The Best Cure for Stress

I’ve been pretty wound-up of late. My workplace is very busy, often chaotic, frequently on a knife’s edge between a glorious, hilarious mayhem and a frightening, dangerous one. It is only the sheer heart and guts of a fabulous team that keeps it from tipping into the dark side. But we had an event recently, and an aftermath of it, that has proved to be something a little like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Emotions have been running high and along with them: STRESS.

The bummer about stress is that it can feel inescapable. It follows you home, it clings to you, it winds itself into every thought and muscle fibre. It makes you feel tight all over, taut, close to snapping point. Being a single mother to a teenage son, a gorgeous boy with a heart of gold … but yes, a teenager … is not the easiest thing to be when you are close to snapping. There’s something about teenage boys that seems to bring the likelihood of snapping that much nearer.

Baby Water Gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) - a brave beginning to a life that will be lived in and out of the torrent

Baby Water Gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) – a brave beginning to a life that will be lived in and out of the torrent

So yes, it hasn’t been all pretty around here of late. But yesterday cured us. Weekends in general are stress-curing things. But they can be easily wasted. Yesterday was not wasted.

We have just been through our second flood of the year, here in Whian Whian. That has meant days off school for my boy, as his high school is in one of the floodier parts of Lismore. So we’ve had too many indoorsy days watching an endless stream of movies. But over the weekend, the sun miraculously came out and began to dry everything, and by Sunday the creek had gone down enough for it to be safe to play in, but still wonderfully swift and swirly.

We took the dogs and strode over the hill of our neighbours’ property and down to their part of the creek, where they have a stash of inner tyre tubes, which we promptly borrowed and threw ourselves upon and into the rush of Rocky Creek.

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In places it turned out to be a bit too fast and furious, still, so we had to get out and scramble along the edges.

It is these edges I have been so taken with. They are scrubbed clean, even to the soil. Everything is so clean as to be almost raw, ferns have tattered leaves, tree roots are naked and exposed, quandong seeds and baby muscle shells lie tangled in their grip – without a speck of dirt upon them. There is something profound about these edges, about this brutal cleanliness, something tender and precious in all this exposure, this clinging on, this surviving. The tiny treasures that are washed up by the immense force of water that comes of the wild weather we’ve been having.

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We eventually rounded a bend in the creek and came to the place where it opens out into wide lava flows that are pocked all over with great big fist-sized chunks of white quartz. In the dry times these can look ugly and yellowed, covered in algal slime. But now they are white and pearly as teeth. And here we found the perfect set of rapids, wild and wavey, that when leapt upon, shoot you down the centre of the creek in a heart-thumping ride only to throw you out and swirl you back around almost right back to where you started. An eddy, a spiral, a gift.

So what was there to do but for us to go and find others to share it with? Tarn called his dad and little brother, and I coaxed my parents, and in the end we had a picnic on the be-crystalled rocks, and played away the afternoon in and out of the rushing, clear, cleansing waters.

And when we came home I knew I was cured of stress. It was gone from my body, replaced with a weary, joyful calm. And once more, I am deeply grateful for my home, for the way it heals me and teaches me and holds and challenges me. I wish that everyone could know this sense of at-homeness, and the thankfulness of it.

Mature Water Gum, one of my favourite trees. Their bark is smooth and friendly to hold onto, as you make your way along the creek. They are often bent and sculpted, their bodies testaments to the force of the floods they've lived through.

Mature Water Gum, one of my favourite trees. Their bark is smooth and friendly to hold onto, as you make your way along the creek. They are often bent and sculpted, their bodies testaments to the force of the floods they’ve lived through.

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