THIS ( WANDERING) LIFE
IHAVE always liked to wander. There I stand, my hair all wild and woolly, my stocky arms jutting out of the hand- knitted red jumper, one grey panty leg hanging below the pleated skirt, and no shoes.
My parents owned 40ha of bush around their home and I knew every path and puddle, every cliff and creek bed. There’s an old road made for carriages on the wrong side of the orchard to be an access road. It takes a gentle slope in a zigzag fashion, with the sides squared up with rock walls and all overgrown with weeds. At the bottom of the road a path leads through a thicket of privet grown wild. The privet is tight and dark and damp, and there in the midst is a cold, black, seemingly bottomless well. When you first see the well it makes you hold your breath. It’s fascinating, that well, with the cover all rotting.
I have always liked to wander. Galloping bareback on my black mare, Sue, in the frosty morning. Down another dirt road and just around the corner there’s another hill. I want to see what’s over the next rise. Is it just more bush?
One day there was a surprise: an abandoned house on the Kings Tableland. It was all boarded up with corrugated iron, the tank was leaking and the outhouse was stripped of fibro. I heard it was a radio outpost in World War II. Next time I came back it had been ransacked.
I have always liked to wander. Rising early while the babies sleep, I would wander up the dry creek bed where the mist gathers before the dawn and collect the fallen eucalyptus logs and wattle branches.
Back in the gardener’s cottage, I’d set a fire in the open hearth. Soon the flames were roaring up the chimney and one by one the children’s rosy faces gathered around the blaze.
I have always liked to wander. Just before Christmas I took off in my car, dragging my husband with me for company. Through the Kangaroo Valley plains and down the south coast of NSW.
We entered Victoria and started our wander down the Great Ocean Road. By this time Lindsay was close to breaking point. He liked his holidays planned, but I was doing my wandering and would not be held down.
We stopped a while in Warrnambool, then carried on to Port Campbell and up to Mildura.
We arrived at Lake Mungo and had time to eat our airline salad. Then we took a short stroll over the hill and through the saltbush to the ancient lake bed of pink sand dunes.
Looking up the ribbons of sand, the ridge stood stark against the sky. I poked around, looking for fossils and bones. As the sun rested on the horizon, we drank champagne out of a plastic cup, watching the blood- red sunset.
Sitting there on the pink sands, a peace gently settled in my heart and it was time to go home.
Next year I’m going wandering again.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au