Dec 112023

Human beings are community animals. Initially, their families are their close community. Their community connection grows by adding friends and expanding social activities. This personal expansion aims to build relationships for them to find their place in the world and the local community.

For the special few, out of their wants, needs, and imaginations, they create their ideal community and develop a town and places to provide living opportunities to share with others. Some are born, live, and die, adding to the history of an existing community and leaving a legacy for the future to build on. Others are fated to search for years before finding a suitable place where they belong.

Hurstbridge is such a place, with a forty thousand-year-long history of habitation by the local First Nations population. Colonial settlers then came seeking their fortunes. Waves of people seeking relief from the city rat race reaching out from Melbourne continue to come. There are many good reasons to become part of this whole community. My awareness has taken decades and years to develop, the story of which, with your indulgence, I would now like to share.

This particular day’s morning walk was down my street, along Chione’s Way, then onto Ferguson’s Paddock. The sun was shining, birds were singing with the buds of new life bursting forth. Struck by the sounds of birds, I could feel the wind in my hair and face. The grass smell, the visual beauty of flowering buds on the pathside fruit trees, and the golden blanket of wattle near the footbridge conspired to trigger a review of my life.

Standing on the footbridge, I observed the gurgling of the Diamond Creek as it passed beneath the footbridge on its way to Diamond Creek township. The water wound past the fallen trunks and branches of eroded bushes from the last high water. Along the bitumen path, earthworms were wriggling to cross the barren waste to get to the grass on the other side. Any worms who lay limp were a testimony to the attempt. Dead limbs of fallen trees reached upwards as if to pay homage to the light. The sun coming up broke through the canopy of leaves to create changing shadows of dark and light across the path as the wind blew gently through the trees.

In Ferguson’s Paddock, a sense of calm and peace seeped into every part of my being. As I stopped to absorb the extensive view, I became more and more attuned to what was occurring around me. My mind stilled and was quiet in this place with nothing else to do. The impact of nature appealed to the deepest part of my being and reminded me that I was still part of the natural world. The calls and flight of birds confirmed that I shared this place with many other species. That thought brought gratitude to my heart and joy to my soul. Walking around gave me time to reflect on my belief systems in a way the usual frenzied workday did not permit.

Strangely, thoughts came flooding out of a nearby group of tall gum trees. As a science fiction nerd, I recognised this was a verbal line from the Star Trek TV series. The Borg’s short message to human beings: ‘Resistance is futile’ and then, ‘You will be assimilated.’

A further tide of thoughts and memories then cascaded in me. Recent colonial history abounds in this place, from the murder of Henry Hurst, Sir John Monash’s concrete bridge, to the memorial to Peter Brock, to the many carefully preserved buildings such as Allwood House. The pathway I had just walked was named to celebrate the short life of a child who lived next to me.

Why had I missed until now noticing the natural beauty of living here? The excuse that came to mind was that I was heavily engaged in mastering my job. I had little free time to appreciate this place. For my children and my wife, I’m sure it was different. My resistance took the form that home was just a place to lay my head at night after the day’s work activities.

Now retired and on this morning walk, I explored ways to absorb the natural beauty of this place that I hadn’t considered possible before. The natural beauty of life around me blossomed and had a hidden yet important message about life existing in this place. A series of cyclic renewal energy exists seasonally in all life, the cycle creating the basis of history for us all.

In the past, I had considered myself separate from whatever nature surrounded me. Today, in the special moment of feeling fully connected to life in this place, I realised that my resistance to fully embracing life was futile. Here in Hurstbridge in the Nillumbik Shire, I had now been assimilated into the community and this place.

As I later write this story, I find another gift from the experience. I am aware of my poor knowledge of the Wurundjeri-Willian clan that lived here centuries before I came into the area. However, my life connection to the timeless lifeline of this place is now clear. In my mind’s eye, aided by an awakened heart, I can envisage an ancient version of this place and its surroundings. More natural beauty existed under the care of the local indigenous people, who appreciated the natural world and lived in simple harmony with local life.

The current local area energy cannot match the beauty in that vision, only hang onto the natural beauty we have now. The community continues to resist the pressures of inappropriate development to preserve a place where seekers of a simple lifestyle can belong. I rejoice that I finally can appreciate the essence of the beauty left in this special place.