Tuesday 19 December 2023

Back to the Land of a Thousand Lakes 3

[A grey early evening over Silver Lake]

As grey afternoon graded into grey evening, we sat around the Silver Lake campsite comparing notes on our post-lunch walks. Libby hadn’t found the reputed Shangri-la campsite near Lake Ah Chees. But she, Tim D and Merran had nonetheless enjoyed their peregrinations. Afterwards they too had gone on to Lakes Sonja and Solveig, but had crossed the Pine River well before we had. This alone, we retirees argued, explained why they’d almost caught us by the end of the day.


One thing we did agree on was how grateful we were that the forecast rain dump had held off for our first two days. The more usual Roaring Forties winds had been supplanted by a deep low pressure system east of Bass Strait. That had been flooding southern Victoria, and threatened to do the same to northern Tasmania. Looking in that direction now we could see dark clouds lowering over the peaks of the Walls. 

[Threatening clouds above the campsite]

Above us large cumulus clouds began piling up. Would tonight bring the end of our weather luck? It might, but dinner and a round of Yaniv (cards) were more of a certainty. So we relaxed and enjoyed this special time in a special place. And in the end, for all that the clouds blustered and shook their fists at us, they delivered nothing overnight. 

[Tim D (centre) explains Yaniv to Libby and TimO]

After another peaceful sleep, we were up early. Our plans for the day were vague, but we wanted to walk back uphill before the day grew too warm. I wasn’t at all keen to face the scrubby ascent from Lake Antimony. It had felt hard enough descending through it on the first day. But as sometimes happens, the difficulties were as much imagined as real. With fresh legs and a lighter pack, we were soon through the worst of the scrub. 


Partway up the hill we took a good break at Theresa Lagoon, and TimO and I wandered around the shore for a while. Pencil Pines were part of the lure. I always enjoy their company, but we also wanted to see whether this large lake might be a future camping destination. After we’d sussed out a couple of good looking sites, we rejoined the group and quickly fuelled up on nuts and water. 

[TimO checks out Theresa Lagoon]


Once we were back at the more defined Lake Fanny Track, we had decisions to make. The wind had freshened from the north, and was now quite cool. Some of us had grand plans of more lake discovery in the afternoon. But the first order of business was to find a campsite sheltered from this wind. After that we’d set up tents and have lunch. Then we could better consider the afternoon’s options. 


From the track junction we looked out to a chain of lakes only a kilometre or so to our north-west. The three Talleh Lagoons run almost north-south, and looked as though they’d have some sheltered sites. We pushed downhill, through bush that thickened as we neared the lakes. We looked first at the middle lagoon, but the only flattish bit of shoreline was wide open to the wind. So we moved on to the southern-most lagoon, where we found a shelf some distance above the lake that looked quite sheltered. Some looked happy to stop there, but I was in fussy mode. Why camp quite near a lake when you can camp right on the lake shore? 


That, of course, required there to be such a site, and that it be sheltered. So a few of us dumped packs and walked along the western shore of the lake in search of this “Goldilocks” site. We poked around for 15 minutes or so, and were about to give up when I suggested we look just a little further, the other side of some big boulders. Perhaps they were the Three Bears, because just beyond them was a campsite which Goldilocks would surely have appreciated: sheltered, absolute waterfront, great views, plenty of room for our tents. We only had to mention to Merran that it was also great for swimming, and she was on board.

[Waterfront camping at Talleh Lagoon]


Then, as we set up, something strange came over the group. All talk of going off in search of more lakes in the afternoon dissolved. Suddenly the prospect of having a lazy afternoon at the Goldilocks site had universal appeal. This was music to Jim’s ears. He had already planned just this, and was both surprised and delighted not to be the only one. 

[TimO swims at Talleh Lagoon]


After lunch three of us had a swim in the lake: or in my case a quick and very refreshing dip. And then the rain came, sending some to their tents, and others to the excellent shelter of Tim D’s excellent tarp. It rained, solidly at times, for about an hour, but then cleared to a pleasant if coolish afternoon.

[The great tarp setup at Talleh Lagoon]

Over dinner there was a spillover of gratitude for three good days of wandering among fine lakes with fine people, and in (mostly) fine weather. While some might say this was aided by a final splash of wine and liqueur, supplemented with chocolate, we had genuinely enjoyed what had been a soul filling walk. Then, as we chatted about the shape of our final day, Jim’s sparked up. We’d get going early, he insisted, estimating it would be 3½ to 4 four hours back to the cars. We had to make sure we were out in time to get to our lunch booking at the Great Lake Hotel. It seemed his beer goggles were firmly in place.

[Water lilies in a Central Plateau pond]

And so, after a Goldilock’s-appropriate breakfast of porridge, we packed up for the final time and left our lovely campsite. It’s fair to say Jim hadn’t always been the fastest walker on this trip. But now he took off like a young colt sniffing green grass. For the last few years Jim had been talking down the scope of his future bushwalking. We’d heard often of his preference for comfy huts and short days. And more than once, as he slumped down after a hard bit of walking, we’d heard him mutter things like “this is my last bl**dy walk”. 

[A watery sun on our final day]

I’ve never been fully convinced, since I kept seeing contradictory signs. Our “hut man”, for instance, had just invested in a new tent. Plus on every walk he’d maintained his gear freak status via a “reveal” of some new purchase or other. And now here he was streaking ahead of us on our final day’s walk. 

[The last we see of Jim until the end of the walk]


We never actually got close to catching Jim, who walked out in a mere 2½  hours. He argued that it was too cold to stop, with a biting wind whipping up water from the lakes as we passed by. The rest of us still needed to stop for water and some food. So, was Jim’s speedy walk out simply that of a “horse headed for home”? I’m not so sure. I think it may also be that there’s life in the old dog yet! 

Saturday 16 December 2023

Back to the Land of a Thousand Lakes 2

Someone was swanning about during the night. Despite fatigue and the comfort of my tent, I was awoken by strange sounds during the night. Someone, or something, was padding about our campsite making soft, high pitched hoots and toots. Ah yes! I’d seen a couple of black swans on Silver Lake at day’s end. The pair, it seems, had come ashore in the darkness to check out the invaders, or to graze. Perhaps both.

[A mating pair of Black Swans]


These most elegant of birds are not great walkers, their insubstantial undercarriage and heavy body making them far more suited to their usual aquatic habitat. On land they revert to “ugly ducklings”, waddling a little clumsily, sometimes bumping into or brushing by whatever is in their way. Still, there’s so much to love about these striking black birds, with their gracefully curved necks, candy-red and white beaks, and soft, cow-brown eyes. 


Europeans firmly believed swans could only be white, and that these antipodean inversions of the northern hemisphere’s mute swans were “impossible”. This illusion persisted even into the 20th century. Australia’s natural history has a way of messing with such Eurocentric notions. 

Later we got to watch as the pair took off and flew a lap of the lake. With their long necks outstretched arrow-like, they flapped their broad wings forcefully, tooting softly to each other. We shared a moment of quiet rapture when they eventually glided in for a superb unison landing. 

[Diuris orchids at our campsite]


The only other night noise – aside from a little neighbourly snoring – was a very unconvincing three minutes of “pitter” on our tents. There wasn’t enough rain to deserve the addition of a “patter”. In the morning, we started slowly. Tim D bated us about being keen to pack up and move on. He was not, and neither was anyone else. Two nights in this location was a unanimously welcome decision. 

An earlier iteration of our walk plan had us packing up today, and walking on to Dixons Kingdom in the Walls proper. But that plan had been scuppered long ago when we realised the huge car-shuffle it would have involved. While today’s plan didn’t include a pack up, it would take us on some of that route, albeit with day packs. The walk up the Bernes Valley past Lakes Sally, Sonja and Solveig was new to everyone except Jim and me.


[At the northern end of Silver Lake]

We first picked our way up the western shore of Silver Lake, dodging inland through scrubby woodland when the shore was impassable. In less than an hour we’d broken out at the large grassy clearing on the north-western shore of the upper Silver Lake. This was where I’d camped previously, and where we’d originally planned to spend our first night. While its broad, well-sheltered and has plenty of tent sites, we agreed that the campsite we’d settled on had a better outlook, especially in the light winds we were experiencing. Sometimes the wisdom of ad-hoc decisions works out well. 

[Merran looks out to Lake Sally]


Our plan from here was to walk to Lake Sally before diverting to the intriguingly named Ah Chees Lake. The story behind it is that some friends of Archibald (Archie) Meston slipped the name past the Nomenclature Board by giving its spelling an Oriental twist. (After his death in 1951, Lake Meston was also named after the Launceston born teacher/historian/anthropologist.) Libby had heard great things about the lake, including that it had some excellent tent sites, and she was keen to see it firsthand. But to see “Archie’s” we'd have to walk up the valley to Lake Sally. 

[Easy off-track walking through wildflowers]

[Walking past an enormous cushion plant]

As long as we avoided boggy sections, it was a pleasant untracked wander through a plethora of wildflowers. We were staggered by some very large, old cushionplants; enchanted by some comely reed-filled pools; and occasionally spooked by fast-moving white-lipped snakes. Just before the northern end of Lake Sally we stopped for a drink and some scroggin, and to do some running repairs on blisters that had begun to trouble TimO.

[Tim D helping with TimO's blisters]


Then we left the Pine River and followed a creek west to Ah Chees Lake. We found a handsome, large, forest-fringed lake, the perfect place for a lunch break. Merran decided it was also perfect for a swim. She informed us it wasn’t cold, though the rest of us weren’t sufficiently convinced to join her. 

[Merran swimming in Ah Chees Lake]


After lunch we split into two groups. Libby, Merran and Tim D were keen to explore the shores of this lake further, while Jim, TimO and I (the retirees) were happy with what we’d seen of Ah Chees. We’d complete our trek to Sonja and Solveig before returning to camp at Silver Lake. That sounded simple, and initially it was. We soon reeled in Lake Sonja, and Solveig wasn’t much further on.

[TimO and Jim at Lake Solveig]


But then the fun began. We wanted to return on the other side of the Pine River, which meant crossing what was a fast flowing stream. At the southern end of Sonja TimO found a crossing, and went over. But looking at it from a distance, and with the roar of a river making communication difficult, Jim decided it was too sketchy for his shorter legs. I thought it safest to stay with Jim. So we shouted that we’d stay on this side, and keep looking. We added that we should stay in visual contact. That also sounded simple, but the river had other ideas. What looked easy enough on our maps proved much more tricky. TimO had to divert east to avoid the lakeshore, while we had to meander all over the place to avoid river bends, marshes and bushy billabongs.

[Hibbertia carpet near Pine River]


Eventually, well south of Lake Sally, we finally came together again at a point where a crossing looked possible. TimO guided us step-by-step, but doubled the fun by filming our attempts, and adding an hilarious Olympic show-jumping-style commentary. No-one was harmed in the filming of the event, although one walker’s feet may have become damper than the other’s.

The non-retirees, meanwhile, had completed their viewing of Ah Chees, Sonja and Solveig, and were also coming back via the western side of Pine River. In fact as we descended from some unexpected scrub near Silver Lake, we heard a shout and saw them a couple of hundred metres behind us. Not being at all competitive, we retirees called a greeting … and duly doubled our pace. We weren’t going to let those youngsters beat us back to base!

[The waratahs were a welcome distraction while walking]


They didn’t either, but then they had the good excuse of needing to stop and search for Merran’s glasses, which she’d dropped somewhere near the Pine River crossing yesterday. So we were settled on our little campchairs, pretending to look rested and nonchalant, when they came in a few minutes behind us. Happily Merran saw us clearly: she had her glasses back where they belonged.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Back to the Land of a Thousand Lakes 1

[Ready to leave, at last!]

I usually reckon type 2 fun – something that’s difficult at the time, but which turns out to be rewarding – applies well to bushwalks. But just occasionally it applies to the lead up to a walk. 


Organising the first bushwalk of summer with my usual walking mates was close to classic type 2 fun. That partly came down to our differing bushwalking styles and preferences. Some of us like to walk to wild places, far from the madding crowd. Some of us like a walk to be short and sweet, preferably with the comforts of a hut, and the prospect of meeting new walkers. Still others of us like the challenge of reaching a mountaintop, or finding our way through new, preferably trackless country. 


Trying to juggle the various walk preferences; lock in the dates; settle on a venue; nail complex transport arrangements; deal with last minute changes; factor in the weather – all in the age of COVID – made the organisation of this walk more than a little fraught.


But then, miracle of miracles, as soon as we got to the start of the walk, the difficulties began to be eclipsed by the rewards, and the smiling began. In truth for two of us, the smiling had begun a day early. Knowing that on this walk we wouldn’t get to stay in a hut, Jim’s high-rank preference, he and I had gone up early and spent the night at the Great Lake Hotel: a very fancy "hut", by our standards.


Our four day jaunt was to begin not far from Great Lake. We would walk into the Central Plateau/Walls of Jerusalem area, starting from Ada Lagoon. We’d eyed off several potential lakeside camps, with Silver Lake our likely first destination. I’d walked there a few times, but not for many years. So in writing up the walk plan, I allowed six hours to get from Ada to Silver: a generous estimate, I thought.

[Walking beside Ada Lagoon]


We didn’t manage to start walking until after 12 noon, partly because of the tight preparation time available for the full-time workers in the group. But we kept smiling, and the weather gods smiled back at us. The forecast showers were nowhere to be seen. Instead they’d given way to a blue sky off-set by welcomingly fluffy clouds. 


Compared to the more popular end of the Walls of Jerusalem, this walk has an unspectacular start. It’s flattish, largely treeless, and partially on an old fourwheel drive track. For us though, the lack of high peaks and deep forest was compensated for by the wide open vistas, the glittering of lakes near and far, and the stunning early summer wildflower displays. Golden pultenaea, creamy orites, red waratah were all on peak display, offset here and there by smaller, more cryptic caladenia and diuris orchids. And of course there was the company. We hadn’t all been together for many months, and there was a lot to catch up on. 

[Easy walking among summer wildflowers]


But we had started late, and this was soon compounded by slower pace of some of us. Dare I name we retirees for this?  Anyway we didn’t exactly set a cracking pace on the outward run. By the time we left the marked track and began the slow, scrubby descent towards Lake Antimony, fatigue was setting in. The intransigence of the scrub, with every second Hakea bush or banksia seemingly intent on grabbing us, exhausted us further.

[Caladenia alpina orchids]


Even the sight of Antimony Hut #5 did little to brighten the eyes of the hut-lovers. We gave the humble structure a perfunctory once-over, and left for the short trek over to Silver Lake. But first we had to cross the fast flowing Powena Creek. Wet feet and a less-than-desirable distance between the lead walkers and those at the tail end, didn’t improve matters. 

[Jim and TimO at Antimony Hut #5]


Still, soon enough we saw the southernmost of the twin Silver Lakes, with a bright red tent already set up on its far shore. But by now the six of us had separated into two groups of three, and we’d lost visual contact with each other. It took an extra forty minutes for us to locate one another near the southern shore of south Silver Lake. The original plan had been to go to the northern shore of the north lake, where I knew there was plenty of space. But by now my generous six hour walk time estimate was proving regrettably accurate. So, just after 6 o’clock, we all agreed to simply get to a viable campsite and set up for the night.


The occupant of the red tent called out a welcome across the lake, and advised us as to where we might fit our tents. All that was left was for us to ford the Pine River and walk to the lakeside to find tent sites. Wet feet, fatigue and concern that we might crowd the solo walker were soon forgotten as Tim D showed us a goodly number of potential tent sites, all well distant from “Neighbour Dave”, as we dubbed the solo walker. 

[Durston and Hilleberg vie for attention at Silver Lake]


Better still our neighbour was more than happy to have company. He even came over to help me set up my red tent. He’d recognised it as a variation on his own Hilleberg Akto tent (mine is the lighter weight Hilleberg Enan). I later visited his tent, and we shared fan boy enthusiasms over our well-made Swedish tents.


[Relaxing at the tarp set up]

Back at our site, Jim was having his own fanboy moment, showing off his new Durston X-Mid 1 tent, which we quickly dubbed "The Hut": another attempt to console Jim for the lack of huts on this walk. Tim D had set up the next best thing, an ample 4m X 3m tarp, and we were soon gathered around it enjoying the luxury of cheese, biscuits and wine before a late dinner. We were tired from our day’s exertion, but as we stretched out, mesmerised by the views across the lake to the Walls of Jerusalem, I think we remembered to be grateful.

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Going Solo

[Climbing towards Twilight Tarn]

For many years my simple response to the idea of solo bushwalking was to find reasons not to bushwalk solo. I could name safety concerns; my preference for company; my enjoyment of sharing walking’s pleasures and pains with others. But lurking beneath those reasons was a possibility I didn’t care to acknowledge. Was I afraid of being alone with myself? 

I began to see this as a spiritual challenge. Despite writing at length about the spiritual side of bushwalking, going solo was one aspect of it that I had barely experienced. It became the kind of challenge that I needed to face up to, when the time was right. But when is that? I could always find reasons not to go, burying my unwillingness beneath the busyness of life. Eventually, as the days of spring grew longer and (slightly) warmer, I decided to plan a trip. I would spend a few nights alone near Twilight Tarn in Tasmania’s Mount Field National Park. It was a place I knew, but in an area that also held some worthy challenges. So, on a clear September morning, I put my pack in my car and took off on my first multi-day solo journey. 


* * *


For much of the first hour of the walk, my monkey mind is swinging from the trees. It’s demanding to know where all the others monkeys have gone; telling me that the strong wind is REALLY worrying; suggesting that the new lightweight pack IS going to be uncomfortable. Okay, I say, in my calmest voice, we’re not used to this. But we will be alright; all will be well. 


Henri Nouwen outlined the necessity of this kind of ‘gentle and persistent effort’. In “Reaching Out” he writes: 


'To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.'

[Coming or Going?]


Right now I feel a long way from fearless play. My soul is still skittish, jumping at shadows that might be snakes, or might be nothing. But I am walking, and that rhythmical movement, even the tiny clank of my metal drinking cup on my pack, helps to settle the monkey. I further distract myself by measuring my walking pace on my sports watch. I set myself the goal of walking at 4km/h, and I fail. But because I’m finding so much to stop and look at, and to photograph, it’s a noble failure. When my botanical friends, especially the buttongrass and pandani, wave their greetings, I must pay my respects.

[Buttongrass near Lake Webster]


I am finding a freedom in walking like this, in casting aside schedules, in not having the wishes of others dictate my speed, or lack of it. In one sense, it’s as though the years have peeled away. I’m like a child, free to follow my whims. When I was a small child I was obsessed with running water, and particularly waterfalls. My parents later told me I would coo “oooh, water!” as we drove past anything resembling a waterfall. Apparently I wasn’t always discerning, more than once taking delight in a stormwater drain emptying muddy water into a culvert.


On the second day of my walk I climb up to Tarn Shelf to “play” with water. Tarn Shelf is a delightful chain of alpine lakes, tarns and ponds on a rocky shelf suspended between the Rodway Range and a series of lower forest-fringed lakes. As I clamber up towards the first tarn, it’s windy. But above the rush of wind on rock and scrub, I’m sure I hear the roar of running water. Just days before, Tarn Shelf had been coated with snow. Most has now melted, and the meltwater is flowing off the slopes, into then out of the lakes, and down into the valleys.


I wander off-track, slowly making my way towards the source of the roaring. For the best part of an hour I high-step through scrub to view a series of delightful cascades coming from the outfall creek of Twisted Tarn. No-one else is there to corroborate whether or not I cry out “oooh, water!”

[Cascade below Twisted Tarn]


Tarn Shelf holds many other memories that now rise to mind. I find that when I’m not talking and listening, memory becomes my companion. And now I start thinking of two of my bushwalking mentors, Ken and Ray. Each separately brought me up here in my early days of bushwalking in Tasmania. Ray introduced me to skiing here, and if I was never any good at it, Ray was not to blame! Ken took me a little further afield. On one winter walk we braved deep snow, explored a couple of huts, and spent a cold night in the Lake Newdegate Hut. I must have been exhausted, because I managed to fall asleep while Ken was reading a book to me. He never let me forget it!

[One of the many tarns on Tarn Shelf]


Deeper into my solo time, I start thinking on some matters that have been bothering me. That’s part of the reason I’ve come. But what am I supposed to do with what comes up? Years ago I asked Rowland Croucher, a very experienced Christian pastor and writer, what sustained him through all the ups and downs of the spiritual life. Decades later I still remember his succinct answer: ‘Externalise guilt, fear and anxiety’.


For years I’ve placed this life practice within the context of confession, whether formal, as in the Roman Catholic tradition, in which confession is a sacrament, or informal. We all have, at some time in our lives, done wrong. Or we’ve failed to do what we knew to be right. It’s beneficial to come clean about these wrongs.


[A twisted path near Twisted Tarn]

Similarly we all experience things that deeply trouble us, whether they are caused by known/external factors (fear), or imprecise/internal factors (anxiety). I had always taken Rowland Croucher’s advice to mean that the weight of guilt, fear and anxiety is lessened and lifted by sharing it with appropriate others. “Get it off your chest” might be an over-simplified summary. There’s much more to it than that, including the whole theology of forgiveness. But on this solo walk I’m discovering one other unexpected nuance.  


Certainly I have the sense that some of these personal burdens are adding to the weight of my pack. But being on a solo walk, I have no immediate chance of confessing any of this to anyone besides God. And then comes a realisation. Perhaps taking these burdens for a walk is in itself a way of externalising them. By carrying them into the bush with me, I’m literally bringing them out in the open. Out here it’s harder to run from them, and they’ll stay with me until I do some processing. The peace and beauty of my surroundings helps this process. 


I’ve set up my small red tent beneath some yellow alpine gums and snow gums. The site is a little above Twilight Tarn, which glistens in the afternoon sun. A yellow-throated honeyeater calls confidently from the branches. At first its singular, rich “chowk” call ricochets through the trees. It follows up with a series of loud, melodious, staccato calls. Somehow its brio gives me confidence, and I start to feel more at peace, at home even.

[My campsite at Twilight Tarn]


The small clearing that is my home for now is surrounded by dolerite boulders. They look as though they’re reclining, and after dinner I’m ready to do the same. But as hundreds of midges have found me, I have to retreat to my tent to do so. I know from experience that these sneaky little critters, while giving the impression of just buzzing around your face, will settle and bite. 


Once I’m inside the tent, peace returns. I can rest and reflect on my day. I start considering how “taking my guilt, fear and anxiety for a walk” works in practical terms. Firstly I make sure I’m not doing a full inventory of everything that burdens me. That could crush me! Rather I wait to see which issues rise to the top, which are the headline concerns. Then I name them: literally give them a name. For me, of all of the things I might feel guilt about, I’m a little surprised by what comes up. I find I’ve been thinking about an old friendship that has withered, so I call this first burden “guilt about failing to nurture my friendship with X”. After naming it, I simply hold it, turn it in my mind, keeping it at some distance. Yes, in the busyness of mid-life; in being physically distant from my friend; in the aftermath of small misunderstandings, we have drifted apart.

[Richea pandanifolia - detail]


I try not to apportion blame during this process, but rather to gently interrogate my feelings. First off I feel gratitude for the years of our friendship, for the things we learned together, the good and hard times we shared. I also feel sadness at the stalling of our friendship, and my part in that. And I probe the complicated possibility of rekindling our relationship, pondering what it might take on both my side and his. There is not necessarily resolution today, certainly not “closure” (how I dislike that overused and inaccurate term!) But perhaps I understand myself and my friend a little better. Guilt among the gumtrees has lost some of its potency. 

[The old hut at Twilight Tarn]


There’s another aspect to it, well put by Catholic nun and theologian, Sister Joan Chittister. ‘Once I have felt guilt, I become a softer part of the human race.’ Or to put it in terms of the approach to spirituality I’ve been taking, the inward work can have outward results. A solo trip can be about me, certainly. But it can also be about others. And it can point me towards possibilities such as reconciliation and forgiveness: which have both outward and upward aspects in my spirituality.


Apparently there’s still more that wants to rise to the surface. Whether it’s fear or anxiety, I’m not certain, but on the final morning of my walk I stir from sleep well before it’s light. In a half-dream, half-awake state, I hear a bird fluttering. In my mind it’s small and dark, and I name it the bird of death. I’m more curious than afraid, and I ask the bird of death ‘Is it my turn? Have you come for me?’ The bird doesn’t speak, but looks at me with one unblinking eye, and I sense two things. First now is not my time, and second the dark bird is never far away.


I’m not troubled by these dream thoughts. They remind me of what my younger sister Liz told me as she was nearing the end of her battle with brain cancer. We are all dying, she said. It’s just that I know the timing. Liz died far too young, at the age of 38. But as a person of faith, she was inpirational to the end. Back in my tent, as I’m pondering these big matters, I remember that today is Liz’s birthday.