I was thinking recently, about why mountains often seem to feature in my stories. Mountains have always been magical to me. As a small girl, living in Port Augusta, South Australia, camping in the purple-blue mountains of the Flinders Ranges was a regular part of our lives. Later, we moved to the very flat wheat-coloured plains of Yorke Peninsula, to live near the sea. My love for beaches and oceans grew deeper here, yet my connection to mountains never faded. I now live close to the Adelaide foothills and the gentle curves of these hills, and the nearby national park, are my constant background.
Many of my family holidays as a child involved climbing mountains – across Australia and New Zealand and even in Europe. There were rain-soaked adventures where paths had disappeared in the deluge, hiking to the top of Mount Kosciuszko during warmer weather, disappearing inside rain forests in Tasmania, almost falling into a volcanic pit in New Zealand and flying through ice pinnacles with a cowboy helicopter pilot, to be set down on a glacier. So many memories wrapped up with mountains, and my husband and I have continued visiting mountains with our own children.
Mostly these have been wonderful experiences. I won’t go into the time where our two young boys flew off the slopes on toboggans, in Queenstown New Zealand, and ended up in an ambulance, our oldest with concussion. For a moment, when he couldn’t move his legs, I thought he was broken. And it was the single-most terrifying moment of my life. We did ask about safety. Numerous times, but were given bad advice about where to sled and they had been coming down the slope in the wrong direction. That is an experience best left on the slopes. But mostly, all of my mountain experiences are special, and are etched inside my memories, like waterfalls tumbling down a rock face.
It is no surprise, therefore, that mountains and forests feature in many of my stories. My first middle-grade story, is set in the Warrumbungle National Park, my adult novel, which I am slowly working on, is set at Mt Kosciuszko, my middle-grade fantasy, set in a made-up world, involves a journey across mountains and Australian flora and fauna feature. And my debut middle-grade historical fiction time-slip, being published in 2023, is set at Mt Buffalo, across a number of time periods.
Mountain air is crisp and fresh and fills you with life. There’s the challenge of the climb and the delight in the views when you reach the top. Sound and light are different in the mountains. There is a deep sense of peace and stillness, and when you leave, you take this with you into your daily life. Looking out across the horizon from a mountain is humbling and it reminds you of the vastness of our world and how small we really are.
Nature is rich and layered in mountain environments. Each has its own ecosystem and is filled with unique flora and fauna. The result of tectonic forces or volcanism, mountains can teach scientists much about the formation and activity of our earth. You can experience snow and ice, waterfalls, mist and rain, warm sunshine reflecting off rocks, pockets of flowers and moss, alpine grasses and majestic trees. It is no wonder they are a spiritual place for many cultures.
There is no other place like a mountain. And if I could pick the perfect spot to build a house, it would be on a mountain, surrounded by forest, overlooking the sea.