pick me up
It was Boxing Day and all through the house everyone was asleep. Except for my son who set off just before me with a pack on his back.
Letting myself out the front door, I drive to the start of a nearby bush track. The sandy path is dappled with light from overhanging trees. Pines and eucalypts shoot up from the hillside, with a few sheep going about their lazy business. On the other side of the track, sloping down to a creek flanked by willows and blackberries, are a few badly-fenced hobby farms with goats, vegetable gardens, chickens and three Shetland ponies.
Piles of undergrowth, by the creek, are piled up by sleeping bulldozers, against the threat of summer fires. Light rain starts to fall. I run up to the rise at the end of the track, to the point where it joins another rougher path up which runners more serious than me often disappear.
Towards the end of my run, as trees start meeting overhead, I trip over a rock and throw my arms out straight to save my face, which kisses the ground at speed. I pick myself up quickly and look down, puzzled. Am I a ten-year old in the schoolyard, with two grazed knees? Or a seventy-year old, embarrassed after tripping over a paver on her walk to the postbox? Alone on the path I watch blood spurt from my knees and hands. Brushing off some of the dirt and sticks from sweater, I nurse my chin, which has taken the force of my fall. As I leave the track my hand is wet with blood, and I flinch on catching my red chin in the car window.
My husband, nervous around blood, makes clucking noises and suggests a visit to the doctor, despite it being a public holiday. I rouse my daughter who eventually comes into the bathroom, her long hair tousled with sleep. By this point I’ve washed out most of the dirt from my knees and hands, though I’m more ginger with my chin. My daughter instructs me to sit on the floor. She too sits cross-legged and hunts out steri-strips, muslin, bandaids and ever-blunt nail scissors. An addict to television vet dramas, she clinically assesses the depth of each cut and graze. Feeling in safe hands I relax, glad I’m sitting too low down for our bathroom mirror.
Half an hour later, thinking it’s safe to do so, my husband sticks his head round the bathroom door. Seeing the dressing on my chin he tells me that I look as if I’ve had my tusk removed – a comment which, needing to laugh not cry, seems pretty funny.
The next morning I don’t run. It’s Sunday, a day of grace. The morning after that,feeling that I need to get back on my horse, I head out only slightly later than usual, after fifteen minutes of changing bandaids in the bathroom. I tie the laces of my son’s old running shoes that much tighter and set off.
The light is even more dappled against a sunny morning. The bush glistens after heavy rain. My thoughts don’t meander as much as usual as I keep my eyes trained on the path. I pass the spot where I fell, and notice much larger rocks further on. Happily this time my run is uneventful.
On leaving the track I spy the second and third leading boats coming in to shore after a gale-force Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, flanked by welcoming motor boats. However bandaged up I feel, I’m conscious that the crews on these boats have seen far greater storms in the last three days than I ever will.