Today Penny had to wait till the afternoon for her regular outing to Darebin Parklands, the beautiful urban wilderness at the bottom of our street, because we were busy welcoming a large group of overseas visitors to the park. Thirty-six young people from Korea and sixteen from France walked the Spiritual Healing Trail under the leadership of a local Aboriginal guide.
As part of the welcoming group we couldn't take Penny with us, so it felt strange to be there without her. However, as usual, there were plenty of people walking with their dogs and the young people seemed to enjoy meeting the local canines.
At one point on the trail we all sat down on small rocks and meditated, whilst our guide played the haunting tones of the didgeridoo. As the music echoed around the bushy hillside, soft rain beat a gentle rhythm on our umbrellas. The purpose of the meditation was to gather our thoughts and use the tranquil surroundings to reflect on the issues that are concerning us at present. I used the time to try to come to terms with the anger and frustration I feel that local authorities are determined to drastically reduce off-lead dog walking in this beautiful park that is so central to my life.
It was interesting to walk along the Banyule side of the creek. It's an area where dogs have to be on lead so we don't go there. Luckily the rain had stopped, so the creek wasn't up over the stepping stones and we could all make our way back to the Alphington side of the creek.
In the flat ground on the other side we took part in an Aboriginal smoking ceremony, in which we took turns to step into the smoke - our guide said this ceremony would bless the young people in their time in Australia.
A final part of the Healing Trail was at the arched bridge, where each of us dropped a leaf into the creek, thinking about those issues we have no control over. I found this more than a little ironic, seeing I am seething with frustration about the way my love of walking with Penny in this park has been dismissed as having no importance.
After this wonderfully inspiring morning we arrived home tired out. So what did we do? Yes, you're right! We set off back to the park, this time with Penny. If we can't manage to change the mind of the Powers That Be about forbidding off-lead walking, we need to build up as many happy memories as we can, to help us get through the loss and sadness when we can no longer enjoy the park.