Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lorraine Chamberlain - A Fine Australian Author

As the seasons began to change, the consistently dry weather took a dramatic turn. A few weeks after the Conference Centre event, my first Queensland thunder storm gently rumbled onto our mountain. Barely audible over the TV, the drum rolls gradually swelled to a deafening roar. A couple of empty plastic buckets took off from the back of the ute and disappeared over the valley.

Waiting until the last minute, John dashed out to turn the generator off. I unplugged the phone. Jagged forks of lightning ripped the darkness at times spearing the valley far below, at others piercing the trees on the peak of Mt. Goolman behind our home. In the stroboscopic light I could see 30 metre trees a stone’s throw from the cabin waving like seaweed in a tide. Rain pelted angrily on the tin roof. It was heavy; it was persistent. One day. One night. The next day. We ran out of petrol for the generator. That night, the rain stopped. There was no electricity. No television intruded. No one rang. A delicious velvet silence descended. We seemed the only two people on earth.

In the morning, the birds started up again as if refreshed by their two days of silence. Belligerent Kookaburras hurled deafening insults at each other just inches from our pillows. It was 4.30 A.M. I slipped out of bed trying earnestly if pointlessly not to disturb John. How could you not disturb the other occupant of a single 12 x 12 foot room? In underwear and Wellington boots, I explored a fresh-washed morning. Debris lay all around; flooding rain had sluiced the dust from the grass and rocks and left rippling tracks in the clay.

Within moments the approaching sun began to tint the ghostly morning light. The air shimmered, suffused with reflections from invisible vapour. Pink-trunked gum trees lit up in vivid salmon draped with hanging shards of chocolate bark. In clumps of grass, cobwebs twinkled with jewels. A sliver of sun appeared over the distant horizon enveloping the scene in instant warmth. The highest tip of Mt.Goolman hovered theatrically over a forest of tree tops, an impossible honey-gold. The valley slept on under a blanket of mist. Six feet from me a wallaby patiently nibbled fresh-sprung shoots of yellow-green grass. The perfection of the scene astonished my soul. I drank it in and had nothing to add. Tiptoeing away, I crept back into bed with John and held him close.

By the time we had practised and eaten breakfast, it was late morning and the increasing humidity drove us from the cabin. Delighted that it was still too wet for John to go to work, I persuaded him to take a walk with me. I had noticed an unusual rushing sound earlier and we set off in its direction. John was inclined to write the noise off as wind in the trees, but observation skills from my country childhood were returning, like fingers finding the keyboard after a long absence. With nowhere to go but around our cabin, I had absorbed the details of our immediate surroundings. I was convinced this sound was something new; it was constant, unrelated to the occasional sinuous motion of the treetops.

I led the way as we crossed the clearing into rougher country. Before long the land fell away abruptly. I eased myself backwards down an overgrown bank avoiding cobwebs guarded by wicked-looking spiders, watching carefully where I put my feet and hands. Lantana cloaked the higher slopes, hostile as brambles, prickly and tangled. Progress was slow required concentration.

The sound grew louder behind me. Now we were descending past trunks of gum trees whose canopies swayed 15 metres above. Stopping to catch my breath, I suddenly glimpsed water only yards away; a narrow tumbling stream. Obscured from above by the patchwork of grasses, fallen trees, and rocks: here was water; rushing over boulders, gathering in shadowy pools, chattering through shingle, glimmering in syrupy streams, bouncing and rushing away down this secret rocky gully barely 500 metres from the cabin. How to adequately describe the delight of water to those who might never have suffered from the lack of it? If I had found money, I couldn’t have felt richer.

Lorraine Chamberlain, Two in the Bush, 2009