yard. Across from it a broken down windmill stand. It’s spokes all long fallen off and the tank that it once pumped water to, a bent and corrugated mess below. This is my half-way point goal. But I’m not there yet.
“Lets jog. Congratulations you are halfway there.”
With the windmill still ahead of me I turn my back to it and begin my journey home, retracing my steps from not so long ago. The sun has now begun to set and it’s warm rays beat down on my back allowing my shadow to run in front of me. Now I have a running partner I can keep up with.
I know that my running distances are becoming shorter as the session wears on, but it still feels good. How could it not? I am surrounded by fresh air and the only sounds are those of my breathing, my feet pounding the ground and the chatter of the birds as they too enjoy the evening sun.
This is it Janine. This is the last run session of the program. You can do it. They are the words I tell myself as I push on. The crows that I scared earlier have returned and are now sit on the barbed wire fence, just up from the gate into Lynch’s paddock. They are all facing away from me and now with me running into the slight breeze they do not hear me until I have passed. With a flutter some of them fly off but the remainder realise I have gone and no longer pose a threat to them.
The setting sun creates a golden glow across the paddock and its like it has become alive. It’s a beautiful time of night. A couple of rabbits dart from beneath a clump of straw and head straight through the larger squares at the bottom of the fence and under a peppercorn tree, presumably back to its burrow for the night.
“Time to cool down.”
That’s it almost for another session. Now just to pass back through that first set of double gates and back over that hill to the barn where I started. To my left now the tank on the hill is casting a long shadow as the sun dips lower into the evening and the colours of the sky turn to red to match the dirt beneath my feet. Ahead of me the final hill and beyond that the trees surrounding Mum’s house.
As I start to climb the hill I follow in the earlier foot divots, they make it easier to push through the sandy track and I leave only a single track behind me in the sand. It reminds me slightly of imprints on a sandune, just on a much smaller scale.
As my session comes to an end and the trainer on my app announces “Congratulations, I knew you could do it.” I have circled back past the barn happy to have completed another session and happier still that I have managed to run/walk a further distance than the last session.
Now to enjoy this sunset.