Standing Still

Some of the most fulfilling moments whist hiking occur when you actually stop moving. The beauty of an area can bring you to a halt. When it does, you no longer have the sound of your feet crunching the ground or your poles tapping away, you have only the sounds of the surrounds, the vista in your eyes and the pounding of your own heart within.

On the Great North Walk I remember entering a leafy glade wrapped by tall trees and being enchanted by the ringing songs of bell birds. I just stood there and listened. This was why I hike, I thought. I made a promise then to linger at the lovely spots.

BellBird ringing

Whilst exploring Berowra I made a point of stopping and listening whilst on my morning walks. The birds were always active at sunrise and I realised that each valley had a different mix of sounds from the different birds calling it home.

I remember stopping in a forest near Ourimbah and being confused by the mix of bird sounds I heard. I would hear one type of bird then another and another. It took me some time to realise that I was listening to a Lyrebird whose talent was mimicking others birds in an attempt to lure a mate.

Lyrebird sounds

I descended into a gully one day and was held captive by the sounds of trickling water over mossy rocks and beauty of a fallen tree across the river. I stayed for half an hour and moved on only reluctantly.

I sat in the gully and absorbed it all in

I was walking on a Firetrail in spring one day and stopped for a drink. I noticed a little white flower. Then I noticed a yellow one, then a purple one and all of a sudden I could see wildflowers everywhere. You don’t really get fields of flowers in Australia, the flowers are there but you need to look and give them your attention. Now I see the wildflowers everywhere and I look forward to my walks in spring.


Whilst walking to Pindar Cave I learned to turn around and look. A small climb took me up to some rocks and I decided to have a snack. Looking back along my path revealed a beautiful vista and was a highlight of the day. I now look behind after every climb. Looking back on my recent walk along Stockton Beach revealed an amazing sunset. It’s worth paying attention in all directions.

Looking back at Stockton Beach

I learned to save my snacks for the views So I could linger longer. I began to plan my walks around that, though sometimes you can be brought to a halt by the view through a gap in the trees. I always take a moment to breathe in those views.

Views through the trees
Views through the trees
Stopped here to fill up water at a tank

It’s worth pausing to look at the little things. Shells on a beach, tiny flowers, lichen on a rock. At Caruthers peak in Kosciusko National Park I saw a lovely little plant that looked like a bonsai clinging to a rock.

There is a poem by Mary Oliver that I have shared before but sums up hiking for me so well.

Instructions for living a life:

Pay Attention

Be Astonished

Tell About It

Excerpt from the poem “Sometimes,” from Red Bird, Boston: Beacon Press, 2009, page 37

Standing still enables one to pay attention. It can provide an astonishing experience whilst hiking that would otherwise be missed. It can provide the stories that you tell after the walk.

Thank you for indulging me. I was inspired to write this by a post written by the endless adventurers and current CDT hikers Hammer and Corky, where one of them had experienced that fulfilling moment of beauty whilst being still and I recognised it as being something I had felt too.


10 thoughts on “Standing Still

  1. Hi Nathan, Dean and I joined a bush walking group on one of their planned walks, but we only every did that once because they wouldn’t stop to enjoy their surroundings. Their ‘hikes’ were a race to see who could reach the end first – not enjoyable at all, especially for someone like me who tends to view everything as though it’s the very first time I’ve every looked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s why I like heading on my own so much. I can choose how long I stay at any spot and I can stop as often as I like. There are some walks where you do need to power on to beat sunset but sometimes just taking a minute to appreciate where you are can mean the difference between an awesome hike and a trudge.
      I suppose if you were wanting to try a group again you could ask about the style of walk – they may mix it up a bit. It is nice to walk with others too as I’m finding out with my recent walks.
      You could also take children for a walk- they stop every five seconds and can find adventure in a muddy puddle. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Those moments sometimes surprise you. One magical moment that comes to mind was doing a 4 day hike on the Bibbulmun Track. The 60+km section I did takes us near, under, around, next to the Worsley Alumina conveyer belt – a 50km conveyer belt transporting bauxite. So for a lot of that section you hear the rumbling of the machinery, even into the night. However at one campsite I stopped at, Youdamung, it was so quiet. No machinery noise, no wind in the trees, no animals rustling about in the bush, no bird life, no people. After the ‘white noise’ rumble of 2 days this ‘silence was deafening’. My senses were on high alert but there was absolutely no noise, just silent stillness. I mentioned this to a hiker friend and she agreed she heard no noise there either. She thought it was creepy. I thought it was blissful. I sat for a while in the silence, loving it, before making my own noise setting up camp for the night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Clare. I guess folks do things for different reasons but I think it’s very easy to turn a trudge into something quite fulfilling.
      And I have to admit I get my Clare’s mixed up sometimes! I’ve got three of you 🙂 If the comments didn’t come thru with “A Suffolk lane” or “Clare’s cosmos “ next to your names I’d be totally lost !

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nathan. I was a bird watcher about 40 years ago. Had my book and my life list. I used to ride my bike to a local forest in Eastern Pennsylvania, walk in a ways and sit. All the creatures that I frightened on my way in would return as I sat very still. It taught me the importance of being very still and just being very present. Doing that anywhere, is always rewarding. Thank you for helping me remember.


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