The stairs at the northern end of Di-Dell Street link top to bottom of town, houses to harbour, caravan park to sea-pool, hill to flat. The steps connect, are an intermediary.
More days per week than not, I climb these stairs on my way to the Headland, all 89 that rear up in a straight line to the sky, then snake off in another direction for another 20 steps.
Mostly, relationship is thought to be interplay between people.
I share a relationship with the resident swallows of the stairs also. They see me coming – and most anyone else for that matter – and dart and flit as I climb. I relate to them, they relate to me, regardless of whether my movement stirs up tiny midges that they feed on, or some other reason completely, it matters not.
So to with the stairs.
Myself and many others relate to those stairs on a daily basis, and over the decades those stairs ‘feel’ the effects of our footsteps, tiny bit by tiny bit, slowly wearing and smoothing.
Folk relate to these stairs in different ways.
Some people avoid them completely.
Others with a grimace of resignation, shrug their shoulders in greeting as you pass.
A spritely elderly couple take to the stairs each and every day. Three sets completely up and down, one after the other, 654 steps in total. As you pass them by, they barely register recognition, focusing intently, embracing the burn, and its vitalising effects.
For me, that relationship changes.
Some days I fly upward, my bare-feet barely touching, gliding, swallow-like.
Other days I plod, stop to look back from where I have come, every step the totality of my existence.
After rain, I treat with great respect, wary of their bite, should I slip on the smoother concrete steps.
Over the years on those stairs, I have witnessed the resident black snake basking in the sun, a Wallaby bounding, an Echidna foraging for ants in the concrete cracks. This morning a Bandicoot hurried across the stairs. Sometimes I sit on those stairs and listen to hir stories. I have walked up those steps and the thoughts of those who have passed before seep in, infiltrate, even assail my being. On one occasion, I met a man in a hurry as I was halfway down on his way up. He had a guilty air about him and was quick to move on. As I descended I was to discover the reason, walking into the most foul-smelling fart imaginable!
I’ve seen people climb these stairs with fully laden Rucksacks, folk carrying bikes slung over their shoulder, fluorescent lycra-wearing personal trainers screeching at their charges. During the summer months when the sea-pool is open a steady procession of feet caress, thump, slap and shimmy up and down the stairs.
These stairs impel respect.