I rise before the Sun, though with much less grace; With eyes that jolt open and feet that touch the floor before the kitten on my pillow can register what’s happening around her. Brain in auto-pilot, there’s no time for delicacies. Teeth brushed, hair tied back and before I know it I’m out in my driveway – Stretching and warming up for what lies ahead of me. Excitement bubbles eagerly within me. This is my favourite part of the day.
I take off down the gravel road, slowly at first as to get my rhythm going. But as soon as I turn the first corner, I start sprinting. My arms swing violently at my sides, in perfect rhythm with my legs. The wind pelts at my face and I can feel my body working – Every muscle, every bone & and every ligament is concentrating purely on this one solid movement. I’m a force of fluidity, I’m flying on land, I’m – Woah. I stop dead in my tracks and take in the scene around me.
Rusty traintracks cross the road, with fields of heather and fynbos on either side. The light morning sun gently kisses everything in it’s path, making it glow and bask in its own beauty. A deep yellow spreads itself out across the horizon, inching it’s way over the mountain range. This triggers the lust for movement within me, and suddenly my legs are running again. Soon I reach the beginning of the real fun; I smile as I can hear the crunch of gravel disappearing as I tread softer terrain. My vision narrows and lush forest engulfs me. Earthy smells and delicate dew announce the beginning of my daily run on one of Wilderness’ many mountain trails.
I’m zipping and darting around corners, ducking under low hanging branches, narrowly missing stray vines and dewy spider webs as they whiz past me in a blur of brown and green. I hop over a boulder in the pathway and make my way across a bridge. I can hear a few seconds of serenity as the river flows peacefully beneath me, almost immediately silenced by a swift “whoosh” as the forest grabs me once more. I get to an uphill with numerous steps and I sprint even faster; One, even two steps at a time. My muscles are burning but never surrendering; I’m up and over the other side when I suddenly find myself in a vast opening. All around me, edgy cliffs create a tunnel blanketed with indigenous forest, home to the cacophony of early birds starting their day. The sun is warm already – Sweat dripping from my hairline, I allow myself a second to take it all in; mesmerised at where I actually am and the exhilaration of the concept of being at one with nature, right here on my doorstep. Eager for what still awaits, I’m on my way again.
Traipsing carefully over stepping stones across another river and up a steeper hill, I find myself thinking. Not about the “Here & Now”, but about Life. I think about conversations I’d like to have, & people I want to meet. I think about my mom. Maybe I should treat her to lunch? Damp branches flick water at my face, surprisingly refreshing. A baby frog hastily hops out the way before he gets trampled by my size 6 Adidas. Wise move, buddy. Wiise move. This girl is stopping for nobody.
“That’s what you think!” says the modest spider, who decided to make a surprise appearance inches from my face. No time for girly screams and rather un-phased by his threats, I Matrix my way away from his handsome web and with a quick glance behind me I keep going. Up ahead, a tree has fallen across the path, using the mountain face as a cushion, creating a tiny and fast approaching gap. Quick mathematics allows me to duck just low enough to avoid any headaches, and I straighten out again heading steadfast for the blessing ahead that will make even the laziest of people run up a mountain every morning.
At last, the uphill gets significantly steeper and the ground marginally rockier. Almost there! My heart is beating out of my chest and my blood is pumping through my veins. I can feel my lungs sigh with relief at the freshness & the rate of pure clean air rushing through them. Never a glamorous gymnast, the sweat is dripping now – My body is shining and my hair is drenched through. My heavy ponytail a continuous pat on the back with every stride of the way, the bush suddenly opens and all at once, everything stops. The air is still and the sun is warm and friendly. Calmness comes over me as I allow my breath to even. The birds are now all awake & they serenade the moment for my storybook view. My hands on my hips, I do a quick 360. Here I am, on a little koppie that’s popped out of nowhere in the middle of all this magnificence. A Loerie soars into my view of indigenous forest and broccoli-top trees. I’m the only sign of human life in sight. “Gosh, what a tough life!” I say to the animals and the forest.
I think about city life and I compare it with my life. Yes, we don’t have all the amazing shopping malls and convenience at your doorstep in every possible activity you could ever require. But, why would you want that? This is what I want – Mother nature in my face, all her glory moulding the entire area into an offspring of her inspiration. She is in the way we talk, in what we wear and what we do. She is in our blood. And most of all, she’s in our Hearts. Feeling a sense of pride and achievement, I make my way back down the mountain, contemplating the magnitude of compassion I feel for the Wilderness around me.
– Shannon Smith, Wilderness