The wide brown land is baking today. Fire warnings abound, as all creatures great and small look for caves and cool. Tomorrow, rain and storms are predicted, along with icy southerly blasts. A change, they call it at the weather bureau.

Spring is exiting stage left, but she is not going gentle. She is burning and raving, raging, hurtling to her end, free of fear or doubt. “Adios”, she calls over her shoulder, kicking up dust as she leaves me behind.

When that dust settles, I look down and see the rose, a shock of crimson, past its prime and out of place. This is a lonely path. I chose it because no-one ventures through these ravaged gullies where thousands once excavated for gold, and trees whisper of disappointed avarice. The foot-width trail, made by kangaroos through spindly burned gums, yields wonders sparingly, demanding a walker return over and over to its flinty surface before it reveals a snuffling echidna or a native orchid.

So how did the rose get here?

I want to pick it up and see if there is still any scent to be had, but something stops me. Its stem is short. Was it worn in a lapel to a dance where things did not go to plan? Was it nestled in the upswept hair of a girl as she swayed and dipped across a polished floor? And what befell her, that her rose ended here, at my feet?

The forest is silent. It broods. Would it yield up a body to me if something terrible had happened? We are remote enough to speak of shallow graves.

There are no marks in the dirt to speak of struggle, no indentations or footsteps in dried clay, no signs to tell me how a cultivated, blood-red wonder has been transported to the goldfields rough, its petals in danger of being crunched into the quartz by my boots.

A shard of sunlight finds the rose, exposing it as dry, its stem withered. Done.

“Rose…” I whisper into the eucalypt-scented silence.

I walk away, straining to see or hear something that might explain it, but there is only the creak of a trunk against the branch of a neighbouring tree, and the scrunch of my feet. This forest does not give up its ghosts, but they are out there. Somewhere to my left, the thump-thump of a wallaby; overhead the shriek of a cockatoo; somewhere very close, the slither of grass parting at ground level.

Feet on earth. Marking out time. The scrunch. The rhythm. The passing. On.

To the cemetery.

Coming out of the forest into grazing land, there it lies, framed by grandfather eucalypts and pines, introduced and indigenous standing sentinel around the bones of other grandfathers. And children.

I walk through the creaking metal gates and up the central avenue, passing the century-old plinth where only one word of the inscription remains intact – SACRED; past purple thistles rising out of the earth and marble crucifixes crumbling back into it; past the granite stone for Laurel, “Giver of love and joy”; and past the holly bush that has grown on the still-tended grave of an infant who would now be a woman more than a century old.

On the high ground, under a row of whistling pine trees, there’s a slab of red stone for Norman, who died almost twenty years ago. Neighbour Norm, a flirtatious bear of a man who used to joke that he joined the Progress Association to ensure there was no progress, and whose inscription tells me that the greatest of all is love. To Norman’s right is a matching stone for his grandson Michael, whose life was taken by depression over a decade ago. I’m glad Norman went first.

I plant myself between them, looking over the field of the dead to the young eucalypts planted across the road. They will be harvested for commercial use. Their fate is known.

Norman, Michael and I sit on the hill. Norman reminds me to feast, to laugh and to love well. Michael reminds me to relish the days of sun, because the dark ones can claim us. The eucalypts speak of the honour of usefulness, and the imperative of remembering that the end will come.

Except of course, the end doesn’t come. Why do we assume “it” ends when we do? “It” goes on. “It” keeps turning, and feet keep walking, roses keep growing, and we keep remembering.

The sun is high and the pines smell like Christmas.

Time to move. The road is waiting.

I walk back down the central path toward the eucalypts.

Some of them have been burned.

Their trunks are charred black, but at the base of one tree, silvery grey leaves have sprouted, thick and determined.

New life from old.


My feet crunch on gravel.

The scrunch. The rhythm. The passing.

On. On. On.

The scrunch of feet on gravel – click to hear!

Adios, primavera.

Goodbye spring.

14 thoughts on “Adios primavera

  1. Soul reverberating and beautiful. There were tears as it reached that place within me, resonant in the deep. A stunning and precious short piece. Xo

  2. House-sitting in Hunters Hill while friends visit in south-east Tassie I walked up to Victoria Road and leant over a fence to smell the white roses – full of perfume – earlier to-day. I was on a search for a passport bag through all the camping/trekking stores below St Andrews Cathedral in the city. And every second store I entered – varieties of Ailsa’s beloved MERRELL walking shoes! I’m off to Japan – a friend is to receive a major award (the Suntory Prize) in Tokyo for her work on the writer NOGUCHI Yonejiro – and wants me to attend the ceremony – so is expediting my attendance – plus the chance to visit western Japan where I spent many years – to catch up with other friends – and walk a beloved six kilometres around Tokiwa Lake – an early morning walk I took hundreds of times in all seasons – snow-flakes flying or perspiration running freely! I am hoping for some autumnal colours from maples as well as sasanqua petals strewn beneath the shrubs! Maybe even greeting some fellow walkers from four or five or six years or more ago! They will certainly recognise me! Lots of resonance in your reflections upon your dusty rural track – with my ruminations on to-day – and on two weeks hence!

    1. Hi Jim,
      Happy happy trails to you. It sounds like you resisted the Merrells – very strong! Congratulations to your friend, and buen camino to you. How beautiful. Maples in autumn.
      May the journey be full and rewarding, and the walking kind.

  3. Dear Ailsa
    Beautiful, delicate, evocative.
    While I get drawn into your journey, I inevitably find I am turning over stones along my own path, exploring and at times rediscovering, what they might reveal.
    Thanks again

    1. Dear Andrew,
      Lovely to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot that these messages in bottles find a shore.
      Hope your days are happy.

  4. I love the monument with the word sacred on it.
    It’s like a message to the living from the dead – to ponder the sacredness of each day and night above ground.
    Not that I believe death is the end,but life is for living,and living it with gratitude is the sacred way.
    Taking the time to ponder the sacredness of life like you do in your book and in these posts is what draws the magic out of life…the magic that is all around us,but for some not so easy to see.
    When that magic captivates our conscious moments,that is when it becomes grace.
    To see the magic in every moment is to be walking through life gracefully.
    Muchas gracias can be seen as a mini prayer of thanks to the sacredness of life in those moments,more than just an expression of gratitude to a stranger.
    Well that’s one thing reading your book brought to my attention anyway.
    Muchas gracias.-)

    1. Muchas gracias…Many graces.
      That’s what your response seemed like to me Darren. Many graces. I read the sentences over a couple of times, thinking about the dead reminding us who are living that our days are sacred. I love that idea. I will never look at that plinth in the same way again.
      Thank you.

  5. Dear Ailsa,
    Again beautiful evocative writing. I always feel so much better when I have read your words. I can see the path you were walking and feel the heat and wonder also about the rose discarded, or was it? Perhaps whoever dropped it is feeling very sad and would have loved to have pressed it between the leaves of a loved book as I have done in my youth – alas, long since gone! Thank you again for your wonderful sensitive writing. Also gracie for your superb photos, really loved the “new life from old”. Wonderful to have finally met you and yours last week and to have spent some time talking even if the noise in the room was excruciatingly loud!

    1. Dear Bertina,
      We loved meeting you both last week, and we are loving the books. Dipping in and out in between researching, and I’m finding Billabongs tantalising. I’m going to do a book post next week I think, so will be writing about it then. Hope you are both resting up a little now that it is out in the world!
      Thanks so much for your kind words about the blogs. I love trying to find photos for the words. Sometimes I write from the images. In another life I’d understand more about photography, and I’d indulge in a proper camera. For now, I’m just grateful that I can capture some miracles for myself and for my clan.
      Gracias for dropping by. I always feel happy when I see your name.

  6. Ailsa, have loved reading you again and also the many erudite and elegant readers’
    comments following. Cannot really add anything substantial to these, only that I always get this sense of moving, moving, moving from your writing. You display an active body, active mind, active imagination, a churning heart. Amen to all those!
    Norman and Michael lived again under your moving remembrances. And the phrase I latched on to, ” the honour of usefulness”. Don’t we all want that?
    Many thanks.

    1. Oh Julie, you are onto it! Active, yes. My challenge, though, is to learn to be still!
      Thanks as always for your observations – not the least being your comment about the readers’ comments here. I am always inspired and fired by the insights.
      And usefulness. Yes. May we all be able to feel we can make a contribution.
      Gracias. Muchas!

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