I so love the mornings, here underneath the escarpment, especially when it has rained a little in the night and the sun catches the wet rocks making them sparkle yellow. It makes it worthwhile to get up and watch the sun’s upward rays strike. It reminds me of smuggler’s lights, the refraction of a single beam. The beauty of that moment is so extraordinary.
But the deep romance of the escarpment does not lie in beauty for me. It is in the spaces that others have occupied but left for me to occupy without subtracting from the space. This is a such a gift. Sometimes when off trail I find a marking, or footprint, a small stone circle, or (in that classic tracker trope) a snapped branch and I am always uplifted by the thought that even though I am alone (or with a walking partner) I am sharing this space, and sharing without claiming a pre-eminence or use dominance. Most acutely I think about this in the context of Aboriginal Australians.
Rixon’s Pass is a good example of this: it has so clearly existed for thousands and thousands of years that whenever I climb the hairpin I am quietly stunned that this curve, this interstice in the ridge has been utilised for human comings and goings without preventing or limiting the possibilities of other comings and goings, similarly the trail from Saddleback to Barren Grounds. Those passes are not the construction of some road building multinational or the result a grand plan to globalise transport systems: they are just there and we use them just as they have been used for ages.
The intensity of the feeling of being given a gift is directly related to the competence and confidence I have derived from walking. The escarpment does not simply sustain me, being part of long history that does not end, that also enables a future similarly blessed, has a value I cannot quite find the words to describe. It feels like a blessing, and as a blessing it is a means of building hope for the future. The escarpment offers not only sustenance, but it is sustaining –forever if we’re lucky—a gift that keeps on giving.