Gosling Creek Reserve

“The path reveals itself once you start walking.”
― Abhijit Naskar, Aşkanjali: The Sufi Sermon

The grass is long after all the rain. In parts of the reserve, it reaches past my shoulder. Rivulets of water course down the slopes to form boggy marshland and the creek runs fast and free to pool in a small pond. These are the things I forgot to mention when I invited my friend, Penny, for a walk with her two dogs. I have sensible walking boots; she wears flat slip-ons. Our dogs run wild while we jump across puddles or find grass tufts that take our weight as we cross the great wet expanse. Her shoes squelch and slide, but we make it across the worst of it with our balance intact.

Birds twitter in treetops and we hear a stream burbling not too far from us. As we approach a small bridge, the type you would find depicted in a Monet but without any of the charm, water rushes past us as if in a hurry to make it downstream. One of her dogs leaps in and lets the deluge wash over him. We can’t help but be swept along with his exuberance. After a while, he joins us on the path shaking the water off his loose skin, seemingly in both directions at once with a whip-flick motion that drenches us as he runs past. We laugh at his joie de vivre and watch the dogs bound through the high grass.

As we reach a well-trodden path around a pond, we hear a chorus of frogs in the tall reeds. Looking closer, we see a mother duck with five tiny ducklings drift towards the foliage for protection. The dogs haven’t noticed them. They are much more interested in a larger version waddling on the path ahead of us and make a half-hearted attempt to run after it. The duck launches itself into the pond and elegantly glides away. None of the dogs have an appetite for a serious chase, especially one that involves the effort of swimming. They are already running zigzag, following a new smell that has caught their attention.

On the other side of the pond is a park bench. We head towards it for a rest. The bench is dedicated to the memory of a girl called Mel, the same age as my daughter. She would have been 25 when she died. I think of her family and friends and the unspeakable loss they must continue to endure. My heart breaks for these nameless strangers. I wonder how this young woman died and why the seat was erected here. I can’t help but imagine various scenarios and fill the gaps with conjecture, but I will never know her true story.

We take a seat, but the dogs start barking and beseech us to keep moving. After a couple of minutes, we give in to their demands and begin our walk back. I decide that the asphalt track does have its merits, especially as we feel the first drops of rain, first on our arms and later, on our shoulders. Tree roots have cracked open the surface of the path and we tread carefully to avoid tripping on fissures and craters. At the same time, I’m glad nature is winning the battle here, and consider it likely that the trees will outlast the asphalt.

The path is suddenly steeper. We see hemlock growing up to two metres and it has invaded large tracts of the grassland. The plant is highly toxic and there is no antidote to hemlock poisoning. We call the dogs and make sure we don’t brush against it. This section of the reserve looks neglected, and we are aware that there may be snakes in the weedy vegetation. Best move on swiftly.

A galah flies across our path while a magpie struts in the next field, head bobbing forward and back until it sees our dogs. Begrudgingly, it flies to the nearest branch and keeps a wary eye on these bumbling, ground-sniffing predators. The birds, as ever, win against these domesticated, well-fed, and pampered dogs.

We reach a plateau where large fallen limbs of tress are neatly placed along the verge of the path. No doubt a storm has raged here not long ago. Some of the branches are horizontal while others lean precariously on the trunk of a tree. In time they will offer shelter to ground dwelling creatures and their sacrifice will not be in vain. Further, there are trees with protruding branches at crazy angles that remind me of some Halloween prank. They look almost human with one or two additional limbs waving in the wind. We marvel at their shapes and pick up our pace. We can feel the steady drops of rain on our faces now and head for the car.

The dogs have one final crazy dash across a field. They sprint in circles just as though they were running on an invisible racetrack. We call and they return, tongues to one side, panting and spent, content to go home. We laugh at their antics and know we must come again soon. At the carpark, we say our goodbyes and stomp to remove the mud from our shoes.

4 thoughts on “Gosling Creek Reserve”

  1. Well my two cockerspaniels would have been straight in there after the ducklings!
    This is enjoyable reading whilst at the airport waiting for my plane to board. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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