Gum Trees and Walnut glades


One Spring Vorn convinced me to rough it in the Dargo High Plains with him for three days. We each took back packs filled with minimum supplies; including a  spare set of clothes, sleeping bags, a hoochie (a tarp for sleeping under), and army rations.

When Vorn’s father dropped us off at the foot of the Mountain, I remember seeing groves of lush, majestic trees lining the valley. They seemed to be at odds with the Australian bush that scattered the slopes above us and I was curious as to what they were. Vorn’s dad told me that they were century-old walnuts trees. I regarded them with interest and their age truly did appear to be etched in the rough bark of their trunks. Their gnarled branches reached outwards and downwards forming beautiful green canopies that would soon produce the delicious treasures that the Ancients believed to be “the nuts of the Gods”. We picked a poor excuse for a path and started our journey into the rugged terrain. The bush was marvelous  dry but green, harsh but beautiful and the first leg of our journey was all up hill.

On our first night, we pitched our Hoochie, just a piece of tarp stretched low over two trees, and built a fire to boil water for our evening meal. The ham and pineapple freeze dried food we had bought from the Army Disposal shop tasted like vomit, so we disappointedly cooked some plain rice in its place. Exhausted from our five hour hike we slept soundly despite the rain pattering on our humble sanctuary, and it didn’t seem long before the sun signaled the voices of a chorus of birds and drew out the aromatic particles from the moist earth to release them into the air.

Our camp had been set near the Dargo River and Vorn decided to go for a bathe. I watched him peel off his clothes and wade boldly into the water and then prostrate himself in the middle of the river without hesitation or trepidation against the cold. I however, gingerly tiptoed over the uneven rocks towards him. As the freezing water reached my waist, I sucked my stomach in as if to avoid its icy fingers. I cupped my hands into the water and tipped it over my face and let it run through my hair. The water was so cold, unexpectedly cold, and I hurriedly concluded my sluice without the vigorous enjoyment that Vorn appeared to be experiencing.

Vorn tending our fire for morning riceBreakfast was rice again; we had given up on Army food. And afterward we lay in the morning sun while the steam rose from our drying tarp and the smell of eucalyptus streamed from the gum leaves clearing our noses and pervading our lungs. We felt wholesome and energized.

When we eventually stepped out our nesting glade and gazed upwards once again, ours eyes were met by a steep and jagged path. Much of it was covered in uneven rocks and I remember the fatigue in my legs as I resolutely dug my toes into its unforgiving pitch. Vorn walked a little way ahead but turned periodically to encourage me and we were able to keep a steady pace to reach our destination within a few hours. The rise opened out into a plateau and we were encountered by a panoramic view of clear blue sky, a skirt of tree tops running down the slopes and a deeper ring of green signifying the walnuts nestled in the valley below. Words were not necessary and we held each other in silence and wonder at the world we were lucky to be within.






In the neighbourhood that we spent most of our youth in, there was a definite shortage of girls my age. Fortunately for me, my brother, Tom, always made the time to teach me the important things in life according to his own experience. These consisted of, riding a bike, kicking a football and bowling over-arm in cricket. I will never forget how patient and skilful he was at passing these abilities onto me, and how flattered I felt that “he”, was prepared to gift his time to me so unconditionally.

For me, this meant I could be a useful member of the “Blackstreet” cricket and football games which were served daily after school. I loved the look of shock on the neighbourhood boys’ faces’ when I managed to knock those wickets down with a carefully aimed bowl (or hit the rubbish bin as the case was back then). These were carefree and innocent times, and when I reflect on these memories, I see a quiet street at the bottom a of a hill, brought to life by well the organised games we played together, and can almost feel the sweet summer breeze on my face and the happiness in my heart.

Tom did well in school. English and Literature were always his strengths as he had immense talent with words – both spoken and written. He had a confidence that I quietly envied and it was often highlighted by his affable banter and body language around his school mates. In High School, I was still welcomed to participate in his games with or without his mates.  Whether it was the backstreet sports we continued to play or the many games of “500” we occupied ourselves with until the early hours of weekend mornings. Jokes and pranks were high on our list of entertainment.

Tom studied literature, Japanese and Spanish at Monash University and later spent his “gap years” mostly in Japan honing his language skills whilst working as a golf caddy and inhaling the beauty of those perfectly tended golf Oasis’ ; all the while writing his beautiful poetry.

Tom has had an eclectic career and now works in dispute resolution. He pursues his true passion of writing poetry and has recently written his own memoirs. He expresses himself with a combination of the beautiful Haiku that he frequently pens and his obvious literary talent. His story reflects the time he spent in Japan; which is delicately interspersed with Haiku, love, humour and his sensitive reflections on our family.

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