If you’ve never been to Cygnet you might expect to see rolling green hills and weatherboard cottages with waterfront views - and you wouldn’t be disappointed. There are dozens of bays, and bays within bays along the Huon River as it snakes towards the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, which separates Tasmania from Bruny Island.
Echo Sugarloaf is a new bush walk recently opened in Randall’s Bay with the support of its famous resident Bob Brown. It’s only a ninety minute walk to the summit and back and the bush, trees, landscape and views are worth every step. Yesterday I encountered a potterroo along the way, the first one I've ever seen in the wild. She bounced behind a bush and checked me out for a few minutes before going on her way. There is so much wildlife in Tassie!
In the four weeks that I've been here Sugarloaf has become my go-to walk if I need to get away from my desk and have a well earned break. I’ve discovered that for me, writing for ten to twelve hours a day only works with a balance of music, movement and at least a couple of hours outside woven into the process.
Most days I only wander along the shore to Crooked Tree Point. It’s not a very long walk so I have to do multiple laps to keep my steps up. I met Denise, one of the neighbours, in her yard, and was greeted with a friendly hello. “I was told you’re writing and I’m not to disturb you”, she said, picking apples from a tree, and handing them to me - her pet geese, chooks and dogs at her feet and cat glaring from the windowsill.
If I need to go into Cygnet, to the Post Office or grocers, I’ll walk along the river in town while I’m there. A visit to the local IGA is quite an event, with almost everything you can find in Hobart’s iconic Hill Street Grocer. The family owners, who are archetypically perky and friendly, asked my name the third time I visited. I’d forgotten the friendliness of people in small towns in Tasmania, or is it Tasmanians in general? It seems everyone has time for a chat and you get the feeling that the locals you pass on the street hope you’ll stop them for directions, so they can ask where you’re from. Maybe I do stand out, I'm now a regular stranger, and have been spotted a few times, not like the weekend ‘blow ins’, who are briefly spotted, and only once.
From the centre of downtown Cygnet you can walk down the high street to the marshy reeds, following a dirt track past a line of gum trees towards the harbour. It’s about forty-five minutes to go as far as the harbour and back. The trail follows along Lymington Road past a row of old apple sheds, now repurposed into new ventures including the Cygnet Yoga Studio, Ian Clare Pottery Studio, and the Port Cygnet Cannery food hub. There are so many things to look at with each step, including boat sheds, workshops and picture book houses with pretty well-loved gardens. Decades ago when I lived in Tasmania Cygnet was a sleepy little town, with a quirky community of fishermen, Grass Roots hippies and apple orchard growers. It seems not much has changed really, except now I’d call it peaceful, rather than sleepy. And then there’s the property prices, of course.
If you’re lucky enough to glance down at just the right moment while walking this trail your eyes might catch on the sweetest surprise. At the base of one of the biggest trees is a tiny gravel path, only a few inches long and wide, leading to a Tudor style wooden door, only six inches high, embedded in the trunk. Ah, so this is where the fairies live. But that's another story.
I’m now four weeks in with four weeks to go on my writing odyssey. I'm right in the eye of the storm, and midway through chapter seven of twelve, so I’m on schedule.
It’s been harrowing and heavenly and everything in between, and sometimes all in the one day - just like Tassie’s weather, four seasons in a day. Without all of the activity and noise of the full and wonderful life I have at Springfield I’m just starting to be able to hear myself think. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s, well, a bit loopy, and often it’s just ho hum. The thing is, this time of quiet and stillness is a rare thing for me. Having an ADD brain has its perks, but being able to sit quietly isn't one of them. It takes a while to tune in and to be ok to sit with what is - beyond the usual to-do lists.
Now that I have found flow with writing (touching wood madly) I’m so appreciative of this opportunity and am more in love with writing retreats than ever. Our Springfield writing retreats offer inspiration from some of Australia’s most talented authors, support from fellow writers, and nourishment from our beautiful accommodation and home grown food. We open the doors and windows of your writing process and give time and space for you to get started or go deeper into your craft.
With group studio sessions, one on ones, evening salons, massages, bush walks and shared meals our retreats are a fun, intensive dive into creativity and self-care but they are not a solo experience, which is why I’m inspired to offer something new.
Shannon and I will be fine-tuning our calendar to find space to offer a few quiet days at the end of some of our upcoming writing retreats, so you can stay on, sit with and process your learning, and take some time to be quiet and still, and Just Write. We have had Just Write Retreats in the past, which I loved, but in the frenzy of our calendar planning they have been left quietly and patiently waiting on the side. I’m delighted to bring them back. Now that I’ve had this beautiful stillness to go even deeper into writing I want you all to have the experience too!
Enough of missing Springfield and playing with new ideas, it's time to get back to Chapter 7!
See you on the other side.