A trip of infinite sadness and regret

I’ve been sorting through index cards, rogue pieces of paper and old photos because I’m moving. Moving out of the city, and returning to the trees and all of the secrets they’re waiting to tell me. They’ve been calling me for a while, and it’s time. I’ve become weary of city living over the last couple of years, and the more time I spend at the farm, in the bush or up in the mountains, the more I yearn to be in silence, amongst the trees and the stars, harvesting bush lemons, herbs and having a veggie garden with a couple of rescue chooks. Maybe even a rescue dog one day.

People ask me if I’ll miss living so close to the city. No. And yes. I won’t miss the sirens and incessant traffic, the dust, the cranes, or the crimes against architecture which seem to spring up as I sleep. I will miss the sunsets out to the west, watching the lights come alive in the Gotham City building, my many murders of crows, and the kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets and magpies that gaggle in the trees every afternoon. Perhaps they might like to follow me if I ask them? I suspect that there are going to be many murders of birds and other wildlife where I’m going.

There are people I’m going to miss, but I can visit them, and they can come by any time. It’s just that it’s time for me to move on, and when an almost inconceivable opportunity presented itself, I leapt. It was a quick decision, but most of all, it was an easy decision (which are the best kinds of decisions).

I’ve started packing, and that’s where I found a bundle of index cards and rusty paperclips from a couple of my trips out to Barcaldine – another place that calls me, and one I hope to see later in the year. Below is some writing from 2001 and 2002 – long before I’d found my writing voice (I’m still finding it) – and it’s about my time at Cumberland, the cattle property where my dear friend Meagan grew up. Meags died in May 1999, and I have mourned the shit out of her. You cannot imagine. Or maybe you can. Grief is one cruel mistress.

In 2001, I finally got out to her family’s cattle station to see where Meags had spent so much of her life; a place she had wanted me to visit when we were both well enough. But that wasn’t to be after Meags died in May 1999 from Cystic Fibrosis – the illness we were both born with. The last time I went out was in 2013 when I was addicted to opioids. A part of the reason why I decided to get clean was because I was alive, and Meags was not. I realised that I needed to recalibrate my compass, so that’s exactly what I did. I daresay the next trip will be very different.

An infinite trip of sadness and regret

Thursday 9th November, 2001

Stock and forty degree anarchy

Here I am at Cumberland, wrestling with hollow hope that the clouds, thick and full of promise, might crack open and give me a belated baptism. Blue funny faces remedy the forty-three degree fever for one quick minute, the coloured ice glossing my lips until I’m a pale shade of cyanosis. Swigging down coffee doesn’t sit well with the melting barbs of ice in my throat; my teeth frozen in a futile resolution to my thirst.

Frogs croak with my hot feet moving across the floorboards, so I walk outside and sing to them. I sing to them that we are missing the rain, too. Cumberland and surrounding properties are still on town water for now, but for how much longer, I do not know. We do runs around the paddocks dropping off licks for the cattle, making sure they have enough water, the grass and wayward sticks whacking the the ute. I wonder if the stock will be here when visit next. The cattle aren’t fat by any means, and look like the animal kingdoms walking dead.

A palomino dropped dead yesterday afternoon from colic. The mare had been sick for days, splayed on her side to draw out the pain, her gut distended as though she was ready to foal. Just before Kerry had to get the shotgun, she got to her feet, hobbled over to the fence, and dropped to her death in the dirt.

The stock will not die from colic. Instead, they will starve and thirst until rib cages protrude through paper thin hides; craggy, matted hair shrouding more bones and bleeding skin.

I try to write and I sit under the weeping willow waiting for the words to come, but they do not. The arbour is green, and it grows grapes, although I don’t know how productive it is. It looks like a green and twig laden blanket, covering wire and wood, and it moves me with the breezes that roll through the garden.

A hot, bullying wind has risen, and the sky has swollen with charcoal coloured nebula – clumps of hope just out of reach from where we stand sentinel on the prickly grass. I’ve never felt rain on my skin out here, and doubt I ever will. At night, I dream of pellets of rain popping on my skin and me, coming alive in the mud as the water volleys against the dry earth.

*

In the city, I’m in limbo. I feel shackled and ambushed. Out here, I am free. I eat cheese and tomato jaffles and icy poles, drink hot coffee and cold beer – all the while looking at coloured vignettes of Meagan, her eyes like chocolate discs swimming on her face – her blonde hair swathing her young neck, olive and soft.

I feel a sense of permanence here. Something like belonging. I don’t know why I come here. It could be to be close to Meagan – to sit at her grave and memorial garden in silence. It could be to air my regret at not seeing her the day before she died. It could be to tell her what’s been happening – we always loved hearing about the other was up to. What adventures we’d found, what adventures had found us.

Or it could be so I can remember her, and to read those words on her epitaph – ‘Rest, little one, rest.’

Wednesday 2nd October, 2002

I woke late in the night and had a skirmish with what looked like a bird eating spider above my bed. After I’d half-killed it, it showered me with its babies. I trundled off to the shower thinking that it never feels right killing a sentient being.

In the morning, Sue still had the bread out on the table and the kettle and been boiled. The Walker’s had an ironic thirst for coffee. Ironic, purely because they can drink several cups of the stuff in forty-seven degree heat. The office and the bedrooms are air conditioned, and Jay had said year after year that he’d have the whole house cooled. ‘Maybe next year,’ Sue said last night.

Today had been no different after looking at the weather station that had been Jay’s grandfathers – the arrow pointing at ‘dry’, with the temperature stuck on forty-one.

In the afternoon, we transplanted two trees. The first one looked like it had more guts to it – fatter trunk, leaves more evenly splayed with plump branches, and not on too much of a lean. The other was brittle and grey like a ghost gum, its threadbare leaves devoid of a middle vein running through the ashen foliage. It didn’t have much spirit about it.

And so, today was the tale of the two trees. Kerry dug them out from the old station hand’s quarters where the grand bull ring once stood, the excavator bouncing around like a feather on the wind. His kids visiting from Warwick looked on as their Dad tried to uproot the trees as gently as one can with an excavator, and one by one they sprung up and out of the earth, averse to being torn away from their tree family. Kerry drove them back to the homestead, and gently set them down into where he had scooped out the dirt – Katrina pointing her freckled hand at where they needed to be. She had left a hose in each to saturate the soil, and when both were in, we watered them for another half an hour, and soon enough the weakling was on a lean.

Jay poured a rum for himself and a wine for Sue. Katrina and I had a beer each, our eyes mulling over the flat plains as the sun dropped behind the spine of the mountains far away.

Jay, a man of few words, looked over at the trees and said something about ‘waiting and seeing’. This day, like every other day, had carried with it thoughts of his daughter who didn’t survive, then he looked to the girl who did, with a lopsided grin. Me, a bottle of beer in my hand, lost in the stars of an inky sky that will always lead us home.

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20 thoughts on “A trip of infinite sadness and regret

  1. Good luck with your move carly. I still enjoy reading your words, you have a great way of putting them across and with the pictures I can almost feel like I’m among the cattle myself. I have quite a lot of empathy so when I read about the people you have lost it makes me sad but the I think of how brave you are and it makes me feel better. I don’t think I have said this before but you are a massive inspiration to me. When I read about your life and how spiritual you are which I am not, and what you have been through it makes me a better person. I am a nicer person after reading what you put out there, at least for a few days then I forget until I get an email reminding me you have wrote something else. Keep writing carly and as usual I’ll say thank you and wish you the very best x . Good luck Carly. Ty. πŸ˜‰ And if ever in England come and grab a beer with me and my mrs lol.. Cheers carly ..

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    1. You know, Russ? Everyone is spiritual, whether they know it or not. I would say that your connection to music is spiritual. And maybe you’re even spiritual about beer πŸ˜‰ You’d be surprised with the people I meet at the hospital, and how once we get chatting, it is oh, so clear that they have a spiritual connection to *something*, be it their truck, the land, their dog … the list goes on. Thanks for your lovely words, mate – I’d love nothing more than to share a beer with you and your Mrs! XO

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    1. I know exactly how you feel Carly, as the silence of the bush, the dust in my face, the vastness of the Aussie landscape, etc, etc, is always calling me home.
      Blessings and love to you, my almost daughter-in-law. 🌠
      Lurlene

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Lurls – I mean, my almost mother-in-law πŸ™‚ I know the connection you feel to the Australian landscape. It’s something truly special, and I can only imagine how much you miss it. Big love to you XOXO

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  2. Hi Carly
    I love reading your posts, always uplifting, full of sadness and courage.
    They bring me to tears every time so
    your writing must be exceptionally
    good.
    I hope your new life in the beautiful Aussie bush is all you wish for and I’m sure you’ll have a heap of visitors. If you ever come to NZ (Wellington) there will always be a cosy bed waiting for you. Love to you and your family. Claire

    Sent from my iPhone

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    1. Ah, beautiful Claire! I got to catch up with Lachy last week, and we had such a great morning together. It’s hard to believe we went through what we went through back in 1998 and beyond. I’m so grateful that you’ve been a part of my life. NZ might be on the cards next year, so I’ll keep you posted! Sending you a tonne of love XOXO

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  3. Hi Stranger and yet not strange at all..
    The bush seems right for you, though I suspect it’s been with you in the city for many a year. Likewise the city will remain with you – missed or not – as you keep memories far better than many.
    And the people who have touched your life (and been touched in return) will remain with you always for that reason..
    All the best Carly..
    yru

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    1. It’s my favourite Country Pig! I hope this finds you feeling better, my friend (I know you’ve had the dreaded man flu). I’m actually not moving that far away, so we should fire up the guitar and get our ‘Skinny Love’ on πŸ™‚ Thanks for your kind words, Yru – I loved living with you, even though it was for such a short time. Sending love your way XOXO

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  4. Beloved Carly…holding my heart, tears welling for the gifts of your sharings, your journey & for the inspiration to grab life gently & leap…Big love filled hugs…Satisha

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  5. enjoy walking your new path lovely, new horizons, new sunsets and sunrises. walk in bare feet and feel the earth move under them……….. Blessing lovely lady

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  6. Hey Carly – I have occasionally stumbled across your writings. I don’t know if you remember me but I remember you and Meagan from my work at RCH in the early 90s. Old AB! What fun days.
    I am out west too so if you keep going north from Longreach, let me know.
    Regards, Tina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course I remember you, Tina! I have a really vivid memory of you and your fiancΓ© at the time taking me out to Garden City, where I bought most of the lolly shop. Pretty sure I made myself sick! Where are you these days? I have such fond memories of my beautiful nurses. I hope you’re well, chica – sending you lots of love XOXO

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    1. I love that – ‘sadness is the seed from which hope springs’. It shows us how life can be truly transformational, and how we can turn lemons into lemon butter πŸ™‚ I hope you’re well, my friend. I will get to your email ASAP – life’s been every so slightly crazy XOXO

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