|Looking down on the Taieri Plain from about halfway up Flagstaff|
|After half an hour of walking my destination is the tower on the skyline.|
|I enjoy the little things on the way like this moss on the rock. It seemed to glisten in the sun.|
|This looked like a landscaper's rockery - but it is just the way nature made it.|
Phoenix Lodge clients
Yesterday I went to Phoenix Lodge. This is a facility run by the Night Shelter Trust where we accommodate guys out of prison wanting to sort their life out. I went to find out what was wrong with the oven. The guys there are generally warm toward me when I arrive. I am not naive. I know they struggle with the rules and trying to change the lifestyle they have been used to. I like them, but I know they have a long hard row to hoe. Is there any chance of employment? Their income does not give them a lot to spare. They have a lot of down time on their hands. I would love to have the time to take them tramping. I feel like they could do with just some good old low key relationship and friendship, but infrequent visits and quick contact is all I can do. I am the chairman of the Trust that provides their accommodation. It is not my role to care for them, others do that, but it does not stop me wanting the best for these guys, and trying to dream up ways they could be more supported. Life is tough for a lot of people, and I find myself wanting to help.
Last week I managed to fit in a run and two walks up Mount Cargill. Today my normal Sunday running friend was ill, so I had to choose what to do. I decided to walk the hour and a half into Swampy Summit and back again. The walk in goes steeply uphill to the top of Flagstaff. Then you go down, and up, and down and up, and down and up, and up and up and up. The "ups" are steep and rough. On the way in the sun was shining and it was hot. (for Dunedin) I had thought of taking a hat but had decided against it - big mistake. I was really feeling the heat, and could feel myself burning and dehydrating. At one stage half way up a very steep hill I sat for a brief moment under the shade of a bush with my lungs bursting. I filled with self-doubt. "Maybe I should just turn around and go back to the car?" I said to myself. Then I remembered a picture I saw while gathering illustrations for power points this morning. It was a picture of an athlete looking exhausted with the words, "Your brain will give up long before your body!" So I climbed out of my hiding place and kept plodding up the hill. I was so pleased to arrive at the summit, where I sat and had a drink, a banana and an apple, before heading back. The cloud had gathered so the return walk was cooler, quicker and easier. I pushed myself hard today. My lungs were bursting and my heart was pounding. For a time on the way in I was really exhausted, but was pleased I had the mettle to stick at it. When I finished (it was exactly three hours) I felt so pleased with myself. Physically and mentally I had triumphed.
If you compare yourself with others....
I walked from the car park to the top of Flagstaff in 20 minutes which is not a bad effort. As I reached the summit I came alongside an "elderly couple" who arrived as I arrived. (They were probably my age) They proudly declared the time they had taken from the car park to the top... twice as long as I had. Smugly I said, "Twenty minutes for me! It's a steep pinch isn't it?" and carried on my way feeling superior. About half an hour later I was still feeling superior, but struggling up a steep hill almost to the top. Over the top came a runner, just in shorts, hat (sensible guy) looking cool and calm. He was probably 15 years younger than I, but looking good for his age. Six pack abs, wiry looking muscles all over and running like a gazelle. "How are you?" I gasp, struggling for breath. "Pretty good" he said enthusiastically, without the hint of any shortness of breathe even though he had just completed a climb. Jealousy filled my mind. Oh to be that fit. No longer did I feel superior. Then I remembered this line from the Desiderata. "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself." "Just keep walking and enjoy the climb!" I said to myself.
Love the open spaces...
I said to my wife when I was deciding what to do, "I think I'll do Swampy. It will be good for my soul." The track is surrounded by flax, tussock and small shrubs. We are so lucky, barely five minutes drive from the centre of the city you are walking on an open country ridge. I find myself being replenished inside by the openness, the birdsong, the plants, the isolation and the expansive views. It was indeed "good for my soul".