“up north”

friday was my last day “up north”. such a generic term, usually connoting travel, freedom, a getaway. in new york, according to urban dictionary, “up north” has a meaning of going to prison, because most of the prisons are in the north of the state. “up north” seems to be used in the english-speaking world pretty widely, and can be used to describe a feeling or a concept. a feeling of freedom, travel, isolation, incarceration, friendliness (up north, out of the big city) and so on.

so my “up north” means, yes, travel – some 900km from home. it also means holiday, because “up north” is tropical, and the tropics always invokes clear skies, coconuts and blue oceans. in our dreams these oceans are not disturbed by explorations for oil, are not made turbid by dredging, are not home to dying coral reefs and so on. it was an escape from winter for me, though i was painfully aware of the environmental degradation. too many sea turtles washed up dead on the beaches.  “up north” means family, death, mother, a kind of zone of compassion. now “up north” means running to me. the place where i felt like a shifted from someone who runs, into a runner.

and so i’m leaving that place, where i moved forward my becoming-runner-self and traveling south, to the home where i feel like i am in some kind of stasis. actually, not stasis, more like i’m on a treadmill, running but standing still. or sitting in front of a screen, frozen, words not coming. plateaued. i need to transition between the two, to let go of myself as frozen, blocked, running at half-speed. in need to take to the hills with excitement and dedication. i need to write a half-marathon a day.

it’s a long trip home, along the burnett highway, through bottle tree country, along roads edged by dry yellow grasses and vistaed by distant blue ranges.

IMG_1786                                                                             IMG_1791

there’s been no opportunity to run, though i kept my running shoes handy. it’s been a staggered trip, along the burnett highway to the sunshine coast and then today, a tw0-part journey, first to the tweed river art gallery, murwillumbah, northern nsw. then home to the channon. i’m waiting at the gallery for my sister who is running a workshop and taking the opportunity to write. the gallery sits in the tweed valley hinterland, overlooked by the beautiful wollumbin, which would make a gorgeous climb today. there is some sun, and the peak of the mountain is still swathed in cloud. i look out through the feature window and imagine running along the roads towards the peak. climbing the peak. it would make a good segue between there and here. a ritual climb, alone, without my mum and sister and the motley crew.

when i get home it’s all uphill. turn right out the front gate. pounding pavement as gently as i can. the luxury of the beach at my front door and barefoot running is a good 40 minutes away. my hard-won blood-blisters and abraded footsoles that have turned to calluses will soften inside my running shoes and i’ll have to earn that toughness all over again via tenderness.


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