Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Essay - early morning on a New England road


As I drove south in the early morning light, the mist was just lifting. It had been cold overnight, and the creek water was steaming as the sun reached it.

This is a beautiful time of the morning. I wasn't in a hurry, so stopped the car and just wandered. It had been a rushed trip, and I was very tired after the late night before. I found a bench and sat, allowing the sun to warm me while I watched the world start. In the distance, a tractor started up, while nearby a man walked his dog along the creek bank.  

With a six hour drive still to go, I knew that I couldn't stop for long, but it was pleasant in the sun. Finally, I shook myself out of a half doze and ambled back to the car.

It's been very dry. While the New England countryside still showed traces of greenness, I knew that some graziers had begun to handfeed stock. "We badly need rain", someone had said the night before. "It will be full drought before long."

Turning the car radio on, I continued south listening to the fading sounds of radio 2AD. I was already out of mobile phone reception, and was just entering radio free country. The station was broadcasting from the local IGA store, telling people why they should buy there rather than Coles or Woolies. Not that those two were ever mentioned, but the intent was clear. I listened to that rather strange mix of songs that marks country radio, country plus pop from multiple eras, most about love and loss.

My mainly city raised daughters used to tell me to turn the radio off, they preferred a different music mix, but I like it. I guess it's just what you get used too. The static finally became too much, and I switched the radio off. Driving now in silence, I began to think of short story ideas. I normally write non-fiction, but I have been experimenting with short stories as a different way of expressing myself.

Driving on, I suddenly came across one of those quintessentially New England scenes. Australians call the travelling stock routes the long paddock. I suddenly noticed a small sign by the road warning of stock ahead. I slowed and just as well. Over the hill I found a large mob of cattle being driven along the road, eating the grass on the broad verges on each side.

I stopped to take photos, in so doing spooking the cattle who started rushing across the road. In the distance, I saw a rider with dog rushing up to control the mob. You can't properly see him in this photo, but he is a little dot by the gum trees on the right. Torn, I wanted  to get a good shot, I got back into the car to stop creating problems. He rushed past and waved, all the time calling instructions to his dog who ran from one side of the road to the other to keep the mob in order. P1000925(1)

It was a big mob. A little down the road, I had to stop again. This time I sat in the car inspecting the cattle while they inspected me. P1000931(1)

Finally, I drove on. I look for my stories everywhere, but this had been an especially satisfying experience.     


Anonymous said...

This is poetic, Jim. The country has influenced your writing. And I am not surprised as it is a beautiful part of Australia at least seen through your lense.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, AC. It is beautiful, but we generally all see our home turf in that way! kvd will be pleased to hear that in breaks from writing, I have started to fix up his garden bed!

Anonymous said...

Many of your readers will be looking forward to see photos with evidence of your gardening job. I will.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, AC!

Scott Hastings said...

perfect reading for a slow Sunday arvo. never apologize for being Country! :)

Jim Belshaw said...

I don't Scot. I'm proud of it.:)But I do wish that my girls were less city.

Of course they still identify to a degree with the country and New England, are proud of them, but I didn't actually realise when we moved to Sydney in 96 while they were still very young just how much that that would affect them. Effectively, we lost them.

I will write more on this later.
Sorry for what is a sidetrack, but it's important to me.

On that trip sitting at Barrington in the sun reading The Turning, I thought that the only weapon I have is my pen or keyboard. That, too, is another story.

Anonymous said...

Jim, just a ramble down your country lane - which (pic2) is obviously in dire need of an MP as a resident, given its state of disrepair. Your pictures are very evocative of life and times as I knew them, growing up in country as opposed to city environments. But I'm struck by a line or two from one of my favourite (pay)TV shows yesterday, recording the TV newsdesk reactions to the Mexican Gulf oil spill:

"You're gonna go with the environmental damage angle - without one picture of an oil covered pelican?"

- which bought me back to your very good collation of past bushfire articles. In a couple of the later ones I commented on the poor quality of the SkyNews coverage - and it happened again this time. While it may be true that one picture is worth a thousand words, it sort of dulls the mind to watch the same old feller in a singlet talk to the same dirty firie feller no less than five times in the space of five minutes as the voice-over moved from the Blue Mountains to Mittagong to the Hunter hotpoints. That old guy gets around, I think to myself, as Sky attempts to do all the thinking for me, with a solitary 60-second video loop.

So, I very much like your pictures, but have to say that sometimes they 'distract' from the prose, because they lead me off to my own mental meander, and I lose sight, sometimes, of the point/s you make - which are usually worth more than a thousand pictures anyway... (Neil is also prone to this; what's wrong with thought without pictures, however good?)

And another thing ;)

- a long, and totally unrelated to any of the above, article - but quite interesting. I read the article as a very good metaphor for what we call democracy. I only point it out as I'm aware from some distant-past post of yours that you've contributed to Wikipedia, and I wondered what your reaction might be to the problems now being faced by this (quite amazing and beneficial) project?

ps your gardening efforts are well behind my son's. We are already enjoying the fruits of his labour and my supervision - that is, if spinach lettuce and potato can be called 'fruits'. And besides, it appears we have lost my fellow chair-sitter somehow? I think that is a shame.


Jim Belshaw said...

Well, kvd, taking your points in order.

You pinged me on the photos. I sometimes used photos as visual wall paper, but then that's just the thing that I complain about in other contexts: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Next, I have to look at the wikipedia story properly before commenting.

Last, you have obviously been supervising your son more closely than me. And I do miss LE in her own right and in her contributions to skepticslawyers. No matter how good, a Lorenzo does not a group blog make!