Four years ago, my partner and I decided on a tree change and moved 350km inland from Sydney to a little country town of 2200 people. It has been a renewal, an awakening.
Each day starts with my early morning 6km walk across a gorgeous countryside of undulating hills. The track is leaves, bark and twigs. I walk past a wonderful array of Australian gums and the occasional wild peach or plum tree, and I hear and see a mob of merino sheep chasing down clumps of tasty grasses.
I listen to a flock of noisy corellas moving between gum trees, and see a mixture of galahs and sulphur-crested cockatoos busily eating the leftovers beside a parked grain truck. In the distance the sound of crowing roosters echoes across the land and magpies happily sing a welcome to the new day.
I walk past houses with wooden front verandas, from an era in these towns when fathers physically built the family home. In the small front yards flourish hardy plants and many rose gardens, reflecting a bygone era.
In this town there is no rush hour, no driver combatants, no victory in gaining a car space.
The single-gauge railway line that linked our town with many other little towns has long gone; its sad remnants appear spasmodically among weeds and behind fallen fences. The men who physically built these railway lines 100 years ago have been long forgotten.
My partner and I have joined many small groups in this NSW town, and we experience the kindness and care for people that had been extracted out of us in the big smoke.
A new neighbour recently arrived, and tells us he lived on Sydney trains for three years until a good Samaritan provided a home for him in our town. A group of locals has renovated a desolate home, which now provides a sanctuary for families doing it tough. The town has a free Christmas Day luncheon for the lonely and for families in awkward situations.
A neighbour gives us apples; we give excess groceries to a single mum and single men unable to work or find work. I have chooks so we enjoy free, free-range eggs every day.
I have returned to the mood and feelings of my childhood, when we cared for each other, when my grandmother and my cousins lived around the corner, when we made fun in our own backyard, when we all went to the same school, when we didn’t have much money and we could dream about being great without any fears.
I have recovered what I lost a long time ago: the real care and love for other humans.
Bless these unique and beautiful little country towns — you still possess the soul of our sunburnt country.
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