Golden memories abound here, accentuated by the view across the paddocks in the early afternoon. A painter’s palette on fire, copper tones blend with a burst of yellow wattle that hints of spring.
Flies buzz, birds tweet and whistle, and the squeak of a pre-war, rusty wheelbarrow heading to unload for the last bonfire all murmur cathartic sounds. Do we dare throw the Hammond organ in the fire?
I allow myself one last solitary walk across the paddocks amidst the hidden memories where the old tyre used to swing. Half-built dreams, a half-built mud brick house with an underground cellar, where is that? I look, but only find the mud brick steps, and underneath these steps a passage that may connect with the cellar somewhere further along. Where’s the abandoned piano I once discovered here? I’d bashed out a few tunes in one of the cool rustic rooms, impressed by the acoustic combination of mud brick and ‘honky tonk’ sounding keys.
At last I am returning to the fairy grove. A little magic, in a patch of grass sheltered from the sun’s harsh rays. It never used to be this green, but we all imagined it could be. I look in all directions, an old pale wood fence lines the southern boundary, there’s no one here. I look back towards the grove. The tyre swing is missing from the tree.
I hear distant memories of a blonde woman’s voice, so excited about this place, and the magic she believed was here. I’d believed her too. We saw it in the clouds, in the lightning storms strobing across the hills, and in the ‘star doona’ that embraced us all at night. If I knew the telephone number I’d call her now, and excitedly yell, “It’s true, you were right. The magic is here, it still is!”
A reminder of her destiny stands up the hill at the other end of the grove, a rock wall on a platform. We all helped to collect assorted stones and one by one they had been stacked to fit, meld and hold into the half-filled frame. I wonder if nature moved faster than a plan to fill the entire frame as a wall, but I can’t ask its builder, he left and shortly after she followed.
An old green bench remains in front of the stone wall. I remove a couple of dead tree branches from it and toss them aside, and start to pull at a long, stubborn weed between the seat slats, but it’s a pointless exercise when I see how many there are. I’ll leave it for the new owners, with their inevitable passion for the property they will discover this potentially charming spot to take a seat and ponder the rocky creation.
Down around past the back dam, through another gate, another group of rocks are gathered, some arranged for a fire. I’m sure another tyre used to swing from a tree here. The quintessential star-crossed lovers, speeding around the circuit of trees in a farm car, eroding the ground fast into a race track hold this space in my memory and make me smile. They finally hit the dust, kicked off the property, but they’ll be back next week to say their goodbyes, after all, blood is thicker than water.
Black crows in the trees above, snap me back to the present. How many are up there? I shiver as the pack watch me and squawk. I lift my makeshift trekking stick towards them and they fly away. I listen to nature’s call. It’s time to go, and the white kangaroo skull lying on the ground points the way out.
Distant hills are peaceful. I want to leave grateful for the times we had, that we shared, for the long treks up the back hills when it was all new and exciting; passion in the owners’ stride as they showed us the town’s line of view from high up in the hills behind the property. I stumbled in my Blundstones and was told to watch for snakes where I stepped.
“Yes, yes, I’ve walked in the bush before”, I’d thought at the time. A confidence I could handle this, but I realize now that I was being led on someone else’s path. I hadn’t discovered it the way our friends did when they arrived and wanted to explore every inch of their new property.
“You could get lost up there in those hills”. Our friend told us he did take a wrong turn once, but back-tracked, respecting nature and in turn, his own life.
We all have memories, even the crazy ones. Fifty olive trees, a gaggle of geese, streaking white clouds fill the sky, and the sun comes out. This is what I’ll miss, happy hopeful times, watching my Border Collie Labrador encouraging a bull to run. What a sight! Excited, gangly, black and white pup with a huge black bull galloping next to her, either side of the fence, this unlikely pair made me laugh, and makes me smile now.
I used to think how lucky I was to be on the farm amidst the country living that our inner city friends decided to make a go of, so I find it somehow apt to be here at the end to say goodbye.
We raise our glasses and say thank you to this vast property, our friend throws his half full glass of red wine onto the concrete ground encouraged by ideas of Greek plate smashing, a much needed release.
Ten years passes quickly, where are we now? All the gates are open, nothing to keep in anymore. We watch friends make choices all the time. Are they the ones we’d make? Who are we to judge?