Beautiful as Burrowye is, sometimes we just need to get off the place. James has a weekly wool classing course in Wagga Wagga, so Dora and I have tagged along. Thanks to my mother-in-law, Joe will be enjoying some grandma time (and no doubt her iPad).
It seems that once a year we find ourselves in the comfort of Room 122 at The Carlyle. It’s a two bedroom kitchenette spa bath roomed extravagance but it’s cheaper than a psychiatrist and probably twice as effective.
To get to Wagga we took the Tumbarumba Road through Book Book and Ladysmith and golden sunset river gum land even more poetic than its place names. Book book is another name for the mopoke that calls in the early hours of the morning in certain seasons. James and I used to listen to it in the heady early days of our relationship, it was a kind of a touchstone for me during all the gruelling lost pregnancies, Dora was born at two thirty am….and now she wakes for a feed and a chat at this time. Book book station looks so wonderful that we are tempted to just drop in – it has beautiful park like paddocks with lots of old gum trees. Like the landscape described by Bill Gamidge in The Great Estate.
We got onto the Hume Highway at Holbrook – the town famous for its half sunk submarine. I wonder how many kids have begged their hurtling parents to stop at the landmark. And how many of us have not stopped. Holbrook is also known for its fantastic Landcare group – more inspirational, organised and visionary than others for miles around. We arrived at the Holbrook bakery around 4.30, short on energy, short on lunch, at the short end of our ropes over all sorts of things (this is a condition particular to us and August it seems). We were also short on cash.
James and I had a debate at the counter – didn’t have enough for the pie and the water, should have bought water from our BPA filled supply of old containers at home, blah blah. I ordered the pie and James wondered what we were going to do about water. I told him I’d sort something out. James went outside while our pie was being warmed. Dora and I looked longingly at three gorgeous school kids eating story book perfect cream buns. I’ve just given up sugar and poor Dora has to wait two more weeks before she can get her gums around solids. The mother of the kids chatted in the bustle of the store – about frost and rain and needing to see some grass somewhere, anywhere. Then she turned to me and said: “let me get you some water. I know what it’s like. On the road. Penny pinching. Her to feed.” I demurred, she persisted, I accepted. And nearly cried. The woman went outside and struck up a conversation with a woman from the Landcare network. I wasn’t quite up to joining in, but I know we’ll all cross paths again soon.
We got back into the Corolla that doubles as our ute and I told James about her beautiful gesture. The ladies at the bakery had carefully packaged up the pie. And added a salad.
They say the war will be fought over food and water.
How lucky we were to taste human kindness today.
It’s the 7th of August and birthday mode is only just wearing off. This year’s stunt was inspired by the MONA Dark MOFO Festival, and the great Aussie farming tradition of home-growing things. I don’t think I’m the only farm child who railed against the thrift of orchard preserves and mother-sewn clothes…only to aspire to these things in later life. I remember my one-time boss, neighbour and now virtual relative Hugh Paton of Noorrongong Station bodge something up with a bit of wire and say: “There. Just like a bought one”. The Burrowye Dark MOFO festival (aka my 41st birthday) was not quite like the “bought one” down in Tassie. The band cancelled, the DJ’s kids got sick, and the celebrity guests fell victim to their own schedules. The “high tea” planned for the artist’s performance materialised in random coffee cups and a plate of lovely scones on the kitchen bench. The bone china, teapots and tiered cake stands never made it off the kitchen shelves. The much touted dawn swim happened – not across the frosty paddocks, through the frosts and across the Murray River to Talmalmo Station, but in granny’s big pink bath with a creamy foaming bath bomb from Upper Murray Soaps. Artist Megan Evans led a moment in the front room that was about as comfortable as the corset that wouldn’t let her sit down. But then discussions about reconciliation (black and white, past and present, country and loss) are kinda like that. I had thought that we would be engaged in a dialogue that led to audiences embroidering their responses into the seats of our balloon backed dining chairs. Instead I said very little, and spent most of the time figuring out how to breastfeed Dora discreetly whilst sitting at the front of the room, spotlit by a shard of afternoon sun. The performance may not have gone as planned, but the magic was in the conglomeration of people and place and the sensation of time traveling back and forth. Megan spoke about her quest to understand her ancestors and their role in the “war” we call colonisation and settlement. A little girl wrapped herself in a blanket and crawled up to the end of a didgeridoo, as if to tunnel into it. Farming m en stood in doorways and listened, but said nothing. Any silences were thick with imaginings and projections. The video footage might show a woman in vintage dress discussing black issues with a white audience, but knowing our guests as I do, and seeing them with my Londoner’s eyes, things were not so clear cut. Time mixes bloods and blends its own colours. Experience travels through DNA. Healing happened. I was pressed into a massage from the amazing Katherine Jury. I was quite sure I didn’t need one, but the second she put her hands on the back of my neck I dropped two or three notches of stress. Rukshin Dayanandah was planning to cook dinner but guests smelt her Sri Lankan feast and she graciously brought it forward to lunch, magically adjusting the quantities for four times the amount of people. Friends from across the state bought delicacies – brussel sprouts on the stem, homemade crackers, homegrown oranges and herbs, fine tea, seriously fancy cheese and a piece-de-resistance raw food chocolate “cake”. A young girl played violin with a veteran banjo player. A young punk bought his drum kit and blew the folkies out of the room. People who had not sung or played in a long time sang. And played. Plans were hatched, friends were made, knowledge was exchanged. Fires were lit. Many of us went away energised and inspired. There was none of the exhaustion or the horrific clean up associated with partying in the usual manner. I felt a pang at the friends who couldn’t join us,and wondered about the pain that dry communities must feel as they lose loved ones to an ideal and principles. This was less than the pain of watching my friends fluttering and flailing under the influence of stuff I gave up years ago. A friend who couldn’t make it asked me how the party went. “Oh you know how it is”, I waffled in true female faux deprecation. “You shoot for the stars and you wind up on the moon.” “Well,” she replied, “At least you were off the planet.” Somethings don’t change. Now all I need to do is figure out whether we are going to the Australian Burning Man festival – Burning Seed, in the Matong Forest in October. There is a little forest near the Burrowye Homestead and we were clearing sticks in it yesterday. With a bit of string and a bit of number 8 wire we might just…..
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