Tuesday, April 10, 2007

up the mountains

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

A place which formed a visual backdrop for many imaginings. It's 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: we racing the thunderstorm 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 nothing-stary and wrote names in the mud and onto trees.

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

It was sold.
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 hard to speak. I was looking at the ghosts: everyone was there on that verandah, even me.

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