the goanna hooked right in…..

Dad is in residence gently snoring when I come out to the kitchen this morning.

I light Stanley – the wood pops and shifts in the firebox – my bread slowly toasts and the teapot warms waiting for the kettle to boil.

Smoky again smoky yesterday the day before and the season when all the ‘……. ‘ do their hazard reduction burns has not even started yet.

Some say it is Victorian fires others say Brogo.

The sun appears on the other side of  an orange filter and it is all pinky peachy tones. for our throats and lungs though  the air is thick and challenging. driving out to the coast today the hills on either side of the valley are hidden.

This is what we have seen.

A goanna a good two metres long eating Camembert.

It discovered the cheese  in the garden nestling in a hole that Kingston had been excavating with the garden trowel.

John had turfed it there. It was from  Johns latest cheese making enterprise . the funny thing about  cheese is , it is all about ‘off  ‘ he said to me after he threw it out.     But in the case of this particular Camembert it was the wrong off.      The others  went into the fridge and whenever we open  the door  a smell leaps out into the kitchen.  is it the right smell or the wrong smell?

hard to say when we are talking about cultures and bacterias and fermentations . The last batch of Camenbert John  made at Christmastime was excellent and loved by all.

This time he has done a Haloumi and it is perfect.  the feta is as good as any Bulgarian feta  says Elsie.

in the esky the blue vein increases in blueness.

The goanna hooked right in, its long tongue hoovering up every last bit.

the anomaly in all this cheese business is that after John went to see  Ken he came home and said Ken told him no eating cheese no dairy. he didn’t say not ever ….just not now.      This confirms Johns view of how the universe likes to tease him.

The skink that hangs around our sink will eat anything. John has taken to putting crumbs out for it on a plate as if there aren’t enough leftovers stacked on the dirty dishes that it likes to trawl over -lickedty lickedty lick.

We are often rescuing it from the sink or the metal bowl – the sides being too slippery to climb out of.  it is a big responsibility living with skinks  . We have to remember to leave sticks in buckets of water , a branch in the huge water pot so they can actually get themselves out. Not nice to come along and find a drowned one.

The wallabies are summer tripping – whatever it is they are eating at the moment is zoning them out. maybe it is the heat or maybe they are super relaxed or maybe this is their  natural state.

in and around the yard most afternoons and early evenings nibble nibble  nibble scratch and dream  – coming to the water pot for a long drink and snaffling up any fresh shoots of chives that have dared to poke their  heads up.

the curling yellowy peach leaves that have left the tree and fluttered to the ground are consumed  diligently. no need of a leaf blower here.

They watch us go about our business without much need to run away.  their black eyes remind me of  button eyes on an old teddy bear except ted never looked as stoned as these fellas do.

John and Dad have a got themselves a BMW project. some part fell out the other day when he was giving it an oil change.

don’t ride it was the advice from Munich Motorcycles . so… a has to be done job and while John is trying to psyche himself up for it Dad is rubbing his hands together and can’t wait to get stuck into it.

he is nearly 87 for goodness sake.

great isn’t it? great that he gets up and leaves home at 3.30 am in the morning – into a car up to Auckland airport on a plane to Sydney – off the plane find your way around the airport onto a bus and round to domestic  –  onto another plane landing at Merimbula and then into the car with me and Elsie and Chloe and finally arriving here some 12 hours after he left home.

Dad  likes to sit on the verandah and watch the skinks play at his feet and the wrens noddle around after crumbs and the yellow eared honeyeaters wash in the tank and the gums sway in the breeze and a few errant clouds sail across the sky.

so good to be here he says

and so good to have him here too.

at the roundabout it is on

          Dad is coming over for a visit, flying in from the land of the long white cloud. in the wee hours of tonight Max will back quickly out of the driveway and race around the corner tear along Newcastle road  turn left into Dinsdale road where it has been reduced to 40 km in a measure to stop the boy racers. he will ignore that and pull up smartly in Dads driveway.
        although well dark  the house will be awash with lights and the suitcase packed.  usually  Max waits in the car beeping if there is any slowness involved but with Murray he is helpful so he will probably get out of the car and place the suitcase in the boot.
          If Kay had been ready she will be sitting up like Jackie in the passenger seat her hair nicely coiffured  her lipstick bright and shiny and her bangles clinking on her arm wearing  a smile as large as life.
          more than likely Max will be  shift worker grumpy and drove too fast and she had to yell –  Max slow down or you’ll get another bloody ticket and he would have told her to mind her own business and that would have continued back and forth until they got to Dads. And  if Kay had been running late or Max overly anxious he would have zoomed off without her to get Dad and then go back for her.
              His mission which he takes super seriously is to get my sister and our Dad to Auckland International airport on time. this will be full of tension and other cars had better watch out. it is lucky this is happening in the wee hours and traffic should be light. hopefully not too many long haulage trucks on the graveyard delivery shift because getting caught behind one of them would involve a fair bit of angst for all of them.
              this is what happened when I was over there last year and we had to go to the Rangariri Cemetery up near Huntly  . Our mission then was to place the ashes of Aunty Rita into the ground.
            she had made it known that  she wanted to be buried with her Mum and Dad which took us into the oldest part of the cemetery. It was  dark in there wandering under large spreading trees  among huge concrete gravestones all starting to go askew . lots of  weedy shrubs are growing up out of the cracks and hardly a clear path to walk on .
           a perfect forgotten place and  enchanting in an eerie sort of way on a sunny morning in June.
            Max is here I call out to Dad. We are ready and hop in the car . no Kay. where is she ? Dad inquires . a grunt that meant she was at home and off we race to pick her up. forget about that 40 km sign.
             there is Kay in her driveway on  crutches  stoic – only a few weeks past her knee replacement op. I help her in and throw the crutches in the boot. have you got Aunty Rita I ask.   yes  She’ s here and then it hit me . oh dear.
          um Max can we just whizz back to Dads I forgot the flowers. no reply but off we went. what a do do I am .
           we had had a lengthy discussion the day before about how long it would take us to get there. the cemetery  is about halfway between Hamilton and Auckland so I thought allow an hour while  Max insisted on half and he had offered to drive us.
           at the first roundabout it was on. Kay said go left here Max , he started to swing the wheel that way changed his mind and wrenched it back and started yelling –  don’t do that Kay  now you ‘ve  got me all confused. he straightens up the wheel still yelling.  Quietly Kay says I was showing you which way to go Max. he  swears a bit more still telling her off and Kay reminds him that Dad and I are in the car and to put a sock in it.
           We are very occupied dad and I  looking out the window and I am  enjoying myself immensely. it calms down inside the car and we all stay quiet for a while and then there are new sights new motor ways new things to point out to me and old memories to revisit.
             we got there in more than half an hour but less than an hour skimming thru the thick  traffic on its way to Auckland on a Saturday morning.We met up with assorted cousins and a  small hole at the graveside was ready .
          Aunty Rita had been  a tiny lady but a force to be reckoned with. she had VIEWS she held OPINIONS. she loved the Queen the church and the national party and now we held her in one hand as  a box of dust .
           stretched in front of this hole were two huge slabs of concrete .On the headrest in faded writing   Ellen Jane Kay nee Stokes mother of Rita Mollie Jean Ella our mum George Harry Ian Alan Hector and David who of course was really Mollies son but no need for truth on a tombstone. makes you wonder about the whole genealogy thing.Beside her in death as in life lies Sidney Herbert Kay a grandfather I never met having died in 1946 just after he had given away his daughter Ella in marriage.
           I read Kahlil Gibran and his words on death –  a  cousin read a prayer. I told the story of  our sister Antoinette who was given  Sydney as her second name which she always hated it and refused to use it.and how Antoinettes son Jason and his partner Grace  had a little girl that they named Sidney  and so it goes on. only the i and the y change .
          we visited a few other family members in the newer part of the cemetery where the sun was shining the cars whizzing past on the expressway and the lawns manicured to neatness.  
           Just down the road was the  Rangariri Heritage Centre Café  sitting on the bank of the Waikato River. We met up there for  tea  coffee and a bite to eat and a few more Aunty Rita stories did the rounds.
           Max delivered us home safe and sound. duty discharged he disappeared into his online gaming world .
          Saturday lunchtime I will pick up Dad from Merimbula airport. Wade will be there to pick up his Mum and his two little girls Shyann turned 5 and now a schoolgirl and Natalia 3 will greet their kiwi Nana.  
           there will be lots of hugs going round. Kay will clasp me firmly to her ‘our mums bosom ‘ and call me dear and I for one sweet moment will be the little sister that shared a bedroom with her all those years ago.  I will call her love and we will laugh together.
         Dad will shift his weight from foot to foot dealing with  a vague  embarrassment over   displays of affection.   Really he will be secretly chuffed and smile at his family of four generations.
         And then I will bring him home here to the forest for a few weeks.

petticoat dreaming



coming out of a bath of rose petals and Epsom salts I pull  a petticoat out of the drawer and slip it on. it is about 69 years old. it is not tattered or torn ripped or perished , made of a fine cloth that I think my Mum would have called lawn. there are a few stains and a slight yellowing to the upper part of it. from the narrow shoulder straps it falls in an A- line to my ankles. way too big around my chest because it was made to contain my mother’s bosom which was substantial. there are two bands of a beautiful chain mesh lace sewn around the bottom. apart from that it is a perfect fit and I love wearing it particularly after  a bath when  I want to  swan around in a’ retired I’m not doing anything grotty ‘ mood. it also doubles as my nightie if perchance I need one.

until I got my hands on it – the last time it was worn was probably 1945 when Mum married the father of my sisters. His name was Anthony Gould and we know very little about him. Kay and I went looking for him some years ago. what we know is that he was in the war came home suffering from shell shock and was given the thank you for serving your country soldier plot of land at Otorohanga. after the wedding Anthony and Ella settled there managing a dairy herd.

I have seen wedding photos of Ella in her white satin dress (the petticoat discretely and silently on underneath) with her all the way down to the ground veil and holding a  large bouquet of flowers –  rouge on her cheeks and tiny  pearl earrings.

the odd thing is that I remember there was always one of these pictures   on the wall in Mum and Dads bedroom. what did Dad think about that I wonder?  Mum smiling on her wedding day to the previous bloke. maybe it was no biggie. there were other photos thruout  the house and being the inquisitive child that I was asked why Dad wasn’t in any of them. The reply – because your father doesn’t take a ‘good’ photo which is something Dad believes to this day.


even when I was over there a few years ago packing up the house to move Mum and Dad closer to Kay and in the spirit of downsizing ( shudder) we came across a bag in the old divan. This divan was the type where the whole top of the divan lifts up to reveal a recess containing all  manner of forgotten things. in the bag we pulled out the satin wedding dress  and petticoat. Mum giggled a little while Kay and I oohed and aaahed . She told us she had made the petticoat to go with the dress and I like that it continues on. some time later it came into Jessica’s possession and it was then I claimed the petticoat. the dress has now gone to live with Leah. who knows if it will ever get worn again or used for any other purpose?

I reached in and  pulled out a dressing table set. a mirror hair and clothes brush set , a beautiful  sparkly blue background  to a pair of  lovebirds twined together on a branch.

hey mum isn’t this mine?

um ah um ah now where did that come from?  she asked.


I remembered . I must have been about 12 or 13 and we were visiting Aunty Nola and Uncle Will in Te Awamutu. It was the 20th of May my birthday and Dads probably school holidays. Aunty Nola brought out the set and said I want you to have this Sandra .  your Father gave it to his Mother my sister not long before she died and then he passed it on to me because we were very close.     I have since found out that Nola was Dads favourite Aunty and he had spent a lot of his childhood living with them.

It is yours now and she handed it to me. Thank you  I said.

I was thrilled although I thought it was a terribly old-fashioned sort of thing and then I never saw it again until we opened the divan some forty odd years later.

there had been times when I had asked Mum about it but she never quite knew where it was or …


another thing we know about Anthony Gould first husband of our Mother is that he had episodes and would disappear for days at a time leaving Mum alone on the farm. by the time Antoinette was born in 1948 and Kay was 17 months old the marriage was over and one of Mums brothers was sent to help her out on the farm. it seems that Mum was frightened of him and perhaps he had a psychotic episode  and she bailed.

She moved into a state house in nearby Te Awamutu, a single woman on her own with two little children in the late 40’s .

apparently the old man as Mum called him turned up periodically and she would grab the girls ,hustle them inside hiding them under the bed  and shushing them until he had gone. afterwards they would find lollies in the letterbox but not until years later did Kay realise that it was her dad.

Each week Ella  went to the post office to withdraw money from her passbook and it was Murray my dad  on the other side of the counter counting the money back into her hand.

by the time Kay was 10 and Antoinette was 8 Murray Taylor  married Ella Gould nee Kay. They changed my sisters surnames from Gould to Taylor and  I was born into the family.


I was 16 before I found out that my father was not the father of my sisters. it didn’t matter it wasn’t even important but it was a shocking revelation at the time although I had always known something was a little askew.

all the books in the house that had belonged to my sisters had evidence of something being rubbed out  underneath the name Taylor.


we also discovered that Anthony Gould had been classified as having residual schizophrenia and had spent time in a psychiatric institution. He lived in a boarding house and died in Middlemore Hospital in Auckland of pneumonia  around the time that Wade was born to Kay.  on the death certificate where it says children it read female 2 whereabouts unknown.

He was gone and Kay and I were chasing a ghost. Mums lips were sealed . There is a sadness for Kay about this story  – that a man that fathered her became lost  – because he went to war because he did his duty and somewhere in all that things were never ever quite right for him ever again. and yet he will never be counted as a casualty of war even though he was. And so the suffering chases the generations down the line.

I don’t think Mum ever intended to become a liar – it was circumstances that led her down that path.  A series of events led to choices led to a pattern led to the disembowelment of truth. it happens as easily as that . we all know about it, we have all been there. the sadness is , the reverberation of the secrets of the lies of the suffering  wander  down the family line plundering virtues from subsequent generations.

it is up to me and my petticoat to shake out the feathers open up the closet sweep away  the dust and reset the future which will reset the past .

69 years is a long time in petticoat time but half a blink on an evolutionary scale. if we really are serious about tomorrow we need to divest ourselves of  patterns that no longer serve us.

Monday chases yesterday as a birth follows a death.

I hear that my son is only a few hours away playing with my grandson.

I can see their auburn heads bent together over the toot toots and imagine  the delight they are discovering in each other.

I give thanks  to Mum for her journey of which I really have no idea but trust that it was all as it could be and that she has left us an undeniable legacy of love and joy.

the story is our canvas and we are the brush strokes


there was a spell of heavy rain in the night – the sound drumming on the roof that wakes you up with absolute relief that all is well with the world . you can feel the land opening to receive , hear the veges brighten and see the branches of the gums drooping with the weight of water  so you wriggle back down glad the job is being done – at last.

and then you  wake again because it has stopped and you were used to the rhythm in your dreams.  the hoped for continuum has not eventuated.

we take what we can. what other options do we have?

in the morning there is another couple of lighter showers and the day continues grey with the  threat or  promise of more to come.


I have some friends who are bearing witness. I sat with them today. their sensitive hearts and delicate souls feel bound to listen to the news  – to watch it on the tele  – to keep up to date – to know what is going on. despite the horror and angst   the pain – and here they place a palm on their heart and their eyes glisten with unshed tears  when they retell a story – despite all this  they have to do it. I know what they mean and I can understand a little of this.


Living on a  blockade beside brassknocker road at the bottom of  Wandella Mountain  all the way thru a winter and deep into spring summer when the activism failed to uproot the loggers and their chainsaws the forestry and the chipmill from their purpose, I too learnt to bear witness.

I learnt to stand and weep and  sing and pay homage to the tree beings that rolled out as cut logs on trucks. I discovered that  the people that cared for the earth – that loved fern and creek and pinkwood – that adored owl and bandicoot echidna and glider – that respected stringybark black box silver topped ash and wattle  – that honoured worm beetle snake and goanna  – we were in the wrong. we were on the wrong side of the police tape and that made us available to be spat on punched and arrested.


this anomoly still intrigues me although I am well aware of the politics of reality as John likes to remind me. even so you must admit it is an odd state of affairs. respect and loving kindness are precisely the attributes our society discourages penalises and punishes.  we live in a world that uses  its undeniable right  by law to carve up the earth  remove our forests  and poison our habitat all for little bits of printed paper.


life without television means images and reports of the wanton destruction  of kindness  fresh water and oxygen , families  forests and rivers ,  does not parade past me each evening.

instead it is the chorus of frogs celebrating rain, it is deep rustlings squeaks and scampers, it is the bound thump bound of wallabies. it is possum delivering its tarzan cry snatching up some grapes and galloping off along the iron roof, it is the long whooo  whooooo of the powerful owl hunting that possum on the roof.

there is prey and predator, birth and death in the world of animals birds and fishes.  some spiders devour their mates,  a hive will mass into a tight band and kill their queen when it is time. so many examples of how to behave, what are we to do?


I live in an activity  ; a constant regular /irregular/random /chaotic/ ordered / wild /evolving  action  in which all aspects are interwoven interconnected interdependent and totally awesome.

there is little that is newsworthy about this activity  about sightings hatchings nestings foragings  feelings and interspecies communication.

there is nothing newsworthy in diamond dewdrops flashing off feathered wings and cupping a bright green iridescent beetle  in the palm of your hand . What interest in ticks so tiny smaller than a freckle that have managed to clambour onto your body and eat you or leeches that suck between your toes wearing bright orange racing stripes. there is  nothing new about any of this or a wind that lifts leaves off their stems and floats them gently in a spiral pattern down to the ground or worker ants carrying a blade of grass twice their size back to home base.

this is  ….  life on planet earth going about its busy ness.


the news is primarily of the people world . it is the measure of cruelty between humans – the measure of hatred and aggression – the sum of our lesser qualities. we name this reality and we call it news.

I am with Mary Daly – it is ‘olds’ –it is an old story way past its use by date and its purpose is to keep us in thrall in fear and disempowered.

not my friends though, by some quirk of nature they can witness the real time horrors and remain alert and alive to the grandeur of the earth around / within them.

the stories we tell each other, the stories we listen to say something about the dream we are dreaming, the life we are creating .

the story is our canvas and we are the brush strokes.


All I can do is make it my business to walk thru the mist in the forest in the morning, tilt my head towards the kookaburra chuckling  and sing a note back to the magpie. All I can do is live  within this given space of nature and spirit.

I do bear witness to grey kangaroo and black swamp wallaby, to sheoak and cutty grass, to web and eel and cloud. I bear witness to beauty and magic to grace of being to the ordinary everyday going about busyness of planetary life and these are the stories I want to share with you.



we dive in – there really is no other option


Cheryl and I went for a swim in the dam today.

hardly reason to blow your trumpet Sandra,

oh but it is.

the afternoon is warm muggy and still.

we hang around on the east verandah talking of comfort zones , mortality,  medicine and family.

skinks wander around underfoot.

John is still abed feeling sick achy feverish hot cold sick –

not a well man at all

mostly sleeping or reading living on water and  a few squeezes of lemon juice.

his last action in the world was repairing Caroles water tank and he has been horizontal ever since.

do you ever go for a swim in the dam anymore ? Cheryl asks.


she wants to know how long it has been. I have a vague recollection that my last swimming time there was in the era of Bridie and Sooty and that is at least two girlfriends ago.

why she wants to know ?  Cheryl likes to know things and can strike up a conversation with anyone anywhere anytime about anything. She has just become a pink lady which is someone that visits patients in hospital.  every week she heads up to Bega Hospital and changes water in the flowers or helps tick the menu and chats if people are up for it.

we laughed that she had come out as a pink lady to John but he hasn’t been much in the mood for conversation.

perhaps she says it was the brown snake she says.

could be I reply.

once the big dam was our summer hub – the place to hang about  to plunge into and play.  one Christmas  before the children were of school age John had a truck load of sand delivered for a beach.

and then as they got a bit older I would offer a gold coin if they swim a lap around it.

I hate to think how much I will have to offer Kingston to swim the course.

one day John was down at the pump and being hot decided to cool off by diving in . He swim across to the beach and as he was walking out a stick on the ground began to move. it materialised into a brown snake and darted rapidly towards John . he quickly backpedaled  falling back into  the water kicking and splashing up enough of a fuss to save his life. the brown snake lost interest and swam away to the right disappearing among the water irises . heart pounding John continued on across the dam and brought the news to us up at the house.

this is to date the only sighting and encounter of a brown on Jellybean Road in 30 years. and we touch wood when we say that.

mmm that could be it. perhaps we  never felt entirely comfortable with the big dam after that .

Bec goes swimming in the lily dam I tell Cheryl.

shall we ? she asks.

might as well.

along the track thru lazy summer heat on a day poised for rain we wander down past the  abandoned lily shack  and over to the lily dam. it fair took our breath away. from a couple of pots of waterlillies  thrown in 30 years ago the dam is an enchanting temple scene . yellow flowers perchon stalks above large flat glossy green leaves. round the edges of the dam and hosting the lilies is pampas grass.

in the middle there is still a clear space of water but probably not for much longer.

we stand and stare. it is beautiful and already I feel spiritually uplifted in its presence.

how does Bec get in ? wonders Cheryl.

good point. she must go thru the lilies I say.

We  consider this for a long time.

I don’t think I can do that . nor me.

we see a possibility on the other bank and investigate.

she’ s a warrior I say.

no doubt about that agrees Cheryl.

we turn around  and walk past Sooty and Kats garden past the stack of bourby cans past their shack  and down the hill to the big dam. They are away activisting – up near Boggabri where  a new mine is going in to the detriment of a native forest – again – .

We strip off and wait pondering this idea. the sandy beach has gone and instead the ground  is pocked with cow hoof holes .

one foot in and it sinks thru squelchy smooth slimy mud up to our calves.

I don’t know if I can do this.

me neither.

another foot . the dark tannin coloured water is coffee stained by the release of the clay particles that swirls around our feet.

a black snake is spotted on the bank nearby.

what is it doing eating something? I don’t have my glasses on so the visual is hazy. it seems to be in pursuit but then it stops and curls into a horseshoe shape.

another step. all we have to do is dive in Cheryl says bravely.

where are those warrior women that swam from Little Belimba Creek down the Tuross River for miles one day?

what has happened to us ?

our comfort zone is interfering with our capacity of delight for feet sinking into sludge and disappearing in black water.

we dive in –  there really is no other option and one can only shag around for so long.

the temperature is divine . indeed the water feels like silk on the body like some of those hot  mineral waters in New Zealand –  wholesome and healing ,nurturing and rejuvenating.

the black snake is still there when we get out.

Cheryl said you know I don’t think I would have got in if that black snake hadn’t been there. it made me feel safe.

buddy cow poo everywhere says Kingston


dawn : A thick visible shushy mist carrying multitudinous drops of water creeps thru the forest and garden. by the time I light Stanley it has gone and a shy morning emerges. The sun lifts thru the trees pushing hard onto the east verandah.  Ravens wing in and call stridently urgently demanding my attention.

They have something to say and I have to listen.

    The lewins honeyeater moves into its shriek alarm signal the one that signifies threat danger predator. The diamond python could be nearby. I go looking at the corner of the house in the lemon verbena, the bottlebrush, the wisteria arbour where the lewins has built its hanging basket nest. It is so very delicate and yet sturdy made of spiders web shredded Stringybark, bits of white paper, hair and filled with the softest looking nesting material  in which two eggs lay. They are about the size of the top of my thumb white with a few speckles. Is this their second nesting or still the first or  has she given up… abandoned the project?

     I am watching to see if she is sitting but although she sets off the alarm I do not see her go near the nest. Earlier in summer the diamond python hung out a lot on this corner and the lewins became a nervous wreck shrieking and  squawking all the time. nothing I can do I tell them. at 3 metres long the python will move where it will. Just not into the roof anymore, it hunted and probed, tried again and again to get in thru its old doorway but along with the rat proofing means no entry for pythons.

 Sorry but you didn’t eat enough rats. In fact they were roof buddies sharing premises and the rats did not take a break from making out and producing for a second.


       it has  a patch of gingery fur ringing  its grey upright ears. the back is grey with a bit of white underlay and the tail as easily as long  as the body is a solid dark grey. there are little white patches on the elbow and the front of the body is the same gingery russet tones of autumn.

   it has been very busy this morning ever since I got up. hovering around the edge of the tank  focused on eating. I cleaned out the compost bucket there yesterday and it has probably picked up a few scraps. it nibbled its way to the back door and up to the kitchen window stopping to glance at me as I clunk a dish into the sink. it is quite young very small  but old enough not to have mum or dad hanging around. On slender perfectly suited for bounding legs it gracefully hops into the herb garden. I don’t mind waking up to these swampy wallabies around the house. their gentle grace and  innocence and the fact that they are at home  indigenous to this place.

   last week it was cows, big hulking grey brown black and white all tail flicking  and giant patties of smelly plop everywhere. on a certain breeze it stinks inside the house. we chased them this way and that  debating did they belong to  Christa or  Norris? just bloody cows to us , piss off we yell go home . they are offensive rude loud and destructive. they hammered the asparagus and dahlias leaving them stripped bare, they break branches off  trees and mow down shrubs. it is true the lawns are clipped short and there is no need for a mow.

Christa drove over one day and called them come on maggie  come on annie barry belle come on…  gathering up her children from around the  house because they refused to budge even with Kingston John flapping and windmilling his arms shouting buddy cows get away.

on another day the two neighbouring herds met up in our bush and we managed to sic them thru to Christas. that set the cat among the pigeons. a lot of phone calls ensued .

buddy cow poo everywhere says Kingston.

Norris replied to Johns phone call with a we need a new fence. forgive me my derision lord but I need a new fence like a shot of heroin in the arm.

once it was  easy for me to despise my neighbours especially of the monoculture cow variety . these days in the middle of blowing off steam I remember I breathe I hug silence and it washes away.

     his second reply to John was to come out the next morning and drive around shooting for hours while John tried to keep his head down and fix  the breaches in the fence. not one star picket not one bit of wire not one post not one anything has Norris contributed in 20 years. yes  it is an old fence and the original red gum posts have rotted off in the ground. we have brought most of them back to our yard, replacing them over time with new posts and steelies adding sticks and rejigging barb wire plugging the gaps as needed.

one night a herd camped right outside our bedroom and we were woken  repeatedly to listen to the entire process of their digestion.some orchestral music that.

neighbour issues belong to the era of my childhood so obviously I have a preset pattern waiting to cut sick. forget it, I have moved on and will not waste my energy going there. Mum was a beauty at it.  She used to have window banging contests with Mrs Macaninny next door in Whangarei. I was only little tot   but I remember Mum harumping and going to the kitchen window banging it  shut a couple of times with a certain amount of satisfaction as if to say there got her. I was four so maybe this isn’t reliable but there was a story to go with it as there was wherever we moved. something always came up to sour relations with next door. Dad is doing alright these days gets veges from his next door so it must have been Mum generated all those years.

there was a low hedge between us  and the older kids including my 2 sisters around 13 and 12 would play leap frog over it shouting rubber neck rubber neck meaning Mr Macaninny the school bus driver. Kay shudders whenever I mention that memory. She says Mum and Dad thought it was funny  Sandra ,they should have stopped us.

in Taita it was Mrs Willis on one side and Mrs Wells on the other. their husbands had been friends and drowned in the Hutt River fishing one time. that was before we moved in. they hadn’t talked to each other since which placed us at piggy in the middle.Both of them had male boarders which caused raised eyebrows and comments in our household that I didn’t understand. Mrs Wills was not allowed in our house and got the blame for a tree that crashed on my bedroom window in a storm one time. she severed the roots mum and dad said. once dad told Mrs Wells to stick her head in a bucket of water twice and take it out once. 

is it any wonder that occasionally my preset button pushes me into some sort of desire to blame the neighbour? still not going there.

it is really   the cows in our forest that I object to the way they   trample the delicacy of the shrubbery and habitat of the little creatures   and their capacity to introduce  pasture grasses thru their poo.  it was kinda cute though wandering out to the verandah for a late night wee and them  all lying around snoozing and farting and chomping .

last night on the eve of dark still grey holding the implied threat of rain I met the Frenchman on the track, him going out me returning from astrology . We wound down our windows and grinned at each other  genuinely pleased to meet like this. is it going to rain? he asks me. my citrus they are bad the mandarins oranges dropping to the ground ,I have no water for them only some in the tank for me.

all the signs are there John I tell him . rain is on its way.

we smile and say good night .


But are the springs filling ?

Wednesday :

Another grey morning almost on the edge of precipitation one might think but is it ??? 

It is T- day, the day when John repairs Carole’s leaky concrete water tank. This means it needs to be as empty as possible so that John can climb into the octopus’ garden he calls it where  all sorts of plants are growing .Hence the gumboots. Using a waterproof adhesive John will patch the weepy seeping site. I decide to go over with him and have another harvest of black berries from the hedge along the road just down the hill and around the corner from the tank.

Driving along we notice the paddock world is starting to brown off,  intense summer heat and lack of rain in the last month is now showing up. On the verge along Yowrie road is  brown shrivelled up trees and shrubs,  poisoned.   I still cannot fathom the reasoning of this action. Do we not all breathe the same Air ? Do we not all eat of the same Earth and do we not all drink of the Earth’s Water.?

I have settled that there are things I will probably never ever get like silicon in breasts, adding no’s into food and packing depleted plutonium in casings and then lobbing them at towns and villages and people.

They don’t get in here, Carole says hands tightly clenched, no way. I won’t allow it Sandy, I’ll lie down on the road if I have to. She means it too. And touch wood so far they give her a wide berth. Bless her, what a Earth Warrior Woman! Drawing a line standing up holding the space so that one day I can turn up and eat wild sun warmed bliss balls of juice.

I am very grateful. the berry bunches  are full and black and red and purple hiding among the prickly leaves and the thorny stems that spot the arm coming and latch on. Ouch. it is definitely not for the fainthearted.

The tank is not empty. This does not bode well. John shakes his head.  So he comes down the hill with me and picks  for a while before going back to discover that it is draining out a drop or three at a time.

John has words with Carole; I am too far away and cannot hear them. I get caught up in the dance of the eagles. Two wedge tail eagles fly low over the paddocks and into the lower foothills of wandella mountainn. They soar languid circles dip a wing turn catch an updraft disappear for a minute or two and then glide in a broad sweeping arc so close I could almost reach out and touch its feathers.

They have a nest up here on the Dumpling behind me, a small knobby little hill identified  by its large bald faced rock on its  western edge and the two nests on the eastern side. they can see  out over Wandella Valley thru to Cobargo and the coast and up to Narooma. In a fork in a huge tree they add sticks and bark year after year making it longer and deeper. 

This is their home territory, their place. They are indigenous to this spot on the landscape. Thru all the cycles of breeding brooding and birthing to old age and death, thru parenting hunting riding  currents I cannot see and  dodging the farmers bullets they are a sight to behold, a sight to sink into.

Last week I had picking companions along this hedge Kingston Jess and Carole. Watch out he’ll eat them all, says Carole. No he wont, replies Jess. Kingston grins thru a purple stained mouth. We make jam when we get home adding some of Caroles sweet pears and , sugar lots of it.

Jams are probably going out of fashion now, the new nasty perhaps. better hook in while we can.

The sun is burning inside my clothes and thru my hat  and I am hot. Then clouds rush over and a breeze cools my neck. It is a tussle but on this day eventually, the sun will win and whatever drizzle was promised holds back, again.

 It’s going to rain ,says Carole. The yellow tailed black cockatoos have been in and the white ones, I’ve got ants in the kitchen, and a cricket came in, there is a slug on the wall … the list rattles on. But are the springs filling?  I ask. Yep they are full Carole tells me. Rains coming Sandy.the signs have been there for about three weeks, she laughs, that’s why I haven’t been worried.

We go home. John decides to go back later when the tank is emptyish . Nothing is ever a simple exercise with Carole or at her farm but that is just how it is.