Home for Christmas
Posted on December 29, 2012
It is the tail end of a Boxing Day Wednesday and I have just put Perry to bed. We are having a little holiday at Bushies, fourty acres of land a couple of kilometres outside of Rushworth, Victoria. On these long Summer days, the light changes again and again, and appears golden at some times, rosy at others. The long blond grass waves gently and flattens with the breeze. Framed through the large lounge room windows at the front of the house, the sunset presents a different spectacle each evening.
My maternal Great Great Great Grandparents settled and cleared this land in the 1850’s, and though they had many children, the land has passed in a direct line to my immediate family. When I was a small child my great grandmother, already in her late 80’s, still lived here with her younger brother ‘Bub’, or ‘Bushy’. They lived in the two tiny adjoining dwellings made of slabs and logs and mud that their forebears had built, though it was then covered in painted weatherboard and iron lace. Even in the late 1970’s it had no electricity. Nan and Bub lived there by gaslight and fire, cooking and heating by the old cast iron aga stove.
I remember a place alive with interest and possibility for a young child. There were chickens and geese and dogs and goats, and rambling cottage gardens amidst the wider environ of the paddocks and trees and the surrounding bush. The inside of the cottages was warm, dark and earthy and more than a little spooky to us. In my memory, it is the very embodiment of old things past.
Bushy died when I was 6 years old, and Nan moved back to Mulwala to live with her son, my grandfather. The wonderful contents (these precious things) of the cottages were supposed to come to my sister and I but were instead auctioned off on the property. I remember that auction, with everything laid bare and for sale upon the ground outside.
This land sat unoccupied for close to 30 years, but it always inhabitated a place in our hearts and imaginations. Sitting, as it does, on one end of Perry Road, where my paternal Perry grandparents built their house on top of a hill at the other, we passed it and visited it often through the years.
So it is that , about twenty years ago, Mum and Dad were beginning to slowly build a handcrafted mud brick house here when Dad and my brother Grant drowned. It was in between the back of the old house and the front of this new one that my brother Mat later built that we sat talking in the heat of a summers day, and decided to go for that ill fated swim in the nearby channel. The road from here was the last one that Dad and Grant travelled upon.
When Al and I were married, it was my wish that we marry in a paddock behind my Perry grandparents house on the hill and then to have our photos taken amongst the green and gold at Bushies. The true beauty of that colour palette shows best here on Perry Road, I think. It is a combination never captured on Olympians uniforms or flags, but from here I can see why soldiers would have worn those colours upon their sleeves in war time.
A few years ago Mat built this new house here. He knocked down the remains of the original dwellings, which were full of termites, but the old chimney, the spirit of the house, remains, along with the cement foot prints of the floors and the peppercorn and plum trees. When Mum re-established the garden, frilly iris, bella donnas and lilies, long dormant, showed their pretty faces among the other flowers.
Walking around this large block, you will find fragments of artefacts, shards of old china and thick glass bottles, rusted parts of the tools of animal husbandry and leather from the days before cars. I think of this area as being like shipwrecks and seashells. The past is strewn there in pieces on the ground, intertwined with natures growth. It is a personal history, a family archeological dig. It is the most extraordinary gift, but the larger gift is one that occurred to me, walking around outside with my baby son: Perry’s mother, grandmother, great grandfather, great, great grandmother, great, great, great grandfather were all carried in their mothers arms around this land as babies. The very same huge ironbark trees create the same rustling sound with the wind within their leaves. The aspect over the golden paddocks remains almost entirely unchanged. The ground is still strewn with the same old iron rich rocks. The colours are entirely unfaded. If there are ghosts here, they are friendly.
This place is surely home.