I always hate leaving my mountain, but I especially hate it when my destination forces me to drive through the Hunter Valley between Singleton and Muswellbrook.
Each time I carefully consider which route will be the least distressing, with the least overwhelming views of the open cut coal mines that are almost continuous in this 50-km stretch.
At first I would stop and take photos of the looming overburden mountains or the milkiness of the polluted lower air layer. Now I rarely do.
Yet the other day, on a clear bright sunny morning after days of rain, returning to the land of dirt and disrespect for country and community, the scope of it struck me afresh.
I stopped on a hill: on one side of the road I looked back to the power stations and the long multi-coloured piles of what the miners can’t use — just sitting there waiting for the breezes to blow their contaminated dust all over the valley.
On the other side of the road — facing the opposite direction — of course, another coal mine and more exposed overburden heaps. Thousands of hectares of this have replaced what was a rural valley, as the mines creep across the landscape, feeding and growing fat on coal, while the rest of us live with their waste.