Although it was a very hard thing to do and I never used nicotine patches or anything else, I definitively quit smoking about three months after Clea was born. One of the best decisions I’ll ever make.
At Easter 2003, we were the still inexperienced parents driving northwards to Coonabarabran (NSW), where for the first night we stayed in a dreadfully tobacco-smelling motel. Clea cried her heart out all the way in the car because she was teething. On top of the not unexpected stress I felt because of my own nicotine withdrawal symptoms, our daughter’s relentless crying in the back seat was driving the driver (me) insane. I recall stopping the car in a biggish town (Was it Parkes? Or maybe Forbes?) halfway to our destination, and getting out of the car to swear loud and clear. Letting off steam. A good lady who was passing by eyed me curiously, obviously a little shocked by what she had witnessed.
I have always liked walking, and Australia has plenty of bushwalks to offer. That Easter we did a couple of short walks in the Warrumbungle Mountains, near Coonabarabran. That was the first bushwalk Clea did, placidly asleep against my chest in a pouch-like pack that hanged from my shoulders.
Throughout the 6 years and 9 months of her lifetime, Clea had developed a penchant for bushwalking and exploring. When we lived in Yass, New South Wales, Clea and I would take long walks around town, her body comfortably perched on a baby backpack; she would often pull my ears and squeal with delight at my fake groans of pain.
By far, the most enjoyable walks were those taken outside town. In Canberra we would often walk in Mulligan’s Flat or Goorooyaroo Reserves, which are not far from home and are rich in native wildlife. This photo was taken quite a few years ago. We went to the Mundoonen Nature Reserve outside Yass; it was a cool spring morning and fog was still swirling among the gum trees while feeble sunbeams eerily intersected with the shades of trees. We spotted an echidna that day, and Clea was very excited at seeing such a little creature burrowing into the ground.
There are moments I see myself like the echidna, burrowing into a reminiscence of time, a warm place whence I might not want to get out.