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Big hunks of stone
always make me smile

Big hunks of stone
always make me smile

Above Ian's object: Granite rock, Chiltern—Mt Pilot National Park. Image: Ian Lunt

When I despair that the world is changing too fast — or not changing fast enough — I often visit a favourite place: an outcrop of rocks in north-east Victoria.

I drive down the Hume Freeway, turn off to Beechworth, and bump along a track, winding through pine plantations, until I arrive at a gully in Chiltern—Mt Pilot National Park. I lock the car and walk past the motorbike trails, up a stone path dug by gold-miners, to the ridge, where there are no tracks. I keep going till I get to the rocks.

My favourite rocks don’t have a name. They have a presence. There’s this thing about a granite boulder. If you sit on a log in a quiet patch of bush, you can imagine you’re the only person ever to sit there. But when you stand by an enormous, round rock, you know you stand where others have stood and sat and laughed and slept since people first walked in that corner of the earth. Not far from here, a rock shelter bears a fading image, painted in ochre, of an extinct animal, a thylacine.

Ian Lunt in contemplation on top of a large granite rock
Ian looks over the valley below
Image: Ian Lunt

Sometimes when I visit, I climb onto a low, flat shelf and lie down until the wrens hop close and the moss wets through my clothes. As I gaze back down the hill, I see smoke rising from a stubble fire, a truck rusting in a paddock, shiny mobile phone towers. I hear the drone of trucks on the freeway, carting more stuff for us to buy in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. Like Thoreau at his pond, it’s never lonely at my refuge from the crowd.

Between the boulders stand native trees that were named after trees from Europe: cypress-pines, slender trunks in stockings of orange lichen, and long-leaved box, weighed down by sagging, heavy boughs. Beneath the trees are grasses and lichens: soft in spring and crunchy dry in summer. And, of course, the rocks.

The things we are doing to the planet will change this forest forever. I understand that. The pools may dry, down in the creek where the honeyeaters drink. The trees will burn and burn again. But the rocks will stay: quiet, accepting, just hangin’.

Every time I visit, these great big hunks of stone make me smile. Every single time. Before I leave, I nod in thanks; then I breathe in, bounce down the hill, and make my place among the trucks on the freeway below — with peace, hope and the courage to try again.


Ian Lunt is an ecologist and writer. He lives in the regional city of Albury, New South Wales.

Below A big hunk of stone in Chiltern—Mt Pilot National Park Image: Ian Lunt



That place is just up the road for us now we live in Chiltern. Beautiful.


That place is just up the road for us now we live in Chiltern. Beautiful.

Andrea Gaynor

Thanks, Ian, for this beautiful piece of writing. You capture so well the comforting solidity of big hunks of stone. They make me smile too!

Rob Dunn

Great stuff, Ian. Fits in perfectly with my new year resolution to be better than half glass full in 2019.


Hi Ian,
Thanks for your writing. It speaks to me like nature itself. A natural cathedral of spirituality - for it's my religion and grounding in a changing world.


Beautiful, thank you for sharing and giving everyone some strength and hope.


Thanks Ian, You have evoked the presence we all feel in the company of a rock of the ages. I head to a rocky platform with a view over eucalypt and angophora canopies, just a few minutes walk from home.
Standing there makes everything seem possible, at least for a while.


Thanks Ian - it sounds the perfect place to head to recover at the end of a long year. The scents do it for me - the combined perfumes of lichen on a warm granite rock with Callitris and eucalypt with an undertone of earthy mosses is both restful and uplifting. Just lovely.

Ian Lunt

Thanks everyone for your supportive comments above, I’m glad the piece evoked wonderful thoughts of the bush for all of you, as it does for me. Thanks again, Ian

Emily Rayson

Lovely to have you pop up in my inbox, Ian. Always enjoy your words and images reflecting on your thoughts. I hope all's well in your world.


What a great way to start the week- reflecting. Thanks Ian.


Beautiful Ian, thank you. Your opening line and your chosen place puts you in great company. Wendell Berry 'The Peace of Wild Things'

Ian Lunt

Hello Ted, thank you for the link to Berry’s wonderful poem. I've never read it before. But I did have in mind a long essay of Wendell Berry’s that I read many years ago called ‘A native hill’, in which he used a walk along a local stream and hill to explore his relationship with the environment. I am clearly far more impressionable than I realised. Thanks again, Ian

Neville Scarlett

Hiya Ian,

I feel the same way about the rocks of the You Yangs. "All alone in the wilderness" but looking out over Geelong to the SE and the relentlessly advancing suburbs of Melbourne to the east. Tiny cars screaming along the freeway....but no matter what the rocks will persist.

Steve Murphy

Thanks for that journey Ian. I felt I was there with you, sitting beneath the boulder surrounded by the ancient ambiance, soaking up the mossy moisture. It feels a cool safe deeply spiritual place to be.

Cynthia Roberts

Tapping into the rocks quiet energy through your words and evocative photos - thanks for the story

Wendy Rose

Ian another beautiful story which makes me appreciate things with new eyes. Just you bump on over the freeway next time and make a beeline to our balcony and we can gaze at your rocks with a cup of tea in hand!

Tom Griffiths

One of my favourite spots too, Ian! Thank you.

Ben Carr

Thanks Ian
You write buestifully
Cheers Ben

Ben K

Thanks for sharing Ian. Everyone needs a refuge from the crowd, and yours sounds like a beauty! Those who don't realize this diminish the opportunity for those who do. I wonder if the movement towards recognition of the health benefits of spending time in nature will come to fruition soon enough? I hope so too. :)

David Nugara

Happy New Year to you Ian, Enjoy your web posts very interesting and have a mystery that unfolds making some common things in life like reading a good book wanting to know what is in the next chapter. We look to the stars you find things in our own backyards we did not know Keep up the good life balance

Kind regards and thank you

David Nugara

Mark Garkaklis

Hi Ian - I have never met you but your work motivates me ....... not sure what else to say. As I emerge from bed each day I will try to keep throwing punches. Regards, Mark G

Jacqui Durrant

I recently visited the granite rocks at Mudgegonga -- some of which have rock art on them. High up on the side of one gully was a large boulder cave, which one has to crouch to get into. There's an obvious handhold that you can use to steady yourself as you enter, and it is worn smooth, probably by a few millennia of human contact. There is something very moving about that.

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