She could make out just one of the corners of the hut as she strode on the now familiar track. She had read with horror the loss of the Hut in the hellish fires that swept through so much of her country last summer. Memories of him had haunted her dreams for weeks afterwards, as if the fires threatened to burn those too.
Fragments of the iron that used to be its walls were catapulted around the site as if a bomb had exploded and shattered the history across the blackened earth. Locals told stories of a fire that sounded like a freight train thundering through the night, leaving nothing in its path. She could believe those stories as she surveyed the remains.
Her heart quickened as she walked across what used to be the door. The old cement step up, now blackened by soot still ensconced securely in the ground. She had loved the quaint little rusted awning that used to sit above the weathered timber door.
It was where you first kissed, the luscious taste of his lips mixed with the droplets of rain as you sheltered from the storm.
Her boots crunched on the ashen remains as she wandered over the remnants, trying to discern pieces of the beloved hut, calling on her memories to bring it to life.
The walls that had held the laughter of the stockmen as they had played cards and sipped whiskey after a long day of droving were now charred and blackened.
The walls that had held the cries of the young children as they shivered in the depth of the winters with little food or covers were now twisted and mutilated.
The walls that held the wistful stories of the new migrants, a thousand miles away from their homeland lured here on hopes and dreams of a better life were now ashes drifting in the mountain winds.
The walls that snatched the exhausted sleep of fellow walkers who trekked the paths across the high country were now scorched and mangled.
The walls that had protected him as he had laid delirious and yearning for a miracle, for help to arrive before it was too late remained no longer.
He had called her his angel.
She had been needing some alone time when she decided to trek the high country that day. The air was clear and crisp, the skies blue and quiet. The sounds of nature fell into the beat of her tramping, a cathartic rhythm that allowed her to disperse the rage that had built inside.
After a long day of walking through the mountains she was pleased to reach Round Mountain Hut, set in a clearing surrounded by her favourite Black Sallee gums, with their star shaped flower clusters just starting to bloom. The Grey Fantail birds seemed to follow her, flicking in the late afternoon autumn sun.
The bright light had caused him to stir, as she opened the door to the hut. He had let out a groan that startled her at first. Beads of sweat across his forehead glistened and he let out a feeble cry of help.
The sugary sweets that she always carried saved him that day, and he – her.
For the next ten years they trekked the high country, finding any opportunity to come back to this place, their hut. They had rolled in the billy buttons, weaved daisy chains, toasted marshmallows in a fire. Trudged through the pearly snow, swam in the crystal streams. Laughed and loved under the vivid stars.
And now, their hut gone. The scorn of mother nature had wielded its power across the land and won.
He too was gone. His body could fight no longer, his organs caving one by one. Diabetes had won.
Her tears fell unchecked, soaking into the blackened remains as she farewelled him again. So many goodbyes over the last year. She was spent. She knew it had to stop. This had been her last journey, a final adieu.
With one last look over her shoulder she turned back home locking sweet memories away, leaving others to blow in the wind with the charred remains of the hut.
“Forward.” she whispers. “We fall, we break, we fail. We rise, we heal, we overcome.”
Round Mountain Hut Image (C) taken from www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au