Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some Saturday night reflections on my day

I've had a full day today and this going to be a personal, 'this was my day' sort of post, just for something a bit different. This morning I caught the 8am train to Rosewood where I was meeting a friend of mine from AIDS Council days. We first met back in 1986 on a Volunteer Training Program. It was the weekend on home care and we would subsequently get to know each other well through various home care rosters, the telephone counselling service and then various Volunteer organising activities. Ann's retired these days and lives down at Rosewood with her dogs. She has three dogs - Pella, Buckley and Juniper - and as long as I've known her, dogs have always been a part of her life.

The plan for today was not to spend a quiet day in Rosewood, however. Ann had wanted to go up to the Darling Downs to where she grew up, the little town, well village actually, of Bowenville, west of Jondaryan. Ostensibly, Ann wanted to see the country ,which she had heard was now very green after all the rain, such greenness being a rarity even when she was growing up there. So off we set, with a picnic hamper, and the dogs in the back of the car. The region is part of the northern Downs west of Toowoomba. While I've been through the southern Downs at various times in the past and Toowoomba too (the last time back in 1995) I've never been into the northern Downs in all my life so it was quite an adventure for me.

It was a glorious autumn May day, Toowoomba itself is quite amazing, many beautiful old buildings, beautiful parks and tree lined streets and, because there are many plantings of deciduous European or Northern hemisphere trees, there's actually autumn colours. Lots of deep reds, giving the city an almost Melbourne feel (or maybe it was the poplars). Except, of course unlike Melbourne, Toowoomba is hilly, sitting at the crest of the range, and there are no trams. Heading west, you leave the hills and hit the flat plains of the Downs (although the plains are still much higher above sea level than Brisbane). And I mean flat! Great flat country stretching off to the west, endlessly to the horizon. Only to the north and the east were there glimpses of mountains, but glimpses only.

The country was not really all that green but it was clearly alive. The grasses that grow there come to browny-red seed heads and will never be green no matter how much rain falls. But they were clearly lush and thriving. And this is farming country, great expanses of fields. Many were empty, acres of rich black soil. Other were brown with the stubble remnants of the harvested crops, presumably wheat. But the creeks were flowing with water and the few trees were definitely green with rich leaf growth, but it's the grey brown green of the Australian bush not the bright green of lush lawns or sub-tropical rainforests.

What was really intersting today was that Ann was showing me her past, her childhood. I saw the house she grew up in, the town she grew up in, a favored haunt by the creek (where she let the dogs go for a swim). Then near Jondaryan, a cemetry where her father is buried not far from where her parents first started courting, a long time ago now. What is so really striking about this is that last Saturday, I was showing my friend Mad Hatter around some of my own childhood haunts here in Brisbane, including the street I grew up in and the old family home. And today Ann was showing me where she grew up and her old family home. There must be something in the stars and sadly Ann doesn't have a birth time so I've never been able to draw up an accurate chart.

It was a strange but privileged feeling to be following Ann around the trails of her childhood. Her old house has quite changed, It used to be the Bowenville store but it's a store no more and looks as if it's seen better days (although there was a bit of fresh lumber around so maybe the current owners are planning renovations). Ann was complaining about how much things had changed and I was doing the same last Saturday with Mad Hatter. One's childhood is truly a special place to share with others but it is frustrating, nevertheless, because the childhood places truly only exist in the past, and in memory and imagination. It's only through imagination and memory that we can approach them and bring others to them, hopefully bringing alive some of the magic of that time that lies somewhere embedded in the text of the landscape.

Bowenville iself is a pretty unprepossessing place, a village really. It has two churches, Catholic and Presbyterian, a school, a pub and a post office, plus a handful of houses. The only sign of life was at the pub where there was a mud crab race on - more than 150 km from the sea! Presumably the contestants ended up in the pot to really make the day for the spectators.

But we didn't stop at the pub, instead picnicing down the road at a park opposite from Ann's family home. Ann stayed at the pub on her previous visit three years ago and enjoyed it. From the outside it does look interesting and lets face it country pubs have a charm.

Coming back we stopped in Toowoomba for coffee at a place across from the most stunning park, great big trees everywhere, and everything so green, despite the level 5 water restrictions. Indeed all of Toowoomba was green, apart from the autumn reds of the deciduous trees. But out in the street we could feel the late afternoon chill of the westerly breezes. Breeze is too light a word but they weren't quite a full blown wind just the tingle of westerlies in May. I remember westerlies in May years ago. We don't get them any more and most people think I'm crazy when I speak of such things. Ann remembers them but is it from her life on the Downs before she moved to Brisbane so many years ago? But if that's the case, what of my own memories?

Being autumn, May, the sun was setting before we got back to Rosewood. By the time we had reached Gatton the sunset behind us on the range was breathtaking. The hues of red and blue and black were so sharp and smouldering and that was just the east, never mind the west. At this time of year the air is dry, it gives a striking clarity to the light; you never get that in summer, too much humidity, too much torpor in the air. Even more striking was the nimbus of light fringing the western ranges as the dark had descended behind us.

It was around 6 when I spotted the first star as we aproached the Marburg turn off from the highway (and wasn't that clutter of roadworks and signs). It as about 6.15 when we arrived back at Ann's place. I got out of the car and looked up at the sky and oh the stars, the stars...

PS I wrote another post on St Marys last night which I saved and only published tonight but it's sitting down the blog under my Eurovision post below.

No comments:

Post a Comment