Where the sidewalk ends

100_2204 cropFriday afternoons, my daughter and I have two hours to kill in the city between band practices. We usually pass the time by going for a walk. But neither of us likes walking on busy city streets, so we usually drive somewhere close enough that we can walk out of town.

There is a wealth of these magical spots, particularly around the hills, where the city is patchy and interspersed with steep valleys.

Today, we walked from a tidy little neighbourhood of small houses built sometime in the 1960s on the broad flat at the mouth of a valley. We climbed out of the neighbourhood toward the head of the valley, passing houses of decreasing age and increasing size, until we were walking past brand new houses of immense proportions, with wide expanses of plate glass overlooking the valley. Then a few skeletal houses, surrounded by scaffolding, and then no more.

At some point along the way, the road narrowed and the sidewalk petered out. Paddocks full of beef cattle spread out below us, and bush-covered slopes rose above. Bellbirds sang in the afternoon light.

The road narrowed to one lane, and a sign warned motorists that there were no further turning spots and no exit. We walked on until we reached the farm at the end of the road, a vineyard spread out below on the valley floor.

The sound of traffic was just a distant hiss, and I contemplated what it must be like to be the last farmer in this valley, holding out at the end of this long road, with no way in or out, save through the city.

It must be terribly isolating—as much as being on a remote station. None of this farmer’s neighbours share his or her interests, concerns, or outlook on life—they are all townies on their lock-it-and-leave-it properties. They know nothing of calving, fencing, or weed control. They don’t notice when there has been too much or too little rain. Their only concern with a late frost is whether it means the ski fields will be able to stay open another week.

It can’t be easy to stay in that sort of situation, and I admire the farmer that can hold on in the face of the encroaching city. Too soon, I fear they will be gone.

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