15 Jan 2013, Comments (14)

On the Ridge

Author: Helen

My dad died. It was sad, and it wasn’t. He had had a long and really quite wonderful life. Age, injury and illness had taken away, one by one, the things he loved to do. In the end, he was ready to go.

We took his ashes to Namadji National park and scattered them from a cluster of granite tors on a precipice looking down to the Orroral valley, with the outline of abandoned Orroral Station showing. The rocks were on a ridge above the Honeysuckle Creek campground, where the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking station (the Deep Space station which received the first images of Neil Armstrong’s moon walk) used to be. How appropriate for a man who grew up with a love of astronomy.

We were lucky. It was an afternoon in early January. The extreme bushfire weather which as turned NSW and ACT into a patchwork of fiery outbreaks the following week hadn’t arrived yet. The ACT National Parks association, of which he was a life member, turned up in force. The park gates were closed, but fifty of us crowded into the Visitor’s centre and then drove up to the campground, then to the trailhead on the ridge. No toilets, no barbecues or ashphalt parking lot, just a clearing in the forest.

Tables and chairs were unfolded, eskies and bags and bottles came out of car boots. We ate, drank and chatted there up on the remote ridge in the evening sunlight. Two groups of overnight pack walkers had to pass through our circle as they crested the hill and walked on down the track. The expressions on their faces as they found a noisy party at that remote place after park closing time were unforgettable.

Some of us were quite old – My mum is 91 and there was an ACT walking group member who looked very old indeed, a little slip of bone and spirit walking with two sticks. The lookout to the valley was only a few steps down the walking path and then another few steps on a side track. Everyone made it, at least to the Granite tors. That’s my mum there – she went all the way and sat right on the edge. There were many hands waiting to grab her if she went over.

Lizzie sitting on a granite tor looking down on Orroral valley - scattering Dad's ashes

We scattered Dad’s ashes over the cliff and the valley as the sun took on that velvety, golden afternooon light. The ACT walkers told stories of his love of walking and his often erratic navigational skills, combined with an enthusiasm for side trips and brilliant alternative routes which would often have his walking groups bushed and nearly benighted.

Scattering Dad's ashes at Namadji national park

Scattering ashes, looking out over the Orroral valley

Now he’s out there forever, with (I’m told) quite a few other former members of the walking club.

Comments (14) »

  • mimbles says:

    Beautiful post Helen, it sounds like it was a lovely farewell.

    My sympathies and *hugs* if they’re wanted to you and your family.

  • hannah's dad says:

    Lovely place, sounds very fitting. Go well.

  • zoot says:

    I second those emotions. Thank you Helen.

  • Deborah says:

    Your dad was a wonderful man, and I was very lucky to meet him and pass the time of day with him in a professional context, and to see him and your mum a few times at their place.

    Atheist that I am, and a complete non-believer in souls and the like, I nevertheless like the thought of your dad’s spirit somehow continuing to inhabit the bush that he loved.

  • Kath Lockett says:

    That’s a really lovely tribute, Helen and your Mum looks pretty sprightly for ninety one!

    My father wants his ashes scattered somewhere in SA’s Flinders Ranges. Great Dads think alike.

  • Chally says:

    Sympathies to you and yours, Helen.

  • Helen says:

    Thanks for the lovely comments, everyone!
    I regret not walking with him and the ACT national parks people, but in the 80s I was living in Melbourne and playing most weekends, then the 90s was babies and young children time. I’ve got a lovely picture of him walking with sprog #1 when she was little – although bushwalking isn’t her first love by any means I hope she retains lovely memories of it. Of course, she didn’t go on one of his loooooong walks. :)

  • AnnODyne says:

    massive sympathy for your loss, and especially to your mother’s loss of a great man, and such a regal 91 she is too.
    What a life he made, that all his friends would put such effort into his deeply spiritual and elegant farewell.

    [Why does WordPress keep sending you into the automoderation Ms O’Dyne? It’s a mystery. Unless you haven’t used that email before. H]

  • tracy says:

    Such a loving farewell. Thank you. xx

  • M-H says:

    I’m both sorry and glad to read this. We all all die, and it’s nice to think that someone will make a little ceremony for us and for each other when that happens. Take care, Helen.

  • Ariane says:

    That’s a lovely way to remember and celebrate a life well lived.

    We scattered my father’s ashes on the mouth of the river he grew up around, in the boat he never finished building (happily completed by my uncle). He always needed to see “where the river met the ocean”, whenever we crossed a river. Seemed appropriate to say our final farewells there.

  • dylan/dylwah says:

    condolences

    that is one of my favourite ridge lines, ive walked, biked and climbed on it. thanks.

  • Helen says:

    Welcome Dylwah.
    Thanks to Anne O’Dyne, M-H, Ariane and Tracy too.

  • susoz says:

    Lovely photos, lovely thoughts.

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