Living in a hills region is a special experience. Once you move up it’s difficult to drag yourself away. Only urgent medical appointments or the need to go to work have a strong enough pull.
I grew up in the suburbs nearer to the beach. The beach is fantastic and many people are simply ocean people. But if you are a hills and trees person you will know it when you are in that setting. You come alive like nowhere else.
We moved to the hills some years ago due to a job. We drove from one end of the hills to the other house hunting. From Mount Nasura, through Roleystone and all the way up to Parkerville and even to Mount Helena. We felt like we stumbled upon a secret oasis! Pretty streets with flowers and fields. Quirky houses clinging to slopes that gave them views. And trees, hills and windy roads everywhere. Beauty everywhere.
After a long long search for just the right place for us, we ended up in a small town in the shire of Mundaring.
Let me tell you about life up here. Let me tell you about trees, views, fires and quendas.
Trees and views. The views of big tall trees out every window never ceases to astound me. When I get up in the early morning and see the mist and soft glow of sun coming up through 20 metre high trees as far as the eye can see, I am stunned. It is beautiful all year long. Misty in winter, flowery in spring, shady in summer and perfect in autumn. One problem is that if you look at the trees too long you become so relaxed and slowed down that it can be hard to get anything done.
Fire risk. In summer we hills dwellers have to be alert. There are sometimes fires. When you are driving home from work and see smoke in the distance you always feel a bit nervous. However, our house has been here for 70 years and it will probably survive another 70 so there is no point stressing. You can’t focus on fire or your happiness will fly out the window. The risk of being in a car accident is actually higher. But we still drive.
Community spirit. Due to the fire risk you simply have to get to know your neighbours. Some streets have phone chains and there are facebook groups for each suburb. But it is not just need, there is community spirit. People are very friendly up here. After a while you also realise that everyone in the hills knows everyone, either directly or indirectly. We love this kind of connectedness. Our kids love it too.
Your home to is home to more than you. Our block is 2000m (1/2 acre) and it is home many little animals, as well as us. The cutest ones are the quendas. They dart from one part of the garden to another. They are small brown marsupials with pointy noses. Two young quendas go into our chook house each morning to breakfast on the chicken food The chickens are a bit too hospitable.
There are also rabbits. They jump around and there is one who loves to munch on our lawn, especially at dawn or dusk. We also have a bobtail goanna living in one corner. Then there are birds. Small birds, parrots, crows. This morning I woke up at 5.30am and grabbed a jumper and went and stood in the semi darkness to hear the Dawn Chorus. ‘Dawn Chorus’ when every bird sings at the top of its lungs just before sun rise. It is a crazy experience. Like a symphony. Since the hills are rich with bird life you can hear thousands of birds singing.
Then there are insects… They come in waves. Mosquito season. Ant season. Spider season. Midgie season. Fly season. Etc. An insect phobia could be quite a problem.
Last but not least are possums. There was one living in the roof when we bought the house and eventually that one had a baby. They drove us crazy scratching around up there for years. Eventually one possum left and recently the other died we think as we have blissful quiet now.
No need to keep your garden all tidy and perfect. All hills gardens are natural and messy. No one minds. When you live here you accept that you moved into a forest. The nature was here before you and you can’t control it. People who need leafless neat paths and flower beds would have leafy nightmares every night if they lived here. Only chilled out types will enjoy life up here.
You have to get a bit organised. Knowing that you live in a region with fire risk makes you think about your important things. I went to a bushfire readiness workshop held by the local fire-station. It was practical, and eye opening. I learned that when people have to evacuate they can not think straight. They forget their computer and phones and documents and grab needless things.
After that I got a tub and filled it with all our important documents and passports and a mini collection of memorabilia from our kids childhoods (a few special drawings each etc). There is also an external hard drive with backup of all our photos (which I scanned). All in one tub. Peace of mind. I take this tub to a friends house in the suburbs every summer. That way, IF there was a fire all we need to grab is phones and computer.
We also have a Go-bag (which everyone in the hills needs) with a list written on it of the most urgent last minute things to grab if there would be a fire. Like laptop, phone, water, car keys etc. Hopefully if there was a fire I could actually remember to grab the Go-bag!
You can not be obsessed with material things. If you live in an area subject to natural disasters you cannot be too focussed on material belongings. When you move up here you need to mentally let go of them a bit. This is an upside I reckon.
Fresh air and peace. Every single time I come home from work I am struck by the peace when I open my car door and get out. The sound of the breeze passing through leaves and bird sounds. Not everyone loves this much peace but we love it.
Lushness and rain. Being at the crest of the hills means we get more rain and it is extremely LUSH and green up here all year round. Even mid summer when all the suburbs of Perth are dry as a bone. That one factor alone makes me love it. There is so much less glare too in the summer due to all the trees. The sun filters through them and is not as harsh. I find it a bit cooler too as we have so much shade.
Flowers. There are flowers everywhere! Growing wild and in peoples gardens. My daughter picked these in minutes along the way when she walked home from school last week. So many types!
Stuff to do. There are bike and walk trails everywhere. There are also picnic spots galore. If you haven’t discovered the hills then come up for day visits. There’s John Forrest National Park, and also cafes, wineries, and loads of artists studios too. Just driving around is fascinating.
Slower pace. Most people living up here live here because they love nature. It is not exactly a central area, and it is a region with fire risk, so you only live here if you crave nature and trees. Nature lovers tend to be a bit more relaxed and down to earth.
Healing. When we moved up here we had been through some really tough years when a lot of things went wrong. When we stumbled across this place we saw that God led us here to heal and get strong again. This very street. This very house. It is hard to put into words how it feels to walk out in your garden in the evening and look up at the stars and hear nature. Or to lie in the warmth of the sun in the garden surrounded by leaves and branches and trees and the breeze and birds. All around. It is hard to describe but something supernatural happens. In your body and in your mind and in your soul. It is healing and restoring. We have had so much joy from the nature and wildlife around us.