It could have been anywhere. Houses, footpaths, cars. Kids playing. People walking. A school at the top of the hill, a shop down the road.
It was so very normal. Suburbia.
And then I walked.
After two minutes I was in ‘First Basin’ where the South Esk River comes spilling out of the upper sections of Cataract Gorge, into a large open pool, before continuing down the Gorge to the waiting arms of the Tamar estuary. The water is surrounded by cliffs and hills, parkland and bushland, a 300m chairlift carrying excited school kids overhead. Peacocks fussing and preening.
It’s anything but suburbia.
And I walked again, following a trail upstream toward the delightfully named Duck Reach.
Not 10 minutes from setting out on foot from my car parked in the heartland of the suburbs I was a world away. The remnant of last week’s floodwaters tumbled down the rocky riverbed. The steep sides of the gorge deep with forest, the atmosphere still and heavy – the river and an occasional bird’s call the only sounds beyond my own footsteps.
It is a beautiful place, and all the more remarkable for being so close to the heart of the city.
At one moment I was in the normalcy of suburbia, and minutes later deep in tbe beauty of the gorge. It never ceases to amaze me that such a remarkable spot can be so close to ordinary life, literally just around the corner.
As I walked I thought a lot about that fact. I wondered how often we who are caught up in the ordinariness of daily life miss the spectacular, the remarkable, the astonishing that is just around the corner.
And I wondered about the church that I work among, so obsessed with worrying about our daily bread that we miss all the opportunities that lie just out of sight.
It seems an obvious connection. Lift our eyes from suburbia to find the remarkable that is literally on our doorstep.
But as I trod the riverside path on my way back home, something started to stir for me. I had parked my car in the middle of everything that I know, and gone off to find something better.
And how often, I wondered, is that the case? How often do we give up on all that is normal and around us to go searching for the something remarkable? How often do we leave suburbia to go hunting for Cataract Gorge?
The closer I got to my car the more I realised that suburbia is anything but ordinary. This is where I live. There are friends and family, there are stresses and tension, there is laughter of kids playing in the front yard, heartache as an amublance races to the scene of a domestic tragedy.
This, suburbia, is life. It’s not ordinary, it’s incredible. When I go looking for the amazing that I’m convinced is just around the corner I think perhaps I miss the remarkable that surrounds me right where I am.
The grass is always greener, or so we say. The salvation of my church, the restoration of my soul, the reclaiming of my world as a better place….these things are perpetually just around the corner.
Except they are not. They are right before my very eyes. They are my neighbours, my family, the shop at the end of my street. The best stuff isn’t around the corner, its right here.
Perhaps I’d best start just here.