Thursday, April 16, 2009

in which the fish thinks again about the mountains



A lot of my life was spent in the Blue Mountains, on my cousins' property,

a place which formed a Bachelardian backdrop for many imaginings. 
 said narrative can only exist within remembered sites, 
or something like that.

For me, the image formed by any word associated with landscape is a memory-snapshot garnered from this place:
drought dam gully shed clay sandstone
All redbellyblacksnakes are the one I almost trod on on the track, abandoned by dogs and cousins all.
Rocks, trees, dirt. Teabrown weirwater
Long shining plaits caught in low hanging branches.
Bellbird whipbird honeyeater crow

Interstitial places existing between house and edge of bush, between orchard and dam, hard baked ground festooned with curls of eucalypt bark, black windborne swoosh among pines and casuarinas, that is all here.
Smell of wet sandstone and taste of wet clay secretly licked and gum leaf chewed, sticks poked down holes and raging big ants gearing for a spat with your feet. All laid down, by my little synaesthetic self, embedded like sediment.

Twenty first birthdays echoing out into the bush from the big veranda. Boys scuffling in the dust. The big wood stove. Christmas. Walking through sheet glass, hey, no-one said you had a new door after all these years. 
The noise frightened Grandma awfully.

I was eldest , all cousins led upward in size to me and my mood set the tone for games. Whether to pelt top speed down the slope into untamed bush, or swim, or whether I was sulking over god knows what. Small boys, big boys, dogs, us girls.

Summer:  racing the thunderstorm we flew out of suburbia and up Bellbird hill. Bushfires threatened the strawberries, so we were given a very quick lesson on picking and packing.
I took my harvest work very seriously.

I grew up first. I left the circle, or rather, I brought within it my dreams and loves and staring-at-nothing and wrote names in the mud and onto trees. Two decades later those sisters from the farm next door reminisced
you were always a little bit wild


Every stick, stone and tuft of grass, every yabby in the weir, is imprinted in my head. I have no photograph.

The farm was sold. I was in France at the time. By the time I was back, it had gone. 

We are dispersed now, like blown seed. New York, Singapore, Mandurah, London, Byron, the coast.

I went back today, first time in 15 years or so.
( A bunch of us apple-picking at an orchard further up the road.)
Went down the drive, stood staring at the homestead under the trees.

It was all I could do not to stride right in there and hug my grandma, who sat on her chair by the window, and bustle in to see how Aunty Barb was doing in the kitchen. Their presence so strong as to be overwhelming.

A lady came up out from the trees, wondered what I was doing there motionless, but it was impossible to speak. 
I was looking at the ghosts: everyone was there on that verandah, even me.


This was originally posted in 2007

13 comments:

Mary said...

I remember this post so clearly.

What new adventures can we get up to?

fifi said...

Do you?
That was two years ago, fancy that. i hadn't thought anyone was reading back then!

we shall enact many new adventures ,we will.

Molly said...

I felt I was right there, staring at your ghosts with you.....This made me think of my cousins [about eight in one family!] who grew up on a farm out the country [my mother had married a city boy.] My aunt, who lived with them, when asked how they were, would say "Growing up wild on the side of the mountain!" They always stood together in a giggling gaggle in the background when us city mice came to visit, their eyes shining, their wildness taunting our timidity. It always seemed to me they had so much more fun than we did....

Leenie said...

It is really an odd feeling to go back. You find emotions and memories embedded in your soul coming to the surface. Nice post. Even though you are far far away there are a lot of things the same.

little red hen said...

It's amazing how strongly we feel these ghosts in certain places. For me it was at art school. Dad went to Claremont fine art school in the early 70's, then he was the technician after he graduated. My sister and I spent alot of time there as little girls. Then I went back as a student in 1995 (4 years after my dad's death). I used to catch glimpses of my sister and myself playing as I went about the place.
Then one day I had to go to the technicians office for some tools. I walked in there and memories of my father came flooding back and out poured the tears. Paul the technician at the time only had a beach towel to help mop up the flood! Poor fellow!

Jellyhead said...

Such aching nostalgia ... so wonderfully expressed. I'm glad you re-posted this, as I missed it first time round.

ganching said...

First time I've read it too - very evocative.

eurolush said...

Beautiful. That last line gave me goosebumps.

So glad you shared this again.

rhubarbwhine said...

I did this too, around a year ago, although mine was an eerie, uncomfortable revisit. Yours is much friendlier.

alice c said...

It is all there in your heart. The people and the place. You take it with you wherever you go.

meggie said...

So evocative. Wonderful.

meli said...

this is a very lovely post, fifi - thanks for posting it again!

Spruce Hill said...

Just lovely, I felt as though I was standing right there with you.