I’ve been away (again) for four nights – in a beautiful shack by the sea for a couple of nights with a friend, then a couple of nights with my husband (not friend and husband at the same time – just to be very clear for anyone wondering). It’s time to go home today, but I was thinking how very calm and peaceful I feel while I’m here – for myriad reasons – and it occurred to me –

I’m very much a nature gal.

Now by nature gal, I don’t mean frequenting nudist colonies on a regular basis, or dismissing western societal beauty standards by allowing my body hair to grow in its natural place at the natural time. Not at all. I have grown up far more prim and proper than my teenage self would ever have believed possible.

By nature gal, I mean I love the natural world. I love the animals and the birds, the sea and the sand and the wind in my hair (unless I’m going to the theatre and just had my hair done – then the wind can be gone please). I rarely want people around me – just a few of my nearest and dearest. I prefer the sound of pebbles rolling around at the water’s edge than the steady hum of society in the distance. I feel mesmerised watching a wedge-tailed eagle soaring in the sky, or an echidna hunting for ants in the sand.

In the “real” world, where real people – including myself apparently – have to live, being close to nature is often impractical. There’s bills to pay, toilets to clean (not the kind of natural world I wish to be close to), and all the real world things to be done. Staring up at one of Tasmania’s last 130 breeding pairs of wedge-tailed eagles, while kayaking past stunning sandstone rock formations, is not a daily option. But I have come to appreciate the cathartic healing that comes from time in nature.

Sure – I knew all this years ago. But I think the last couple of days have really consolidated the importance and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not selfish to have a break. It feels that way, especially when the last two years have been an endless stream of breaks – and it feels incredibly wasteful to spend money on holidays – but the older I get the more I value memories over “stuff”. Some stuff is really special – I have a handful of items I absolutely treasure – but my most treasured possessions are always memories.

Breastfeeding my infant son at two am, soaking in the serenity and perfection of two sleeping toddlers.

Half asleep, with the calming effects of oxytocin coursing through my veins and at peace with my place in the world. Knowing this was the last baby I could ever have and these precious moments needed to be inhaled deeply. And how well behaved sleeping toddlers are. Perfect angels, every one.

Washing dishes in my sister’s dated kitchen at her tiny apartment, as she lay dying in a dark room.

When Party Rock Anthem played on the entertainment channel she called out, Do you think I can still shuffle? I was pushing 50 and didn’t like to confess I thought shuffling was done with a deck of cards. I peered around the corner with damp tea towel in hand, and watched my once lithe and luscious little sister, drag her failing body up to shake her booty one last time. Unadulterated joy briefly disguising her jaundiced face. Jet black hair in a plait to the waist, beneath an old purple beanie we’d picked out at the local charity store, swaying around with the last echoes of youth and innocence. Her 40 year old body slipping into eternal peace a few weeks later.

Saturday night at a busy pub, with the sounds of drinking, laughter and too many people in the background.

I was in the billiards room with my three closest friends and four dashing young men who took it upon themselves to teach four middle-aged women to play pool. Drinks were aplenty, laughter rained from the sky and just for a moment, I felt flush with youth, surrounded by nothing but laughter, friendship, and the sounds of merriment. It was the first time I fully understood the phrase, I laughed so hard I practically peed my pants.

When I lead my every day life, I forget these memories – moments from my life that are precious beyond words. It is only when I take time away I find enough stillness to remember. But not just remember. To dream.

When the heavy weights of real life have dragged me down for so long I’ve forgotten to remember and lost the ability to dream, it is the cathartic healing of time in nature, and quiet companionship, that reminds me all I have to do, is let go of the weights.

I will soon be heading off to a most unnatural environment, where I’ll be spending large periods of time in self-reflection. I am dedicating this year to relearning myself. To fusing priceless memories into the essence of my being, and working on dreams I’ve forgotten to dream about. Not grandiose dreams – sure I’d love to be a ballet dancer, but let’s just assume this plump, 52 year old, chronically sore body, is not going to debut with the Bolshoi Ballet company any time soon.

This is a year for me balancing the scales (not the scales I threw away), but the scales of life.

Time out vs time invested. Energy out vs energy in (in every sense). Caring for others vs caring for myself. Natural world vs real world. It’s all important, valuable and necessary – it’s a balancing act.

I will no longer want to have my cake and eat it too – for if there is one thing I dream of, it is to stop dreaming about cake. Instead I yearn to lift my eyes to the sky and watch the majestic wings of an eagle, while my feet are firmly on the ground, and to once again know what my place is in the world.