Before writing or when the strands of an argument I am developing become so entangled that I cannot see a way out, I go for a walk up Mount Painter, the impressively named but rather low hill behind my house in the suburb of Cook in Canberra, Australia. Today I began my walk in the early evening. As I left the streets and suburban gardens behind I sensed smoke in the air — the faint smell of burning eucalyptus. It is an evocative smell and carries me to Arnhem Land in Northern Australia in the early dry season. Yolngu people begin to burn off the land as soon as the wet season is over to make the country more accessible and in their terms to make it clean. I love walking through the blackened forest as the green shoots emerge. Many generations of controlled burning by Indigenous Australians is what made the Australian landscape as we see it today. Burning off is also used as a means of hazard reduction in the more densely settled region of southern Australia. But uncontrolled fire is rightly feared. The devastating bush fires in Victoria had just resulted in the loss of over 200 lives. I had heard no news of local bush fires so I assumed burning off was taking place and that when I reached the top of the hill I might see a distant plume of smoke. However as I continued up the hill the smell of smoke became stronger and more acrid, less pleasant to me. Then I realised that the smoke was emanating from barbecues lit to prepare the evening meal — the initial smell of the wood smoke from the lighting of the fire was overpowered by that of sizzling fat as the sausages and lamb chops began to cook. As I continued my walk I left the smell behind and became conscious of the crunching sound of my footsteps as they broke through the dry soil of the crusty path and as the path got steeper and stonier my feet began to slip. I became aware of the stress that was being placed on my muscles and on the way down I became increasingly conscious of the pain developing in my knees.