Book one…”Christopher Corridini”
In the Murray Mallee country. . .
I did a lot of work out in the Murray Mallee Country..one job we built a house out around Sandalwood ways, on a bit from Borrika…that’s the name of the location, not talking about the tree..though it stands to reason there may have been a lot of those type of trees there…but we built this most beautiful log-cabin place there on a farm..It was on stumps about two foot off the ground ..Australiana style with wide verandah with decking all around the house.. and over it there hung two tall mallee trees kind of embracing the whole house and making a picture of it all..and it was one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever seen…But it didn’t end well for the husband and wife there..He was a dominating sort of chap, who worked in the cement mills down the Port and when he retired, they shifted to the mallee onto a property they had farmed for many years before, but it had no house and they camped out in caravans while the did the cropping etc…and when he retired, they sold up in the city and came holus-bolus to the mallee..but it didn’t end well at all…His wife fell in love with the local windmill mechanic and they eventually left the district together to start over interstate…and they were both not young either..I wrote a piece about it…:
The Exile of Celia Adamson..
I’ll tell you a story..A story of two people who became lovers when of an age where one would little expect such an event to ever again enter one’s life…Two people from that older generation that we had come to think of as staid, conservative and settled.. emotions suppressed under an obligation and habit of domestic duty. Our two lovers, for that is what they did become and they did forge a new life together for the rest of their lives..were in their mid fifties, neither were of what we would call ; “The beautiful people”…nor given to extravagant lifestyles…in short : Plain, everyday people…but do not those same people, those “plain people” desire, dream, want for that elusive satisfaction denied in a mundane lifstyle..should the mystery and pleasure of love be lost in the hum-drum of domesticity?
“For even Madam Time is paused and her dead-hand held fast as the women sly pass..with but a glance and wistful smile to those who adore..touch not vain blade lest the moment spoil to but gaze upon and weep with desire.
Oh women!…thine eyes alone would tempt a greater God than man’s humble creation and thy beauty even if only in the beheld eye enough to blind the honest to thievery and if thou desires; let thee accrue the price or the cost , beholden to no man’s pitiful measure..for it is thy cup that pours the bouquet and let know but that you will choose the bloodline..and your body the time and place….no disgrace!
Your choice ; glory or vainglory, let time grow jealous and men grow old while you can choose to look to either, for heaven befits a granted grace and beauty will reach even the heart of a stone, but the moment loaned of a woman’s touch can be for a wanting man enough to satiate the longing hunger for heaven’s gate!”
I knew them well..I am a builder. I built the house for the people in this story a long, long time ago, and that building over several months allowed me to learn about the personalities of my customers. I lived in the district as I built the house, so I also was able to study other people and trades as they came and went on the farm site. I met and was known to the protagonists of the tale..how they fell in love is their own private concern, I can only relate what I learned from observation and what was divulged to me in quiet conversations at a later date .
Then, a couple of years ago, I was asked to attend as an observer, a workshop on alternative crops for arid area farming. It was to be held in the district where the story below is based. There, I asked a couple of local farmers if they had heard of the couple since. Well , it seems that after twenty five or so years away farming in another state, they had returned in their old age to the district..I did not enquire any deeper into their circumstance..nor health…I would wonder if they were still “of this world “ now…
The Murray Mallee is a vast area…it is sparsely populated and the farms of huge acreage. The loneliness of those places can consume a person and create a hunger for company as ravenous as the real hunger of a starving refugee! So too can the hunger for love haunt and drive a person to seek comfort in a lover’s embrace…so it was for our two lovers in this story.
It was evening, the sky had darkened to a voluminous pitch with the encroaching night, and only a thin shim of glow under the umbra of the sun from the approaching storm clouds threw a veiled, pasteled light onto the vast paddocks of the farm. Celia strolled out to the home paddock windmill to get away from the house and her grumpy husband. She walked out over the gibbered paddock to see the approaching storm. There is a wildness within thunderstorms that both frighten and thrill, and Celia liked to feel that release of the power within the storm. The cool wind slipped about her arms as she stood at the base of the windmill-pump and listened to its creaking and groaning. She climbed the ladder to the top of the frame and gazed out over the purpling endless mallee scrub.
The rumbling of thunder made her catch her breath a little and suddenly two simultaneous stabs of lightning made her heart jump! jump! with their frightening power and their following roll of thunder tumbling over the trembling crowns of the mallee trees thrilled her senses! She felt so insignificant in the entire scheme of the world around her, so powerless, as if swept along a frightening rapid river. All her life seemed to be a series of decisions made for her outside of her control, outside of her wants and considerations : Her education, her marriage, her domesticity and now, the farm.
Lightning struck closer now and the cracks of thunder positively scared her and she climbed back down the ladder just as the first spits of rain dappled onto the dry paddock. She shook her hair as she ran to the house. It was so refreshing, the rain, that wet-hay smell that comes with that first wash of rain after a dry spell in the mallee..life reborn!
“Celia….Celia” Gilbert Adamson called impatiently from the interior of the house.
“Coming, coming” cried Celia with weary frustration.
The Exile of Celia Adamson.
“That which is done out of love takes place beyond good and evil.” (NIETZCHE)
One day, many years ago, when Celia was in her late teens, nearing twenty, her mother came into the lounge-room and saw Celia reading a book. She moved over and with her index finger tilted the book back to read the title:
“Carmen and Calomba”, she read out softly, she knew the stories, she had read them herself as a young woman.
“Yes” said Celia “I found it in the bookshelf, it’s quite interesting!” she spoke enthusiastically.
Celia’s mother dropped her hands down and clasped them together in front of her skirt. She gazed down at her daughter and sighed and went over to the bookshelf. After a quick perusal she picked out a small Gideon’s Bible that had fallen into her ownership years before. She moved back over to Celia with a wry smile on her face and with index finger and thumb, as though picking fluff off some material, plucked “Carmen and Calomba” out of Celia’s hands and replaced it with the stern lessons of the Bible.
“It would do better with you, my young lady, to learn patience and fidelity through the Bible rather than whoring and conniving through literature. One will serve you well for marriage while the other.. well…it can serve you, that I won’t deny…but it can also hurt you more than you can realise.” Her mother’s eyes softened here a little, for she could already see her daughter’s weaknesses and for all their apparent simplicity to their children, a parent has the opportunity to watch the child grow in both body and personality. So much did her mother presume to know of her daughter and so much was she dominant in that relationship, that when told of Gilbert Adamson’s proposal of marriage, she set her lips in a determined smile and without so much as a serious discussion with Celia set about organizing the wedding arrangements. Celia, by the authoritive powers of a matriarchial dominated household, was now betrothed.
What nature had denied Celia Adamson in physical beauty, she had endowed with adaptability. Celia Adamson grew to be a very capable person , she ran “Flora Downs” station with all the expertise of a seasoned farmer and when they lived in the city had raised three children to boot! As per beauty, well, any sensible man will deny there is such a thing as a “plain woman”..there’s a certain mystique as any mature man would know ,surrounding what foolish persons call ;“plain” women, perhaps from those secluded years of bashfulness as a teenager, when a cutting remark can hurt so much, the downcast eyes in company, that shy tone of voice and the with-drawn shying away from crowds all combined, it seems to create an attractive aura of personal mystique and inner strength and intellect that can compete on any platform with physical beauty.
Gilbert Adamson nurtured the illusion that farming was a profitable and healthy lifestyle. This illusion grew from the childhood miss-perception of a family tale of a forefather back several generations who had been a successful farmer before moving to the city to try his hand at commerce, which duly failed miserably and therefore the family belief that “he should’ve stuck to farming, he was successful at that!” So Gilbert Adamson wanted to be a farmer. After serving his apprenticeship to industry for twenty years in managing a cement factory, he bought a farm in the mallee district of Callaran. When the last of their children left home so did they.
He worked the farm part-time for a number of years till they set up the farmhouse, then they sold the house in the city and moved lock, stock and barrel to the mallee to run the farm full-time. There is an old Italian saying: “When you have achieved your goal in life, beware, for death is not far behind!” Gilbert had reached his goal with the farm and no sooner had he harvested his second season of grain there than he was struck down with his first heart attack…this in the days before the surgical heart “by-pass” was freely available.
Celia, after a time of adjustment to her husband’s stricken state, took over the running of the farm. Although somewhat incapacitated, Gilbert would advise on schedules of fertilizing and cropping and shearing etc. But Celia would hire the labour, arrange the servicing of the farm machinery, the care of the livestock and a hundred and one other things necessary in running the farm. It was such a necessity that brought her to meet, for the first time, the windmill mechanic ; Jean Gameau.
Jean Gameau was one of those congenial Frenchmen who appear now an then in the most remote areas of Australia with a fragile smile and an endearing personality that seems to adjust to the hardships of that area with fatalistic aplomb. As familiar with the landscape as though that desert township street was the Champs Elysee that he was strolling down!
The name “Jean” presented a bit of a problem to the townsfolk of Callaran, in that they just couldn’t seem to roll their tongues around it to pronounce it in the French manner. But then they couldn’t bring themselves to call a man by a girl’s name. So they fell to the comfortable habit of anglicizing it to “John”, “Jack” or “Gammo” or simply “The Windmill Man.” Jean Gameau came to the mallee to escape a doomed marriage. Celia Adamson, came in compliance to her husbands desires, each in their own way in exile.
Now, it happened that the windmill that served the water trough in the east paddock, two kilometers from the homestead, had it’s blade damaged by a windstorm the previous week so that Celia couldn’t move stock into that paddock for feed.
“I want you to move those wethers into the east paddock as soon a possible.” Gilbert spoke one morning as Celia was preparing breakfast.
“I’ll have to get the mill fixed first.” Celia said.
“What! When did it get broken?” Gilbert demanded.
“Oh last week.” Celia replied casually.
“Last week!” Gilbert yelled “Well why didn’t you arrange to get it fixed last week?”
“I’ve been busy and simply put it down the list.” Celia replied as she licked her fingers of a spill of marmalade. Such casual tones of voice can be very annoying to invalids whose perceptions of moods and attitudes heighten with the length of convalescence. Celia’s casual attitude at such “catastrophe” annoyed Gilbert to the point of almost curing him, and with an acid tongue he drove Celia out of the house to arrange the repair of the damaged mill “immediately”.
Jean Gameau’s farm was a “dusty little spread” two kilometers down the road from the Adamson’s. Celia drove through the permanent open gate up to a fibro “transportable” dwelling with a little porch carefully built around the front door. The porch with it’s wooden deck added a gentle charm to the otherwise plain cream house. A few well tendered pot-plants on the porch daubed it with geranium reds and pinks and greens.
Celia stepped out of the utility and with hands on hips surveyed the yard. It was untidy as mallee farms tend to be in such vast countryside. An ancient plough, seeder and harvester, were parked at various positions and angles in the yard. She didn’t take notice of these things out of any curiosity of the contents of another persons yard, for nearly all farms in the mallee have the same sweated wrecks both in the yard and in the house. She stood there looking for a sign of life. Celia heard a shriek of abuse from around the back and walked over to the corner of the house.
“Grab the bastard!” She was ordered as soon as she turned the corner. But too late, she was bowled over by a rollicking great wooly, black sheep that careered around the house straight into her, sending them both sprawling onto the dusty yard.
“Shit”, cried Celia as she realized the inevitable.
“Oh bloody hell”, cried Jean as he saw the sheep regain its pace and disappear out of the front gate and head down the road.
Jean “galloped” up on his long striding legs and stopped next to the sprawled Celia. He didn’t look at her so much as gaze after the disappearing sheep. He dusted his hat against his trouser leg.
“Hello,” he offered his hand to Celia to help her up. “Sorry about that,” he spoke as he dusted her off. Celia saw a slim,strong looking man, in his mid fifties, going toward bald in a tidy balanced way. He was tallish but not over height. There was a casual gentleness in his nature that took trouble to dust Celia down as she stood in front of him. He held her left arm while with his hat dusted her off like one would dust a small rug or an article of clothing. He moved her this way and that and, when satisfied that the article before him was restored to its former cleanliness, let her go and stepped back.
“Hello”, he said again “I’m Jean Gameau, I don’t think we’ve met.”
“No,” Celia shook his hand mannishly. “I’m Celia Adamson…from Flora Downs ” she added as if to put an identification onto her name. Jean motioned after the lost sheep.
“I was cleaning it of a bit of strike and it got the jump on me.” he spoke as if apologising.
Jean was one of those people who can gaze straight into ones’ eyes and seem to see into the bottom of your soul. Such people can be uncomfortable, but strangely, it made Celia smile.
“It’s black,” she teased. “Is it the family pet?”
Jean laughed softly.
“No….But I might have to make a meal out of it one day.” They both smiled.
When compatible souls meet there is no need for idle chatter, the eyes do the talking, indeed, perhaps we only talk at such moments to hide or distract ourselves from too close a contact, for the world of humanity can be a lonely place, a world of fear, fear most of all of an intimate contact of touch for, I’m sure, all of us have met some-one, strangers, that at the very first introduction we would like to, if not embrace, at least hold gently, for they are what could best be described as soul-mates, but such is the life of a structured society that we cannot, dare not become so familiar with that other stranger in our world…a human!
Celia and Jean looked into each others eyes and simultaneously turned their glance away and talked of the business at hand. Jean would go and look at the mill the morrow.
Over the following couple of months a friendship grew between the windmill man and Celia Adamson, a platonic friendship that drew him to the farmhouse of the Adamson’s for lunch some days. After Gilberts initial suspicions had been overcome by the enjoyment of the company, Jean became a familiar face at the dinner table. He would gladly do some small jobs about the farm that were beyond Celia’s strength, and he had no ulterior motive in mind. Although he enjoyed Celia’s company immensely, his person had not yet awakened to the reason of his delight at her voice in greeting, or farewell of an evening after dinner as he climbed into his truck and swept out of the Adamson’s gate into the pencil brush landscape of the mallee.
Let us reflect that we are talking about two people in their fifties. No great beauties either, as I have described before, but what can you say..for surely, one person will see as much beauty in the petals of a sour-sob as another will in a rose….for it is certain that as we all grow from the child to the adult, do we not seek that love most denied? Here were two souls anchored in a vast landscape, of no significance and of little interest to any but each other. Yet in their private lives there grew a common bond.
Quite often when meeting on the road they’d discuss affairs of the district or farming problems each while leaning out of the windows of their parked vehicles opposite each other on a sandy back-road, or if in no hurry and in need of deeper discussion, would stand outside the car, on the road, and talk in attentive tones while sweeping the blowflies away with a grimace and wave of the hand. The jokes and chiacking would fly on parting never realising they were each other peeling off layer upon layer of social protocol that was holding them aloof from their true desires.. each talk, each meet, was bringing them toward the start of their journey into exile. An exile from social correctness into an exile of love.
It happened one morning while Jean was repairing the gearbox of the mill in the “home paddock” only a couple of hundred yards from the farmhouse. Celia had watched Jean wrestle with the blade of the mill and hoist it with pulley and rope toward the top of the mill frame. He looked so small and pitiful against a backdrop so vast of parched plain and black-line mallee bush. The frame of the mill like a child’s toy and Jean a foolish ant fussing around a hopelessly impossible task, both of them jellying in the rising waves of heated air. Celia left the breakfast dishes for a moment and with the tea-towel dangling from her left hand at rest on the sink, gazed hypnotically out at the scurrying figure of Jean. A fleeting wave of loneliness for them both swept through her.
“Celia”, Gilbert called.
She was wrenched back into her world. Gilbert wanted his smokes and a light. Celia tended to his needs and fussed over his side-table then announced:
“I’ll go down and see how Jean’s getting on with the mill.”
“Tell him to finish it by this weekend or we’ll die of thirst!” Gilbert grumbled as he snapped the pages of a stock journal. Celia felt her world shrinking smaller and smaller.
She walked past the grove of mallee gums toward the windmill where Jean was working. The bent and twisted trunks of the trees threw crooked shadows over the rubbled ground.
“Hello Jean”, she said slowly “How’s it goin’?”
Jean glanced over his shoulder, he was holding a rope with both hands that stretched to the top of the windmill frame.
“Oh Celia, just the person…give us a hand could you?” Celia start clapping “Don’t be silly” he laughed.
He was bathed alternately in sunshine and shadow as he moved and turned while he held the taut cord and glanced around looking for something. His workman’s shirt was streaked with sweat at the chest line. He attempted to wipe the sweat off his brow with his forearm. His hat fell off. Celia bent down, picked it up and scrunched it back on his head.
“There,” she teased as she fashioned it onto a different slant than he usually wore. “That makes you look sort of rakish like those young bucks at the stockyards.” she giggled.
“Knock it off Celia…and give us a hand with this rope.”
“What do you want me to do?” She queried as she held her hands ready.
“Just help me here…I’ve got the blade balancing up there on the end of the rope here so if you can hold it so’s I can get my spanners it’d save me a lot of trouble…”
“Is it heavy?” Celia asked.
“My oath,” Jean replied “for a fragile girl.” He smiled teasingly “But you’ll be right.”
Celia slapped him playfully on his bicep, she felt it hard and moist with a film of sweat under her palm.
“Get on with you” she laughed “Give it here,” she took the rope.
“Now it’s balanced up there on that lug so it won’t go anywhere… so just steady it…keep the rope tight an it’ll be right…ta.”
He lifted one arm and she slipped coyishly under and with cautious manoeuvring they exchanged places.
“You right?” Jean asked.
“As rain” Celia replied with a grimace.
Jean moved to his truck to get some spanners. Now, fate always selects it’s moments for mischief, a gust of wind snatched at the blade at the top of the mill and it twisted off the supporting lug. It jumped and slipped down the frame.
“Jean!!” Celia yelled as the rope burned through her hands. She didn’t let go though.
Jean leapt to her and reaching around her with his strong arms grabbed the rope and planted his foot against the bulwark at the base of the mill. The blade, in it’s swinging descent caught in one of the bracing bars of the frame and jammed. Jean was braced there with both arms around Celia and holding the rope. She had disappeared inside his encompassing body. The muscles on his arms and legs were solid with the tension. Celias’ face was brushing against his chest while his upper right arm pressed against her forehead. Celia let go of the rope and clasped her hands together.
“Oh bugger!” She sighed.
“What’ve you done?” Jean asked as he stood there still in his braced position. Celia looked up, she was only inches from his eyes and she saw the deep concern reflected in them. She became aware of the warmth of his body, his arms, his manliness around her, his scent, not the scent of sweat, but rather the scent of man, of work, of that unfathomable allure of man to woman.
“What have you done to your hands?” Jean repeated. Celia snapped to her senses,
“My hands,” she softly said, “they hurt so.”
Jean raised his right arm and Celia reluctantly, for all her pain, slipped out of that moment of non-conditional bond of belonging that she felt she owned of Jean’s personality. She slipped out of his cushioned embrace and edged over to the truck. Jean reached down and double looped the rope around a spike at the base of the ladder and eased the blade secure. Then he went over to help Celia attend her injury. She stood at the end of the tray of the truck with her lips pinched, holding her hands cupped and not quite knowing or daring to touch one or the other.
Jean took her arms gently and turned the palms upward and they put their heads together gazing at the injury like two children gazing open eyed at some strange object. The skin of both palms had been burnt red by the coarse rope.
“Oh dear,” Celia sighed.
“Hold on a minute, I’ve got some salve in the glove box.” Jean said. He steered her over to the truck cabin, opened the door and reached inside rummaging around till he reappeared with a tin of golden salve. He wiped his hands clean and with clumsy fingers, as gently as possible, spread a thin film of the ointment over the burns. Reaching behind the drivers seat he pulled out a bag of clean rags and tore two strips off a piece of white cotton and placed the squares over the wounds.
“That’s about all I can do here, Celia.” He spoke apologetically. Celia looked from her poor hands up to Jean’s eyes, they were looking deep into hers too, though but a moment, it seemed a long time for silence between them and they both knew then, but could not acknowledge it to themselves yet; the thrill of each others touch.
“It’s enough…Jean.” Celia softly replied. She turned her eyes away and stepped from Jean’s nearness. His hand slipped from her arm in silence. She turned back to his glance and ran her tongue over her top lip. “Ta.” She added softly and turned toward the house. Jean watched her walk away over the gibbered paddock, her feet sometimes slipped, askew as she trod on some of the many small rounded stones.
Oh how he would have loved to have carried her, he imagined for a moment, like some chivalrous knight in a romantic story..( for is it not in the better nature of a man to desire to protect women..to shield her from hurt and harm? )..he was feeling, but then he chastised himself for the foolishness of his silly thoughts..juvenile desires..and anyway..what was he really, but a grubby worker..a lowly mechanic. Celia stopped by the backdoor and looked back toward Jean who was still staring after her. She bit her bottom lip and went inside.
They didn’t see each other for a few weeks after that incident; such was the mutual discomfort of their discovery toward each other. Each of them too, at this voluntary separation was surprised to learn that they were quite casual at not seeing one another. Neither was distressed at the others absence, amazing, it seemed, though in fact they each had reached that phase of longing so that denial was bonding their egos together. They each knew with joyous delight that the other was thinking of them so the physical contact was not at all necessary.
One afternoon Jean was working on a mill near the road on the McDonalds property, just south of the Adamson’s farm. Celia, on a stock check saw his silhouette at the top of the mill framed again the limitless azure sky. She decided to stop and say hello, “after all,” she told herself “I haven’t even spoken to him for weeks.”
A light breeze tossed the golden tips of the mallee trees and two corellas chortled overhead. A strange elation crept into Celia’s body. The world around her embraced them into that secret sphere of isolation where only lovers go. Of course he had seen her coming out along the plain, so had climbed to the top of the windmill and was hanging out with his right foot on the last rung of the ladder and his right hand grasping the pivot of the tail of the mill and waved with his hat in his left hand , calling out at the top of his voice so it seemed to echo back off the curve of the sky.
Celia pulled up at the gate about fifty yards from the windmill and laughed at his silly antics “what a curious feeling, that laughter” she thought, it was a young girls laughter and with it felt a softening glow sweep over her till it tingled and the cool morning breeze lifted her hair and wrapped soft sunshine around her body.
“Silly bugger!” She called back and her voice careered across the distance and bounced off the open fields up to the sky like an echo.
“It’s such a beautiful day!” He cried, like a call from some wild free bird; “Come with me to Paris and we’ll dine like royalty: a la carte!” he laughed boyishly.
“Horse and cart?” She laughed and the two corellas careered overhead screeching in symmetry to their laughter and he called to her again in a deep, deep mannish call and it swirled around her and the early morning sun glowed softly in her hair and she called back in competition with her hands cupped to her mouth and they laughed at each other for nothing but the feeling of it and he swung his hat round and round calling and singing bits of songs and she sang back to him and laughed till she felt so full and giddy like being spun around blind-folded, ’round and around and the corellas cried out with the wind and she laughed within and without and the feel of it all swept her away and she cried out amongst a rollicking laughter that had her hands on her knees with her bent laughing and she cried out from the bottom of her lungs as she straightened up so very happy…
“O’ I love you!…”
And the words hurled over the plains , crashing against the very perimeters of the sky, roaring in her ears in sustaining peals like the toll of some great bell and the corellas ducked and weaved overhead screaming in ecstasy silhouetted again the pristine blue sky. Celia gasped ..why did she say that?.. She flung her hand to her cheek and froze in her stance. Jean’s hand stopped waving and hung out as if frozen also in the action and they gazed at each other silently over the acres of paddock framed in an eternal frieze of mallee-bush collage.
Celia turned and jumped into the utility, reversed back hastily and sped off down the dusty road, a trail of smoke-like dust rising behind the utility. Jean squatted on the top rung of the ladder with only the clonking steel against steel blade of the windmill to background his thoughts. He gazed somberly after the fading ute.
“That I had the courage to say the same, Celia” he said wistfully.
The afternoon had been so hot and sticky and it carried over into the early evening. Celia had been restless all afternoon. Joy had risen in her heart only to be suffocated by the mundane repetition in her life. Gilbert called raspingly from the bedroom as she was washing the dishes.
“Celia,…Celia give us a light will you?” Celia moved to get the matches “The very things that kills him, he nurtures,” she thought. Then she reflected on her own years and the words she had just spoken sent a shiver over her. When she returned to the sink, the doleful clatter of dishes and pans seemed to drum inside her head. She could stand it no more, she threw the dishcloth into the tepid water.
“I’ve got a bit of a headache” she told Gilbert. “I’m going outside for some fresh air.”
“Count the bags of “super” in the shed while you’re about it” called Gilbert.
A cool evening zephyr lifted a sigh to her lips. She blew a long expiring breath and strolled to the gate and walked out onto the deserted sandy road. Although unaware of it, when she walked out of that gate, Celia crossed a boundry..and with the shutting of the gate, her world there back in that farm also closed. Celia gazed to the right and then turned and looked down the road in the direction of Jean’s little farm about two kilometers away. She started walking in that direction. The sunset drooled lilac over the vast expanse of the mallee, nestling birds syrupy chatter spilled into the evening air and every now and then some small creature would disturb the underbrush.
What was this affection she felt for Jean? Surely she couldn’t love another man while her own husband was so ill? What was this joy of affection that she felt so keenly for the first time in her life? Do others feel love at all but just dismiss it and go about their every day jobs as though it didn’t exist? And if they can do it why can’t she dismiss her emotions, her hunger, like everyone else? She wasn’t a young girl any more, why should she fall for that old trickster love at her age? “You’ve turned fifty Celia, fifty.” She repeated to her self as if such words could reverse her feelings and all would go back to normal.
She thought of Jean, his manliness, his tender eyes when she had hurt her hands, his joy of song today on the windmill so bright against the blue sky. His face, his body, his strong gentleness.. but it wasn’t exactly all those…she strolled along the dusty road thinking these thoughts as the sky slowly yielded its light over the somnolent bush and over the hills away across the plains night shadows crept slowly nearer. A cool breeze lifted and curled her cotton dress about her legs and her sandals squelched in the soft dry sand edging the road.
She stopped to gather her thoughts:
“What do I see in him?” She reasoned with herself.
“I see his confidence in his work, his manliness, his strength (she smiled), his lovely eyes.”
“What do I hear with him?..His singing voice, so soft, so sure. His tenderness in his
touch . ”
“How do I feel with his presence?”
“My skin trembles at his touch. His strength of body at his age is healthy and virile. His chest is so strong I want to hold him against me,” (she blushed at the thought).
As Celia was ticking these boxes for her own assurance..she was making a decision this time on her own terms, her own decision…for she was not going to rush into a new life without consideration..why would any grown person?..a realization came to her:
“He’s the only person I’ve never felt shy with. From the first day I’ve felt certain of myself in his presence, almost as though we have been apart all our lives and now we belong together.” She strode on purposefully, certain of her actions now..and she pondered on whether THIS was the love she ought to have pursued rather than obeyed her Mother’s and society’s command. She was certain also of Jean’s love for her, for as much as any woman can read a man’s heart, Celia felt certain of Jean’s .
What would she do? There was no going back home now, she had cast her lot into exile, for exile it must be, for both of them, her children would not understand and certainly the district of Callaran would not tolerate such rebellion to duty. But what was all that opposition in the face of love and for love even death must stand aside! Celia walked on in the plumed penumbra of night.
Jean turned the truck into his farm gate and swung the steering wheel left to drive to the shed. As the headlights swept past his front porch he noticed someone sitting on the step: Celia! He stopped the truck quickly and jumped down. He walked warily over to the house. Celia rose slowly as he approached, her hand moved to straighten her dress as she rose. They gazed at each other in the pressing quiet of the night.
“Jean” Celia looked into his eyes “Jean, I can’t stay with Gilbert any longer.” Jean stepped up to her, they gently and deeply embraced.
And there you have it..the end of one thing but the beginning of something new and who could deny the couple probably the first unrestricted taste of love in an otherwise controlled life..I repeat that quote from earlier in this missive..: “Now, for the love of love and her soft hours, let us not confound the time with her conference harsh. There’s not a minute of our lives should stretch without some pleasure…”
Before their departing for places unknown, Jean and Celia called into the builder’s yard to say cheerio and it was there I saw in Celia’s eyes the plea for me to understand her desire..I’m sure I saw that in her eyes..and on my part, though it had nothing to do with myself, I smiled to her in I hope a signal that indeed, I understood..I have long understood what was missing from most people’s lives..that want of belonging to place or person..in us all..in myself as well and I have tried to tell it to others for so many years..
Out here in the Murray Mallee where I live, between the eastern face of the Adelaide Hills and the Murray River, on what is called ; “The Murray Flats”…or : “Break-heart country”..at the end of the second world war, there was a distinctive “cut” in a cultural tie with the methodology of farming…particularly in regards to the older families of the pioneer Germanic farmers in the area.
Before the 2nd. World War, and indeed right to the end of the war, horse-drawn implements were the most common form of ploughing, seeding and harvesting…perhaps in some locations tractors had been introduced, but they were such cumbersome technology, that it was a risky and expensive proposition to do a major “tooling-up” in cost and farm layout to change over. But it did happen, and with that event, there was not only a “cut” in ties from old technology, there was also a severing with the connection between the farmer and his soil….between “Man and his touch to Earth”..
Where once, with the horse era, the connection between philosophy of mind, religion of heart, to callous of hand was a real and tactile thing..The farmer rose in the early morning, praised his God, saw to and fed the animals, groomed and attended to the health of both himself and his beasts of burden…the harness of leather and steel, the equipment of cast metal and timber..the feel of earth under foot and hoof…was it soft, hard, moist or too parched…the entire process was “ of the senses, of the touch”.
Then, in almost the blink of an eye…it was gone…all that old expertise..redundant, along with an entire generation of horsemen farmers…the sound and scent of preparation and harnessing….of horse-feed, stabling and manure was gone…no longer were these hardy pioneers “dirt farmers”, they had now needed to graduate to become ; “chemical farmers”.
And so that was the end of something.
Another thing I believe has ended – right now – with an older generation is the understanding and/or sympathy in the writings of a younger generation for the reality of the Human condition…NOT to be confused with the living standard..or material comforts..or the trysts of social relationship..but rather; that uncertain something that gets us out of bed in the morning to give touch to the start of the day…the hunger of physical contact however slight or intense with our fellows…our (female in my case) opposites…the moment of embrace to start the day..a gentle ; “Good morning, did you sleep well?”.
The haste of the post-modern lifestyle, that celebrates the “individual” rather than the couple to fulfil those material needs, driving many to fore-go that moment of space necessary for human contact and relationships to co-exist..After all, we can only fill one pair of shoes at a particular time, or stand on one patch of soil underfoot…it is our mood that makes us, and I feel there is a mistaken association with the sweeping mood of “instant” communication technology via the internet or mobile phone hook-up that is making, shaping and dominating and in the end ; replacing the mood of so many people so that the above understanding of the making of the Human condition from another age..another generation of post war people, is being lost or thrown aside for a new-fashioned personality that has little time to look into either the eyes or the soul of humanity..and like those post war farmers who adopted the new technology to up-the-ante in both speed of the deeds of farming and the output for profit that resulted in the further decimation of an already fragile environment, so too will a past generation’s experience of the pain and what is gained from that pain, will be shunted aside for a more “profitably expedient” if tactile poorer outcome in human relations.
And that too, I fear..will be the end of something.
I make this claim because after years of writing story and tale, essays and poems on example after example of situation, devastation and humiliation of so many good folk and their moments of life, I have to conclude that it has to the greater extent been to no avail and the grinding of those most vulnerable underfoot has continued almost unabated…and this saddens me…NOT to the point of actual depression, but rather in that way where one has to sit by and watch a drama unfold and yet not be able to do a thing to stop it…like the proverbial train wreck in slow motion.
And there were our grandparents and parents who saw it, lived it and told oral story after story about those times which we, of a better educated generation..perhaps the BEST educated generation of an eon of years, has put down in word on page those lives..and yet the carnage goes on…Perhaps, like that generational change from horse-power to tractor, it cannot be stopped and the maxim of ; “Live for the moment”…better suits the times than the old ; “Work like you are going to live forever and pray like you are going to die tomorrow” ..which is..like this author..just too wordy to be called out of a swiftly passing window.