I remember the days when my mom buckled my seatbelt. When my dad drove the car. When my brother pulled my hair and my sister stoically stared. They’d drive. I’d complain. “Why do we have to go to New York City every week?” Shut up, 4 year old me, you’ll take this for granted some day. Cities surpass all other spaces. Don’t try to tell me that this grime, soot, and smog isn’t good for my lungs because this is how I live. But we rats need a break sometimes, if only for a few days.
When I visited the Blue Mountains this weekend, I was sore. Not just my body from abseiling and canyoning, but my eyes. They were sore of the concrete. The four white walls that surround me every day. The smoke I walked through to get across the street. Cities can be vivacious creatures who suck your youth and spirit and leave you an inveterate pedestrian. But cities can also liven you. Can take your breath away with its people, its performances, and its energy. You’re either someone who can deal or not.
While I will never resort to suburban or rural living, it’s a great escape. When I’m in New Jersey, all I want is to keep the car in drive until I get to my refuge–NYC. But here in Sydney, I was lacking something. I needed to take that two hour train ride, rappel down a 100 foot cliff and waterfall, and jump off high ledges backwards into ice cold water. I needed to sit on a rock, look out, and see absolutely nothing but mountains of blue. Blue from the eucalyptus. Tree barks bending and warping. Some untouched by men. We ruin everything, don’t we?
But this was not a completely silent journey. Much of the time, there were engines running, loud tourists, cameras clicking–can we do anything without a camera anymore? Without announcing to hundreds where we are. Without letting those trees on the horizon know it is them you wish to save forever in a photograph. Our loud voices carry through these hills. We disturb the ground. I screamed. It echoed. I heard myself again three times. Beautiful. (Yeah, my own voice echoed back to me was beautiful. Yeah, I said it.)
The trickling of the waterfall did not awaken my bladder but rather my soul. I was peaceful, if only for a moment. Happy to close my eyes and smell the smelly smells of eucalypt (until my guide yelled and threatened this Asian family next to me for littering).
I was a consumer of this nature and loved every minute. I thought I could’ve lived there. Until the last day when my body begged to see the man-made structures and gum-stained streets of Sydney again. I’m not meant to rest easy in a place that attempts to set a record for most people dancing the Charleston. I’m not meant to live in a town whose shops closed by 6 PM. Not meant to be a two hour train drive from the city. And I’m okay with that. There are plenty of people who do it, so let them.
The Blue Mountains were a fantastical escape this weekend, but that’s just what it should stay–an escape.
(P.S. Kangaroos are hard to take selfies with. Koalas are easy.)