Category Archives: Other

A walk to the creek with Mum


A walk to the creek with Mum


Pennant Hills Park


Sunday. Almost midday. Bright, warm sunshine. Cath and I closed the front door and walked over the road into the parkland. Into the bush. The narrow path curved around to the top of a sandstone shelf. Big Sydney bluegums towered skywards. A flock of white cockatoos squawked a raucous welcome from high above.

Thursday. 3 days before I had been at the snow with school.

Friday afternoon, 2 days ago I had called Mum who had gone into hospital. “This could be my last hurrah”. We’d driven straight up from Canberra.

The rock shelf gives a good outlook down towards the creek. We stepped down the stone stairs slowly absorbing the scene. On either side of the bush path was a profusion of wildflowers, red, yellow, mauve, blue, white. Grass trees stood like sentinels on the higher slopes.

Saturday morning. She was chirpy. Like her normal self. Chatty. A little uncomfortable but not distressed. There was a steady stream of family. My brothers. Daughters in law. Grandchildren. My own children were flying in from London and Alice Springs later but soon. We talked with Mum and the doctors about how she was going.

I’d walked down here countless times with Mum. We all had. In winter, summer, in the rain when the path was a creek. After the bushfires when it was all black and then soon after we delighted at each sign of new growth as the bush sprang back to life and colours emerged. In the wet when the sundews were sticky and frogs chorused like there was no tomorrow. The bush. This bush! Was Mum’s church. She told us this was where she felt at home, close to life, close to her bigger picture of what it is all about. We stood still and took in the smells of Spring, the sounds, the feel of the breeze.

Saturday night. Last night. I stayed with her. In the middle of the night she was moved into the ICU. The best doctors. The best facilities anywhere. They couldn’t quite figure out what she had. We all had to gown and mask up in an isolation room. Oxygen seemed to ease and relax her breathing. Still chatty and sharp as a tack. I slept a little. Nurses came and went as the night dragged on. Two weeks ago she had been gallivanting around on a holiday with a friend in Cairns, out to the Reef, to the Daintree.

Down at the creek. Water streamed and bubbled between rocks. My brother and I had come down here a month or two before in a storm. The creek had been in flood. I was all for pole vaulting the narrowest point in the rapids but eventually we did a bushwalkers river crossing over the torrent. Mum had enjoyed telling all her friends about her grown up boys taking silly risks in her creek. Over the years she had taken all the grandkids down there to play and explore. And when they were older on longer walks on the fire trails beyond.

Sunday afternoon. She knew. We all knew. The doctors knew. There was no coming back. The family. In turn we chatted with her. Said goodbye. Said what we needed to say. Surrounded her with love. We cried. Held hands. Hugged. She tired. Laughed and joked. Was strong. Clear eyed. Unflinching.

We walked back up the track then branched off on a faint little footpad through the scrub. This took us to the smaller side creek. It was darker in here. Less light. Moist and shaded. We’d been through here with Mum. After rain. The small stream had gurgled. Bushes crowded the banks so Mum led us up through the water, over slippery rocks, to a small grotto. Moss covered rocks. A tiny cascade. Miniature ferns. We worried that she would slip or fall or hurt herself. She wanted us to know it and to lead us through with an adventurist sparkle in her eye. This was a special place. Hidden. Protected.

Monday morning. She had held on fiercely. The last two grandkids had arrived. Lucid. More time to say goodbyes again. She told us the last day or two had been the best of her life. More hugs and laughs and tears.

Up towards the rock shelf on the way home lorikeets started piping to one another, filling the bush with song.

Sunday late afternoon. We all learned how to say “Ta tah” from life with grace and love as we held her hands and she left us. Outside her room as we cried and hugged the sun blazed the most beautiful sunset across the whole sky in the west above her bush.


57 mid later hug solo

Notes on Falling

Notes on Falling


Sydney storms

Houses washed away lives lost

Falling rain

Torrents in the creeks


Force of gravity

On the bend of a space time continuum

Black holes in deep space


Cats drop from apartment blocks

Reaching terminal velocity after 9 floors

Spin and splay and relax and walk away unscathed


The last moments before sleep

Snap awake

Genetic memory from the time we slept in trees

Lions below


Our most common human dream


Price of iron ore


Government revenue, the economy


Ian lead climbing

Several meters above his last runner

Committed to moves he can’t reverse

Tangled feet hands on the wrong holds

“Watch me”

And he’s off, top runner pulls

Sudden stretchy stop 8 m down

Clean, fast, ok


Time seems to compress on the way down

Mind and senses focused


Like slowmo


Plane climbs steeply then levels out

Clip to the tandem

Sit on the edge lean forward

Screaming exhilarating terror

Lips, cheeks face pulled back with G force


Tumbling into love


Tingling heart catches fire


Mum at home

Down the stairs in the middle of the night


Cracked pelvis

Discomfort pain mobility limited

A walker to get around

Care and assistance

A loss of independence

6 – 8 weeks


Mother in law

Walker wheel collapses

Tumble to the floor


Cracked hip, gashed elbow, leg




Student client’s Mum

Forgot to clip in


Thinks on the way down

“let me not be paraplegic, let me die”

But lives

Shattered ankle and humerus

School group nearby watch it all


30m abseil

Last section overhanging

Student watchers sing their buddies down

“I’m free, freefalling”.



With thanks to RadioLab


Interlude (not an adventure)


Canberra half marathon

April 12


Commonwealth Avenue was long and tedious around the 14 km mark. I ran the white line, weaving through the broken lines as a distraction. Earlier I’d been singing out loud like karaoke where only I could hear the music and only those around me could hear the singing. What the hell. I was loving every step, feeling strong and free. The sun was out. My playlist was a cracker – all my favourite loud running songs. “It’s a beautiful day” sped me up over Kings Avenue Bridge. “Living on a prayer” along the white line. I’d felt like dancing. I couldn’t control the urge to fly, arms out, as the music crescendoed. I almost risked a grapevine dance move at one point early on down past Parliament house when I was running faster than planned and feeling good. Half way through I committed to the faster pace. I was on top of the world. My two best buddies, one in front and the other behind, had stayed the night before and we’d had uproarious good fun. Wives, Cath and Kathy encouraged us from a series of points in the first half that were close to the start. I was flushed with the thrill of running free.

Two years ago I had suddenly been struck with a form of aggressive arthritis. Multiple medications were ramped up from basic to serious cancer drugs to try to tame it. I thought I’d probably not run again. Then very slowly it improved in small increments. Regular blood tests. Very slow reduction in the meds and side effects – mainly fatigue. I eased out of work and started running again tentatively.

Three weeks ago I had been able to stop taking the drugs. One week ago a final blood test showed everything was back to normal. Amazing. It could come back again but for now it was gone. Lucky, lucky me.

“Viva la Vida” carried me along at full volume like it always does.

In these long runs there is always a point where it gets hard, usually about three quarters of the way thru. At this point I saw up ahead a group of my friends and colleagues from college. They waved and cheered. I was overcome with emotion and started the flying routine, then punching the sky. A little further on I realised I’d picked up the pace even more with all the exhilaration. They had picked just the right spot of maximum need for maximum support.

I pushed smiling up to a final turnaround. A little further Roger, a colleague, stood waving, cheering, smiling. I had to stop and give the big bloke a bear hug in thanks.

18 km

A few kilometres from the end they were waiting for me again. All shouting, waving and gesticulating. The plane arms went out and I wove towards them. Dan waved his cycling yellow jersey. Jess jumped up and down. Colleen madly clicked photos. And everyone else cheered wildly. Joe and Gordo wave me through. High fives all around. If I could have twirled and cartwheeled I would have. What generosity and care. To come down out of their Sunday to give me a burst of support when I would need it most. What makes people do these things for each other? I pondered while I lifted the pace towards the finish. When our goings get tough who comes to our aid? I’d connected in some special way to all these people. Was it that they all knew what struggle and pain and suffering is all about. And that to care and reach out is part of the best of ourselves.

“Sky full of stars” blew me away over the last bridge. “Chariots of fire”, which had been our theme song over dinner the night before, played inside my head as I sprinted to the finish. Spent. Cath and friends, hugs. Gratitude. Sometimes some of us are lucky enough to be able to regain the wealth that is our health and wellbeing.