Sanctuary

I’d nearly run out of petrol when I reached Ricketts Sanctuary. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to fill up. The week had been stressful and I just wanted to reach the forest as fast as possible. Should I try to find a petrol station? I asked myself, No, the petrol can wait! I If I’m gonna run out, better to do so after bathing in the Mountain Ash sanctuary air! I affirmed as I shifted the gear stick into neutral and rolled into Rickett’s Sanctuary car park.

It was a cold and quiet Thursday in June and nobody seemed to be around. When I entered the Santuary the winter sun streamed though the treetops to touch my face. William Ricketts’ love seemed to emanate. Winding through the space, I felt the devotional air for both the earth and for first peoples of this country. The clay sculptures appeared to merge with the forest mass. I imagined William sculpting amongst the ferns after coming home from a sabbatical up north with the Indigenous tribe he held so dear.

I made my way to visit the Ash where William rests, a magnificent tree with a trunk as big as a bedroom reaching tens of metres into the air. On a more modest tree stump nearby I found a tiny little heart-shaped mushroom in moss near the intricate pattern of felled tree’s centre. I took a picture then headed for respite from the morning cold in the small cottage where William dwelt.

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In the warmth of Willaim’s cottage I sat and closed my eyes. I imagined the roots of the Mountain Ash surrounding deep underneath, their trunks climbing around me and the view from the top. My mind finally felt clear of the haze that had hung for the past week.

On my way out, I asked the friendly Parks Victoria assistant where the closest petrol station was – ‘Montrose or Ferntree Gully, either way a 15km drive.’ Will I make it or will I be walking? I thought to myself. Ok, which way?  Montrose, I decided. The car park at Rickett’s is a steep accent; up I went then turned left on Mount Dandenong Tourist Road. It was down-hill as far as I could see, I cruised in neutral gear. Brett laughed at me when I told him this was a way to save petrol, I’m not completely sure it is, but to my delight the road to Montrose was all down. I made it!

After filling the tank, I headed back to the Dandenongs tourist road. I’m hungry now – I thought. I had left my messy house that morning without breakfast or a coffee. All I wanted was warm place with a fire and a good coffee. I was hoping for ‘Eden’, the cafe across the road from the sanctuary, but an Ash recently fell there and builders were restoring the place after the trees descent. ‘Maybe I’ll find some other cosy abode, I thought to myself, luck is on my side today.

I kept my eye out and came to a cafe that advertised its recent award for best coffee. Perfect. I walked into to find shelves of books, an open fire-place and welcoming staff.

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The coffee at this cafe called ‘Brunch’ was great and everything on the menu looked delicious. I plucked a Margaret Atwood book from the shelf and ordered the most expensive meal on the menu – French beef daube, a delicious slowed cooked beef casserole in red wine ($21) and a glass of red to go with it ($9). The food and wine hit the spot and I felt completely welcomed to settle in with the novel by the fire. After a long relaxing rest I ordered Frangelico Affagato – ice cream, espresso coffee and liquor – yum ($9).  I complemented the chef on my way out who happened to be the owner of the place, her name, Louise. I’m coming back, I told her! Her husband Mark showed me the room out back where there was a large shelf of kids’ books and a giant Teddy. Mark told me they let every kid who goes to the cafe take a book home with them. I’m coming back with my kids, I told him.  The manager Jay suggested I make a reservation, the place gets packed on weekends and we sometimes have to turn people away. He said.

I’ll make sure to book then! I said before tipping him and saying goodbye.

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After lunch I drove a few 100 metres beyond the café and discovered the entrance to a track into the forest. I parked at Mount Dandenong Primary School, hopped out of my car and read the sign that said ‘Mechanics track, 2km to Olinda Falls’. After wine and ice-cream, a winter walk seemed the perfect idea. The track led deep into the belly of the forest. Mud squished under my boots as the sound of lorikeets and flowing creek water filled my ears. I took a moment to pause, looked up at the fern umbrella branches above and then touched the bark of an Ash that towered to dwarf the giant ferns. The smell of moss and eucalypt brought a broad smile to my face. I remembered yesterday’s headache and the sinking feeling that lumbered my chest, its gone, I delighted.

I reached Olinda Falls to find a young couple with their eight-week-old baby. The father took a photo of the mother with her babe in arms. The three of them cuddled then walked on. I took my own moment to listen to the cascades then tracked back through the lovely mud towards my car. When I finally arrived, rain began to fall.

I drove home in the rain feeling complete bliss.

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Join us on our next Free Grace Day, July 2nd for relaxation at Ricketts Sanctuary, a bush walk to Olinda Falls and High Tea at Brunch cafe. For more click here

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