While wanderlust can have many of us yearning to take off to far-flung places, there is abundant beauty to be found in our own backyard. We can soak up the all the surprising lessons of the Earth, live in harmony with our environment, and see the world in a new way.
My breath caught in my throat. I was not expecting this. As I stumbled through the ancient tribe of Eucalypts, I saw slivers of blue – a faraway, oceanic secret revealed in the distance. Right now, I thought I’d still be adventuring the globe. But with the world at standstill in the midst
of a pandemic, I found myself here, in a forest only one hour from my house. A new, local way to explore.
More so than this decadent forest I’d discovered, I wanted to find the beach. I crunched along a path littered with leaves and rippled with dry clay, the odd branch scratching my ankle. The air grew minty and cool as I descended through the forest.
A bright dragonfly like a comic dream fluttered by. And then – a chime spooked the silence.
It was a bird, but it had the eerie sound of a creaky old swing – high, melodic, but off-key. I wanted to find it, but the sound echoed deceptively as though I was underwater.
Voluminous trees spread like green reefs around me. I sighed, deeply: like a scuba diver basking in the steady pull of oxygen. Gentle tendrils of sunlight floated above. Citronella lingered on my skin as a deterrent, but I forgot about the fear of biting insects as I padded along the cool underbrush.
With an accompanying orchestra of flutters, rustles, and slithers – my little friends of the forest travelling alongside me – I felt both incredulous and envious of the creatures who lived here in this FernGully heaven.
Two signs hung stoic ahead. I was immediately conflicted. One hiking trail was to take two hours, and the other five hours.
I felt tempted by the longer, harder hike which I guessed led to the beach, based on the little wave symbol on the sign. And I wanted to see this forest in all its complexity, based on my beautiful first minutes padding through the earthy core. But I soon realised I was ill-equipped. I only had a small bottle of water and some nuts. I meekly turned up the shorter, easier path. Life is a constant battle, a re-establishment of priorities and consequences.
I wondered about the way we all make decisions in life, as I trudged on through rocks and mud. How often do we take the shorter, easier road? Humanity is always craving the stability of comfort, juxtaposed with the equal desire for the rush of adrenaline. I wondered if we could feel comfortable with both. But I knew the real answer. Taking risks should feel uncomfortable.
I dropped deeper into the forest, footsteps of contemplation and balance. I felt lighter. Surreal sights of lemony leaves and spaghetti-swinging vines caved in around me and I breathed it all in.
Descriptions hung everywhere as I looked up at the hovering canopy. I reached a waterfall, sat down and pulled out my notebook and pen.
As I scribbled the subtleties of the nature-circus around me, I saw two wallabies leaping through the underbrush. I saw birds feeding on sweet flowers. They flitted around my ears and seemed to play with me.
I heard footsteps from a distance. I scrambled to put away my notebook and camera. It seemed essential that I was not disturbed. The serenity of the forest – the absence of humanity – was lulling me into a sacred inner space.
Continuing on the path, I stumbled across a sign for the two trails again. Looking furtively behind, then ahead, I smiled and re-routed myself confidently along the more difficult path. I knew the adventure would lead me all the way to the tropical oasis I could see faraway through the trees. The sweat would be worth it.
This is my life. I’ll never follow the predictable, and often things don’t go to plan, but I always find a few beautiful surprises along the way. These are mixed with an array of consequences, too. But these outcomes colour my experiences with a palette of ubiquitous and unique rewards – and in this case, I wouldn’t give this up for the world. I’d found my pocket of peace right here, no passport needed.
Words by Rose Mascaro