I have a writing haven. It’s 4000’ high on a ridge line in the Hunter Hills of New South Wales. Our mountain Hut is situated on the edge of an alpine meadow, with strawberry clovers growing between the tussocks. It is circled behind by a cathedral of tall Mountain Ash gum trees, with soft, sedgy grasses underneath that are spongey and sound-capturing as you walk on them. The Hut has an All Day Deck (for those in the northern hemisphere this means all day sun - because yes, even Aussies seek the sun) with utterly spectacular views in all directions - and yes, fit enough to entertain royalty, most regally, complete with billy tea and cake.
It’s certainly a magic place, as you’ll see from the photos, and all year I look forward to being here. No make-up, no wrist watch, no jewellery, no nail polish, no clothes half the time, such are the temperatures. And with no skin-care products either, I feel I’m slaking off several layers of skin, taking with it the grime of the city with its grubby monied ways, as some time later I go down - emerged, cleansed and ready again.
I like to spend all of the month of January here, to recuperate and recharge the batteries before another year. My husband and I built The Hut when we first came to ‘the bush’ twenty years ago. We splashed out, using proceeds from a lucrative book serialization deal with the Daily Mail in London (those were the days) and over the years we’ve gradually made it more livable (it used to be such hard work we’d arrive back down to the homestead with young children, looking ashen with fatigue).
By degrees we’ve added mod cons to make it work. Gas cylinders were added to give me a single gas ring (so I don’t always have to cook on the open fire) and gas hot water (so we don’t have to use a bush shower from a canvas bag - which you fill from a kettle and then twist the rose to let the water shower out - ingenious, but well, more hard work). We also now have a generator, so we have electric light, - not gas-lights and candles - as well as a tiny fridge. And lastly - hooray hooray - a satellite dish on the tin roof, so that I can communicate with the outside world.
And here I am today in my writing roost, on the 11th of January 2013, writing to my websites and to you in your - probably just as lovely - part of the world.
Listen here to Sarah's wide-ranging interview, published in February 2021, where she talk to Doug Cary,
Founder of AAP Education
A cuppa tea at dawn, then perhaps a walk through early morning shadows
Writing all day, divan or desk, then a warm hearth at night
I once wrote that I love being up here on The Tops because it brings me right up close to nature. There seems to be a proper immediacy about ‘keeping alive’ in the rawness of the elements. Here, somehow, I’m not frightened of the wrong things but the right things. Like snakes, for example. Being bitten by a brown snake (as I so nearly was today, on the front steps of the Hut (I’m still jittery)) gives you about an hour to live - and we’re much more than an hour from anywhere. Or the weather (as I write, virtually the entire state is on ‘catastrophic’ bushfire alert) as I keep an eye peeled for any sudden billows of smoke with a deadly ominous black centre. (Once when I was up here, grey ash was raining down on my computer as I typed.)
Then again, it could be flooding rains, where within 20 minutes you can’t get down the steep rocky, 4WD track to the safety of the homestead below because the black soils have turned it into an oozing slippery-dip of death. See what I mean? Raw nature. Yet I feel fully alert, and joyous at being alive!
Invariably, I wake to a sparkling silver dawn above the clouds; the blue Barrington Tops are across the way and a dense, puffy eiderdown of white mist fills the valleys below. Just as likely though, is living in the clouds, with swirling wet mists - almost touchable as they scud past – blotting out the sun for days on end. The forest of lichen growth on veranda posts and tanks-stands bears testimony to these ever-present skeins of cloud and water dripping from the leaves of the Mountain Ash standing silent, sentry-like around the Hut, not these basking days of sun - brown snakes brazenly coming in closer looking for water - and me in their midst tap, tap tapping as I write.
In putting down these pages for the websites –
www.sarahkeyphysiotherapy.com (for my clinic and retreats)
www.simplebackpain.com (for patients and allied health professionals)
www.sarahkey.com (for physiotherapists)
– even I have been amazed at the torrent of words flowing forth. I sense it’s the clarity of vision begot of being ‘up high’ rather like being in an aeroplane. It’s also the sense of handing on the knowledge and giving it all over and laying it all out there; I’m doing that as much as I can. I love the idea of open source.
I had also noticed that patients under a certain age were no longer finding me through my books. I read two blogs today ‘surviving back pain’ and ‘wine can’t cure back pain’ by young women, both able and vigorous contributors in life but literally desperate and isolated in their pain; their blogs cries into the wilderness (another kind of wilderness) for help. It’s people like them we need to be getting to - before their back problem becomes too bad – so I knew I had to make better use of the medium they were using so effectively – and I was not: the Internet. And blogs.
So, with my very able helper, the Lovely Lesley - who has made it all so easy peasy. . . . . make way Google. Here we come!
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