In Search of Greener Pastures…

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“I think we are bound to, and by, nature. We may want to deny this connection and try to believe we control the external world, but every time there’s a snowstorm or drought, we know our fate is tied to the world around us.”~ Alice Hoffman

There’s not a lick of moisture in the air out here. Every day huge road trains filled with decks of cattle roar past, raising clouds of dust in their wake. Out west, up north, they’re all talking drought. While the cattle still have some condition they’re being trucked out for sale in southern markets or adjisted to anywhere that has enough feed. Just in case it doesn’t rain. Just in case things get worse. Stay worse…

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There’s movement in the long paddock too. That’s what they call the traditional stock routes throughout inland Australia, that have been used to walk cattle and sheep between waterholes and stations for generations.

I’ve been watching a big mob of cattle moving between Barcaldine and Longreach. The drovers, their horses and dogs, their support crews – easing these huge numbers of stock along the droving routes.

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How can I not be reminded of my grandfather, himself the son of a drover? My grandfather and his dad would have walked and ridden this same land, slept under these same wide skies as they pushed sheep and cattle from one place to another.

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As I sat in the main street of Longreach the other morning, sipping a latte outside the Lazy Sheep Cafe and thinking of Ceddie (Cedric Nurcombe, my adored maternal grandfather) and how much he had loved horses – a stage coach thundered down the main street. It was utterly surprising. The sort of moment where you suck your breath in and hold it. The coach went all the way to the end of Eagle Street, turned around and came back, before disappearing from view. You could smell the sweat of the horses, hear the thudding clip-clop of the massive draft-horse shoes and the rattle of the wheels on the road, the pretty jingle of the harnesses. It was as if we’d stepped back a hundred years.

I was unexpectedly moved to tears. It felt as if Ceddie was sitting right beside me, reminding me of what his life had looked like. Reminding me that I am on the right track with my own life, as I turn away from what’s not working, and look for alternatives to help me thrive.

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So here I am. Feeling the measure of my family’s history. Achy-hearted and missing my grandfather’s wisdoms and gentle humour. Wishing I’d thought to ask more questions while he was still alive.

My skin’s red from the sun, and dry from the parched air. I’m weathering like leather in this harsh landscape.

And if I’m honest, as much as I’m loving my time in the bush I’m more than a little homesick now for the verdant paddocks of Possum Creek, the deep pooled rivers, the sweet creeks and the broad sweep of ocean which encircles the coast I call home. I’m missing my local farmers’ markets and our abundance of fruits and vegetables, our opulent selection of fresh produce.

This coming drought reminds me of all the times I battled on too long, held out when I should have put my hand up for help or looked sooner for alternatives. Makes me reflect on the current changes I’m making in my life. Finally I’m learning to plan better, think more strategically, be bolder in my decisions. I’m actively seeking a life with less struggle and more flow.

There’s dust in my veins, and a part of me anchored here. A  compass point that keeps calling me back to red dirt, golden grass and blue skies. But in times of scarcity all of us who wish to thrive turn our hearts to more abundant pastures. We look to move hardship to ease. We’re forever seeking green…

Outback Australia – A Snapshot

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“We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.” ~ Shirley Abbott

I picked up a stone yesterday and put it in my pocket. I walked on a little further, stopped and picked up another. One stone for me and one for my sister. When I get home I’ll let her choose one, and we can hold them and be anchored to Longreach – the place our grandfather was born.

I’m feeling my heritage with every breath, every footstep. I can feel the stories of my ancestors stirring within me.

Here are some images of the past few days, so you can get a sense of where I am right now. It’s vast, wild and majestic.

Sending you much love from the Outback, Nicole xx

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Calling me back…

Post Office in Longreach, Queensland, circa 1908. Image courtesy of the John Oxley Library

Post Office in Longreach, Queensland, circa 1908. Image courtesy of the John Oxley Library

“When we illuminate the road back to our ancestors, they have a way of reaching out, of manifesting themselves…sometimes even physically.” 
~ Raquel Cepeda, Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina

 

All things going well, I shall be on the road this Sunday, heading out to Longreach in Western Queensland for a few weeks. Ben and I will pack the ute and depart at dawn for the long trek into the heat and dust. I’m hopeful my health will hold. I could use the break away, and it’s been two years since I was last there – that big wide space which always feels so familiar. No matter how much part of me yearns for salt water, yet another part craves the forever skies, the emptiness, those Outback vistas.

Part of my DNA is anchored at Longreach. Of that I am sure. My grandfather was born here, the son of a drover. His feet walked these same roads. His mother and father’s too. So much history speaks to me as I stroll the wide gracious streets of this town, as I sit by the river or wander the plains.

The cemetary at dawn, Longreach

The cemetery at dawn, Longreach

I’m not quite sure what I expect to find on this next trip. The bleached bones of old stories? A fragment of myself? Rememberings and reconnections?

All I know is that the voices calling me to return have been growing steadily louder and more insistent.

I’ll be celebrating my Nana’s birthday in Barcaldine. My first year without her gentle presence in my life. It will be good to be so far away for that one, I think, and I’m sure I’ll find a little bakery or coffee shop with the sort of food she would have considered a fitting birthday treat.

And for my own birthday I’ll be whooping it up in Longreach. Really, how much more fun could a girl have? LOL!

So, as I’m walking around my little farmhouse this week I’m packing too. Video camera. Hat. Boots. Sunscreen. Jumpers. (It’s still so cold at night there!) Snacks. Books. Journal. Camera. My billy (an old pineapple juice can with wire for a handle) and the fixings for tea down by the river.

Not a glamorous adventure by any stretch. But a real one. With a sky full of stars above me, the whisperings of my ancestors, and a good dose of Aussie fresh air and sunshine. I promise I’ll keep you posted!

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