THE MORAG AND ZOE STORIES…..part 4

Continued…..

the MORAG & ZOE stories,
Gulpa Creek Community

The Travellers life is one of constant movement, adjusting to all and any possible conditions. As we walked our Forest trails together…Gracie always ahead, bending to pick up fallen treasures….a gum leaf, blue green, with pink and scarlet and a scattering of spots, pointed tip curling. A shining dead beetle, jewel like, poked into her pocket, rabbit tail….white furred fluffiness, the leavings of a fox kill…..a dull spent bullet…
All were lifted, examined, displayed, discussed, pocketed or discarded. Then she would suddenly turn, look at me intently….gone was Gracie….she’d morphed in the turning swish of long hair and swirling skirts, fur edged boots, into Zoe.
“have you checked all the Panniers”??? I’d say, and not missing a beat….”The horses are ready….we’ve enough mushrooms and berries for tonight’s dinner….have you got any herbs”, she’d say.
“Parsley, some wild watercress and onions, and apples I collected from the little house we passed by, this morning”, and satisfied, she’d turn again, leading the way….tossing me a further enquiry over her shoulder.
“How far now till the next Village” and I would say……”Can you see the smoke from fires, way way off in the distance”, and point, to a far away place. “Ahhh, she’d say, smiling, satisfied…..only a few more miles, and we’ll be there…..the horses and mules need resting, the lead horse’s halter needs repairing, and I’d say….”We need meat…. Have we any gemstones left to Trade”???
Patting her pocket with a shrewd little smile, she’d declare there were still a few Turquoise left to spare……then I would catch up with her, take her small hand, smiling.
“Good, we’ll buy some rabbits to cook in our pot, did you remember to sharpen your knife??? We’ll eat well tonight, Rabbit Stew, with apple and berry pie”
Swinging hands together, before she slipped away, running free, we’d talk through the serious business of buying feed for our pack animals, safely tethering them close by our fire…..did we have enough warm blankets for the colder nights???
And away she would run, hair flying out behind, skirts swirling round her slender legs, feet clad in fur trimmed boots, disappearing through the dappled light, beneath the big old Gum Trees……running towards the Village fires, towards the night….

MA© Autumn 2018
To be Continued

THE MORAG AND ZOE STORIES ….part 3

Continued…..

PATHWAYS, the MORAG & ZOE stories,
Gulpa Creek Community.

From the time that she could stand, Gracie was a born walker…..not in the ordinary sense, but as a traveller. While other kids chilled out in lounge rooms watching tv, she was out with me….exploring everything that lived around, above and on the Forest floor.
Giant Goannas, so amazingly patterned and textured they seemed to have stepped straight out of an Aboriginal Painting….with huge claws for climbing trees and long tails lashing, they were impressive beasts, but we felt no fear of them….they just were there, alongside us. During a big flood, walking on top of an irrigation channel to avoid the vast floodwaters below Gracie said….”there’s a fox in the tree”. A typical adult response from me, “no darlin, it must be a red cat”, then turning a corner….there it was, a fox, sitting about 20 feet above the ground, surveying the flocks of Chestnut Teal paddling peacefully below. The fox had run up what I called a big old female Red Gum, with great swollen bulbous base, and huge branches low enough for bold Reynard to climb.
A wondrous sight.
Years later, a neighbour who lived across the paddocks from us, asked me….as I was leaving to go back to Melbourne, “would you please show me all the pathways, before you go???”
“What pathways” I asked her.
“The ones you and Grace walk every day”.
Feeling astonished, I told her ….”there are no marked pathways…..we simply go into the forest and make our own”
Having never left the main roads the cars used between houses and to the river…..she had no concept of walking into the forest and just exploring…..I wonder if she ever did, and understand now, what was completely natural to us, was daunting to others.

Now, back to MORAG & ZOE……with our team of pack animals, four horses and two mules, we pushed on South, walking into colder weather…..always negotiating ways to get by.
Once, worrying about dwindling supplies, I, Morag, said so, “Zoe gave me a “you with little faith” look, reminding me that our third pack horse carried enough hand-woven rugs and carpets to trade for all that we needed for the coming Winter.

MA© Autumn 2018
To be continued

THE MORAG AND ZOE STORIES….part 2

Continued….
The MORAG & ZOE Stories….
Gulpa Creek Community

As Grace is today, so Zoe was then.
Always a practical business woman, and myself having a passion for stories of travellers, especially those who walked through the world…..we would always find a way to get by…..somehow.
Trading.
I would consider the need for some quality feed for the animals, the fact that our own food supply was running low, that we were moving south into colder weather and would need appropriate clothing.
Zoe always had a solution to every problem.

(in a former life I had sold crystals and gemstones at weekend markets, Grace would often come home with more money than me, selling off Barbie dolls or My Little Horses, and with an instinct for trade I was sorely lacking….a potential buyer, scanning our stall, would be about to move on, but Gracie Rose would say….”how much will you pay, I’m willing to barter”???) and so, back to our story.

I, Morag, might be concerned about lack of goods for our necessary trading….but in a blink, Zoe would remind me that she still had some Garnets and Turquoise in her pocket…..more than enough for purchasing all that we needed…..and skipping ahead, now deep into the shade of the Forest, long hair bouncing, skirts swirling, her pocket full of imaginary gemstones….we would walk on, into our Gypsy dreaming……

MA© Autumn 2018
To be continued

THE MORAG AND ZOE STORIES….Part 1

Gulpa Creek Community and the MORAG & ZOE stories, mid to late 1980’s….

I had never had much time for Fantasy until Gracie worked her charms on me…..living on the plains beside the Cobb Highway in two beautifully converted Railway Carriages, lying side by side connected by a small bridge which crossed a shaded interior garden, quietly nestled above acres of Red Gum forest leading to the river below, our days were often spent wandering in the Forest….making our own pathways as we went.
Already clothed like a pair of Gypsies, disappearing into the shelter of the huge old trees…..at her urging, we would slip off our former names and identities, so very easily.
“Let’s play that game” she would say…..and without further preamble I would say “all right, who do you want to be”….it was always the same answer, but I would ask the question anyway. “Zoe” she would say…..I was always Morag.
“How much food have we left before we reach the next village”? I would ask her??? And turning, always skipping ahead of me, she would say “I still have a Turkey leg in my pocket” (we never ate Turkey), and I would tell her I had just a little Cranberry Sauce.
So, as two travellers, walking beside our team of pack animals, Horses and Mules, we would stop to eat our simple meal, discussing and planning ahead.
“How is that last Mule’s leg” I would ask, and her reply….”not good, I think he’s going lame” and my response , “there is a man I’ve heard of in the Village where we’ll camp tonight….he’s very good with animals…..we’ll stay a few days until he’s properly healed” and she would turn, nod in agreement…..then skip lightly ahead, long soft wavy hair floating around her.

MA© Autumn 2018
To be continued.

MYRTLEFORD….THE KILLING

MYRTLE FORD….Communal Living, Farming versus Animal Husbandry…..and the Horror of Ineptitude!!!
Three couples, one house, 36 acres of gods own country, a spread of well fenced paddocks set low beneath a range of rolling hills.
Most of the animals were mine, and I felt fiercely protective of them….despite discussions and arguments, I wasn’t willing to share….the original idea being that we should share EVERYTHING, including ourselves!!!
I was subversive from the beginning….my sheep were raised for wool, spinning and weaving, the goats for milking, the Angoras for their amazing silky fleeces (they had suddenly become the latest thing in farming), and the cattle….well, I’ve written about the heartache of raising and selling calves, but they were a “proper” farming investment, so I agreed to one young steer being selected to stock the freezer for our extended “family”.
Inverted commas because there was unrest, dissent and chaos from the beginning.
If we’d all had the wits to seek group counselling with a psychologist first….it would never have happened, yet more often than not, disasters make for interesting reading.
Michael, who had organised the killing, decided at the last moment to spend the weekend in Melbourne, so, the rest of us, including the four children were left to it. We hadn’t met the “professional” who had agreed to arrive in the early afternoon, so, we all spent the few hours beforehand, spreading out across the farm, and calmly herding the small group of cows, calves and Big Business (our Bull) into the sheep fold…..a beautifully constructed round yard, made of timber.
Once in, the gate was partially opened, the selected steer separated from the herd, then left quietly chewing on a biscuit of prime lucerne hay. He was quite calm as the herd stayed, grazing nearby.
The original intent, was a swift bullet to the head, as the young calf ate peacefully….a quick, humane death……
MA© Autumn 2018
to be continued
# a cowboy swaggers in
# blood and gore
# murderous emotions

***

MYRTLEFORD….the killing….
Bow legged, wearing high leather cowboy boots and hat, jeans with a massive ornate buckled belt…rifle over his shoulder.
Oh god!!! I was expecting an experienced farmer.
From the moment he leaned in against the round yard, squinting along the rifle….we should have known what was coming…… he looked like a second rate actor in a b-grade western.
The first shot ….into a calm animal, back turned to him, less than 10 feet away, went wide….entered the calf, hurting it badly and causing it to panic. Now all was pain, horror (me, beginning to feel stomach cramps coming on), but once hit, there was nothing any of us could do, but allow this nightmare to continue (to put the poor young calf out of it’s pain AND terror)
Nineteen shots later, the inside walls of the round yard splattered with blood, the calf lay dead.
A meat hook had been made, the men hoisted the carcass up onto it, to drain….covered it with a cloth bag.
Walking back to the killing ground…..there lay the calf’s severed head, eyes glazed over, staring sightlessly at the sky, resting in a spreading pool of blood, flies already feasting.
Michael arrived back from Melbourne to a wall of silence, as everyone packed the meat, he had butchered into sections….into the freezer.
What did I do…..I ran.
I fled with a Marijuana dealing Motorcyclist , a tall, rangy, Ieatherclad blonde bushman I fell in lust with….and kept running (actually riding), all the way to Nimbin….Rainbow Country…..smoking weed, eating brown rice and tofu, living the “Peace, Love and Good Vibes” lifestyle.
What else could I possibly do???
MA© Autumn 2018

NIMBIN DAZE

TRUST

It all happened a very long time ago, yet the writing of it brings sight, sounds, smells and touch to vivid recall.

Alone together in the crowded candle lit smoke filled room, an unspoken agreement made, they still sat, surrounded,
the air humming between them. She wondered how long it would take, willed the friendly voices, the faces lit by soft light, to go away. Her hand lay unmoving, turned upwards in her lap, but the elemental ghost of it drifted up of its own volition, stretched out across the table and curled her fingers around his neck….she could feel the heat of him. As the night grew longer, little by little everyone drifted away, to sleep in cars, on floors, a spare chair, anywhere.

Nothing was said, they both stood up in a room empty but for sleeping bodies, came together easily……the feel of his body, muscled with hard labour pulled tight against her, the strong male scent of him overpowering, she breathed him in, sniffing breath, neck and chest the way wild animals do….sensing each other, then turned, took his hand,
led him to to an old couch in the closed in verandah, found a blanket….not so much for warmth as for cover…..sanctuary.

Clothes thrown on the floor, she reaches up from this rough bed, draws him down, takes him in. Cocooned in this dimly lit world, relaxed , blood pulsing with weed and whisky, they come together, every part of both bodies touching, kissing. “Oh god, the taste of him, his full lipped mouth is everything she dreamed“
“You are SO smooth “ he whispers, his voice rough and deep in his belly. They move together, fused together, for the few short hours before daylight, and unknowingly she sinks into sleep, still holding him.
And wakes, with him leaving, it’s still so early, and she’s already hungry for him, again. He bends kisses her, laughs softly because she wants more, she wants him. No hiding the truth of it now, and from the first sighting, despite everything, it was always going to be this way, was already too late.
Reaching up, pulling him back to her, taking his mouth, she whispers, voice husky and cracked with so little sleep
“Stay, stay with me….don’t go to work, stay”
And pulling back, laughing, he turns, walks out the door, shutting it quietly…..she hears him kick the motorcycle over, smells petrol fumes, it sputters, kicks into life, roars off down the driveway and gradually fades. And she lies, listening to the sound of it, becoming fainter, as he vanishes into the crisp, cold, mountain morning.

MA©️. Winter 2018
To be continued

NIMBIN DAZE

Continued

EYES WIDE SHUT

Because of events that followed, she remembers all these long years later, what she was wearing that night. Feeling lovely….and yes, that meant something to her, because of all the time before in that failed marriage, when, under her husband’s critical eye, she just….simply…..didn’t measure up.
A soft blue knee length Indian cotton dress, full sleeved, tight at the wrists and swirling skirt, with fine long cotton pants underneath….Indian style. Turquoise embroidered satin slippers, fine silver bangles, necklace and earrings with delicate beveled pink crystal drops…..very, very feminine.
Long, wavy hair, perfumed with oil of Myrhh. Eyes softly smudged with Kohl.
She feels the pressure building, waiting to see if she’s right, if it really is him…..
And then he’s there, pushing through the door…..bold and shy at the same time….walking in amongst all the Hippies, smelling of whisky and petrol, cigarettes, sweat and his own strong male scent, clad in dirty jeans, so well worn they hold the shape of his body, a tee shirt with sleeves rolled right back, cigarette pack shoved into one sleeve….thick straight shoulder length dark brown hair, slightly lightened by the sun, heavy boots dusty from the road.
Intoxicating Masculinity!!!
She feels weak, hands trembling, wanting to claim him on the spot, fearful she’s wrong, that she’s imagined the energy pulsing between them. Face split in a wide ferocious smile, white teeth gleaming, he moves gracefully between groups squatting on the floor, passing the ever present bong to and fro…..filling, smoking, cleaning and refilling. It’s a full time job, but everybody’s happy.
He comes and sits down across the table from her, where a group of people are playing cards, smiles at her, calls her by her family pet name “Blossom”, gets involved, shuffles, deals, playing poker. She drinks whisky, gets drawn in and out of stories and conversations, and all the while, watches him, her body humming with pleasure.
Pleasure in watching his beautifully deft hands, his curved fingernails, the blue veins standing out in hands and arms against his smooth brown skin. And when his face is turned away, looking down at the card play, studies his face…..sunbrowned, high broad cheekbones, slightly slanted amber eyes, a wide full lipped mouth…..slightly asiatic.
Drawing his face, as she’s drawn people so often, but without pen and paper she draws him still, every broad plane, blue vein, graceful hands, muscled arms, shoulders…..sketching in vivid detail with her eyes. He looks up, catches her watching him and smiles….that wide….face splitting, pirate’s smile.
Nothing else exists in that crowded, sweaty, tropical, smoke hazed room, but him, standing out in sharp relief as everyone else fades into the background.

MA©️. Winter 2018
To be continued

NIMBIN DAZE

Continued….

HEARTBURN

An agreement made with her ex husband, who was now based overseas, that while she travelled their two young sons would visit and stay with him, for 3 months. On her return they would come home with her. But on her return, against her will he had decided they would finish out the year with him….and then, the 3 months became 3 years….a fabulous experience for them, not so, for her.
Returning to Nimbin, her anchor cut loose, adrift from family life, responsibilities…..the daily routines and disciplines of school runs, cooking for family…..recklessness and a new found, unwished for freedom, left her whirling in a maelstrom of unstoppered emotions. She threw herself, eyes blinded by an overwhelming sensory overload, into the fire, wanting nothing more than to give, give in completely, and burn.

Inexorably drawn to him….always aware of him…..until fate or opportunity brought them together. On a balmy Spring evening word went out, her friend only minutes away, up Stoneychute Road, was having a party
She dressed with care and went there, with only one thought consuming her….him….willing him. Never invitation only, whoever heard the word party, turned up, and in that era of Peace, Free Love and Good Vibes, pretty much anyone was welcome. It was quite late, close to midnight, when hearing the roar of a motorcycle coming down the driveway….it could have been any number of people, but she knew, felt it in every quivering nerve ending, knowing it was him.

MA©️. Winter 2018
To be continued

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS

WAY BACK IN THE EARLY 1950’S, our family had fallen in love with a friend’s Dachshund , Bismarck….a small dog of great charm and character.

We wanted one, apparently me especially as, to hurry my parents along in this financial commitment, I’d asked for money whenever my siblings were given milkshakes or ice-creams. By the end of summer I offered up my matchbox of coins, no doubt of some small significance back in those days.

We heard the Litter had been born, and went on a cold Autumn day to visit the Breeder, and choose our pup, born in the beautiful isolated town of Emerald, high up in the Dandenong Ranges, where my Great Grandfather’s house….our family holiday house stood.

I could hardly contain my excitement….a pup of my own I was thinking, sitting in the back of the car, hearing the adults talking, gossiping…..drifting back to me.

“She’s been married and divorced three times”……”She lives with a homosexual who breeds Afghan Hounds”…..”a terrible housekeeper …..she lets her bitches whelp on the beautiful antique tapestried chairs”…..”and you know she owns a shrunken head; the museum borrows it from time to time.” All this going over the top of my puppy dreaming, and then turning to look at us kids, “She can’t hear a word, she reads your lips….so you must look directly at her, and speak clearly.”

Me…..(puppypuppypuppypuppypuppy)…..”Yes Mum.”

I remember vividly the first time I saw her emerging from between two farm buildings….a small sturdy Woman surrounded by a pack of dogs, all undulating around her feet like sleek little seals, their long low bodies moving in a wave towards us, yapping shrilly.

My family and friends stood by the car, a stiff, formal little group, waiting politely.

Drawn like a magnet I surged towards her, her farmyard smell reaching me before she did. Eyes enchanted with the pack of hounds, I took her in from the ground up….knee high gumboots covered in mud and reeking of pig shit, work trousers of a coarse hard wearing fabric covered with a practical apron made from a hessian potato sack, a thick hand knitted jumper….and then I was looking into her lovely broad, sunbrowned face, kind eyes, intelligent, smiling. Her brown/iron grey hair parted in the middle, with lovely plaits coiled over her ears. She was the most homely, exotic Woman I had ever seen….. the music of her voice, shrieking to the little hounds in a thick, guttural accent. And me, a small girl coming from a background of buttoned up conservatism and tight perms.

IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!!!

As my parents explained how I’d saved all summer, she took me in her arms and hugged me tight. Warmth, strength and softness, surrounded by such smells and noise, such vivid life, such joy.

Formalities and introductions completed, we were all invited into her home, to view the litter, (which had indeed been born on finest Tapestry) choose a pup, and have afternoon tea…..

***

THE AUSTRIAN COUNTESS…..Part 2.

Her name was Henny Marsh, obviously the Count had been her first or second husband.
Having gone through the awkwardness of introductions with the Adults, who considered this Woman with uneasy caution, we were invited into the house, for puppy viewing and afternoon tea. It was a gorgeous, light filled expanse……. floors covered with Persian Rugs, long low tapestry covered Chaise Longes, Glass Cases of gorgeous Chinese Vases, Paintings, Sculptures, Pottery, and everywhere lavish drapes, wall tapestries and furniture collected from all over the World.

The red gold Mother lay in state on a long low tapestry covered couch, her babies all in a row suckling……and one by one, the Countess lifted them handing each of us a pup…..golden red, like their Dam, they looked even more seal like, their heads still round and chubby as their sleek little bodies. The perfect smell of them, their strange smoky breath. We were all equally entranced, forgot our awe at the richness of our surroundings and heads bent, bodies curved protectively over these adorable babies, we sat cradling them to a background of Henny’s voice, strange , wild as geese honking through the skies. She, unable to hear herself, spoke in piercing tones, high, rich, almost operatic in comparison to our flat Australian drawl. She was utterly fascinating!!!

Finally, one perfect male pup was chosen, returned to his Mother, and we all sat down at a beautifully carved table for refreshments. Served on finest china was an assortment of cakes (you’ll find similar in Acland Street, St Kilda), and small cups of very strong Turkish Coffee. The manners of the adults was an education in deception and hypocrisy….as we kids reached for cakes……we were warned by our parent’s friends that “she was dirty, the food would make us sick”, and right there speaking about the Countess as though she wasn’t aware….they pushed European Delicacies under the table, into the eager mouths of the small hounds gathered beneath, whilst smiling up at her, as she brought more food, saying how delicious it all was.

A date was set for puppy collection, and we all headed out into the big beautiful rambling garden, back to the car……the excitement and disappointment was overwhelming…..I didn’t want to leave all those gorgeous little dogs, the tiny chosen one, and I especially didn’t want to leave the Countess…

Everything about her made me feel good…..her simple clothes, her bewitching voice, her animal smell, her capable gentle hands, her way with her dogs………. I wanted to stay forever.

And on the journey home, lulled by the motion of the car, falling into sleep……..
the adults voices drifting back to me….”she’s mixed with royalty, you know……it was Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia who gave her the shrunken head”

MA© Summer 2018

To be continued….#puppy collection #the shrunken head #odd relations with the Museum.

WILLYUM

WILLYUM 🧡 day 4, after his stroke.

Basking in the Wintry sun….deep tissue massage into foot pads and thigh muscles, a helping hand to balance when he’s needed it, and he’s almost fully recovered. A stranger seeing him wouldn’t notice the slight difference in his walking (and it IS slight). All the love and encouragement that poured in won’t make the slightest difference to Him, but it certainly helped me. I love all my animals, but when I found a cage of tiny kittens, all Tabbies, at the Talbot Farmers Market…..grey and ginger (there were about 15 of them) cold, terrified farm kittens who’d obviously never been handled. I set out to have two …..a litter brother and sister.
How on earth do you choose? In the bottom corner of the cage, was Willyum. Obviously the “runt” of the litter, absolutely skeletal. I didn’t choose him out of pity. Willyum simply looked up at me or I should say, into me, with his big, celodon green eyes. It was like being shot through the heart. “That one”, I said. And then I looked for Maerie. “She’s a spitfire, That one” the owner said, which translated to me that she had tried very hard to escape capture. They have both been with me now for 12 years, my joyful, witty little yoga practitioners, but because of his early, desperate beginnings, never getting enough food, Willyum has been the one with health issues….always set back days after early vaccinations….whereas Maerie sailed through with no problems. I am convinced that the combined flea/worm treatment caused his temporary paralysis.
Before, when they were sold separately, a weeks wait between treatments was strongly advised.
I will never used this combined product again!!!
So, for anyone reading this, perhaps it may be useful.

Thank you all 🙏 for the love, care and suggestions.