Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Trees (12/05/05)
TITLE: Mum's Home Among the Gum Trees
By Karen Ward
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I passed a fence that no longer held a gate. Weather beaten logs held up four strands of fencing wire, some of the posts were at odd angles, but for the most part it remained intact.
The ditches either side of the dirt driveway were deep enough that water would gather in them were it not so dry, and the dirt was a rich caramel colour, not black like our soil at home.
As we rounded a bend, the object of my curiosity revealed itself between the gum trees. Those first glimpses are imbedded in my memory.
Upon reaching the house, I stood in front of the car and imagined my grandparents seated on the verandah. My grandfather, sitting in his rocking chair, looking out at the trees, keen eyes catching all movements. My grandmother, shelling peas, metal bucket beside her and pot in her lap. The sounds then would have been similar to those I was now hearing. Crickets, or were they cicadas? Born and bread in the city, I really wasn’t sure - a rising chirping, whatever it was, clearly emanating from the gum trees surrounding us. The drone of a fly, louder as it neared my head, then fading away.
My mother had told me so many stories of this, the home she had grown up in. Her first horse. The time her cousin had set fire to the barn. Snakes in the house, redbacks in the outhouse. The memories came alive for me as I set foot for the first time on the property that was my heritage, and now my inheritance.
My boots clumped and the old floorboards creaked, as I walked around the verandah. To the side of the house, many plum trees still remained. Some looked ready to harvest, and I looked forward to that tangy taste of heaven.
At the back of the house stood the clothesline. It looked pretty much the same as the fence I’d seen on the way in, except that the posts were taller and had been painted red. The angle of the posts was interesting, I wasn’t sure it would continue to stand if it were used for its original purpose.
I looked beyond the back yard to spy two motley looking sheep nervously eyeing a visiting kangaroo.
The kangaroo was eyeing me. I looked it in the eye, and after staring back long enough to make sure I knew it was moving because it wanted to, and not because it was scared of me, it bounded away, clearing the fence in one easy bound.
My mother’s tree house must be close. She said it was out by the clothesline. I looked up into the trees nearby. Would there be any sign? Or had all traces of my mother’s childish dreams disappeared?
A kookaburra mocked my search, laughing with abandon at the folly of hope. I spied him in the gum tree, though I still saw no sign of my mother’s treehouse.
My mother had been a dreamer. She was well suited to solitude. She had made the treehouse so that she could escape from her brothers and her chores without being out of earshot in case her mother needed her. I couldn’t imagine needing to escape from this. The house itself seemed to me like the ultimate escape.
It occurred to me then that my mother had not wanted her treehouse to be found. Her brothers must have searched for it to tease her. It was unlikely that I would come across it so many years later just by looking up. Later, I would start climbing trees.
I wanted to sit in her tree.
I desperately needed the connection with her, needed to feel her presence in that, her favourite place. Perhaps then, I could finally break down the walls that I had so carefully erected after her death. I needed to find that tree so that I could go back to living.
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