In response to Weekly Prompts Weekend Challenge – Escape
My frequent travel around the State has been curtailed. Once our hard borders were opened, COVID-19 numbers went up placing stress on the health system. Where possible, we were asked to provide a health service by remote means by one agency, the other agency allows us to travel. But despite some travel opportunities, I feel trapped in the city and would much prefer be out and about doing what I love most in regional and remote areas.
When in regional areas, there are many paths I take on a daily basis. Some are unfamiliar and much sought out by me where I allow myself to be guided by tall timber, the occasional splash of colour, a screen of lacy fern. These walks are invigorating because the unfamiliar is consciously made familiar. I bring those experiences home with me and savour them in silence. The lookout over Esperance Bay is a favourite. I watched in sadness as the historic wooden jetty was dismantled and replaced with a steel one. I would love to walk across the jetty one day, but for now, it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Nor have I had the heart to take a picture of it.
But there is one journey that is soothing, and helps me fall asleep on nights when rest is elusive. I’m not sure if the geography is accurate but the landscape is imprinted deep in the recesses of memory and where the child in me feels at home.
I get off the train after a gruelling overnight journey of 19 hours from the coast to inland. Fight my way through the sea of red uniformed “coolies” (luggage helpers). I would get into a rickshaw, and it would have been rare to tell him where I wanted to go. He would know me from my tender years, knee high. We would turn right, passing the home where the Ds lived. Mr D and his big booming voice. We go past Miss G’s School. A double storied pale yellow building with enclosed garden where I attended kindergarten. I recall eating my first red apple here. Then past Empire Theatre (the home of great movies and stolen first kisses!) and headed towards the bungalows where military families lived. We would turn left and then right along the football oval and some government building (water corporation I recall) then to the tigadda (a three way junction) where the petrol station stood. Two brothers owned the petrol station, one married to a German lady. I listened in awe to their children speak fluently in German and English. If I turned right I’m headed to Fourth Bridge where my mother’s best friend lived. No visit today, so I continue straight. The farmers on the right are always ploughing the fields in their market gardens, their wives selling something in baskets roadside. Then past the bungalows on the left where Dr D lived in one of them. He was our family doctor and lived in a white and green bungalow, his daughter, my sister’s classmate and friend. He would always ask my mother what her opinion was on what ailed us and she would respond with such conviction. “Well, doctor, I think it’s her tonsils!” We would pass the gate to the home where the B family lived before entering the long driveway flanked by guava, mango, berose, jamun and tamarind trees. In summer, macaque monkeys would show off by hanging high in the trees by one limb. We would throw fruit at them. They threw it back at us! We would shriek with fear and delight! We would cut diagonally past the humble home where the M family lived. She was a bedridden widow who raised two children on her own. My childhood home is last in a row of three. White building, grey roof, green trim with a big green hedge.
When I arrive home I see Jet, the black labrador, snoozing and sprawled out in the front room. It is at this point I escape into dreams and start the journey again the next day.
I was raised in an environment where neighbours were family. More than fifty years have passed when some left home and carved out new lives overseas. We are still family. We are still young. We still keep in touch.
It’s been just over 47 years since I took this route home. I have written this to preserve my childhood steps, should I forget one day. My only regret is, I don’t have any photographs, just what I can conjure up in words. Somehow, for the most part, this seems to be enough.
Until next time
a dawn bird