BY JUDITH LYNCH
The summer I have packed up one house, and relocated to another which I’ve named Tarella.
The original Tarella was my grandparents’ farm in the Mallee country of Victoria. I say was, because the house itself was pulled down some years ago, but it lives still in photos and in my memory. Just a square box of a house really, veranda all around , an added on kitchen and a scary dug out cellar reached by concrete steps.
One of my earliest memories is of Tarella. I was feeding the chickens – back when they called chooks – while my grandmother, large white apron flapping, looked on. But by the time I was old enough to spend Christmas holidays with my grandmother she had moved into ‘town’ and I was not allowed to stay out at the farm with my two bachelor uncles.
It’s hard to say why some places mean more to us than others. On the rare occasions I return to what remains of the old farm I am filled with a sense of being home. The house might be gone but the sandy road where the dappled sunlight comes and goes, the overhanging trees fringing it, the endless horizon tucking in the wheat and barley paddocks and the distant sand hills, nowadays kept back by scientifically chosen vegetation – it just feels right.
My Tarella has exchanged a location along the Maribyrnong River for one ‘among the gum trees’. Warrandyte might be a Melbourne suburb but it seems to be a million miles away from the Ring Road that links it to Avondale Heights and the western suburbs.
The trees that climb up and down the hills are high and lean, houses tuck into leafy green folds and the possibility of bushfire lurks behind every hot day. The road we live on is unpaved and on Sunday night the neighbours chat as they wheel down the rubbish bins on to the roughly mown stretch of grass known as ‘the reserve’, in readiness for the early morning council truck.
There are birds, screeching sulphur crested cockatoos and colourful lorikeets. Kookaburras punctuate the day with throat clearing exercises and rabbits have dug holes into the grass strip that could pass as a front lawn, but doesn’t really. Instead of the Maribyrnong there is Stony Creek, tumbling and dawdling along to meet the Yarra, and where the boys next door pan for gold until they are called home to eat.
The original Tarella, and this new one with the copper nameplate at the front door, are nothing like one another. So this sense of place that means so much to me possibly has nothing to do with geography. I used to think it was something to do with being able to see the horizon, but this new Tarella is cupped into a valley and the horizon lives up more steps than my arthritis could handle. So maybe it’s something more, something hidden under the layers of living and moving that have punctuated my life.
We all need a space where we seem able to fold ourselves into just being. It can be anywhere – a favourite chair, a shed, the veranda steps, a local park – somewhere where we stop for just a little time and somehow become present to ourselves. It’s a time and space when we begin to understand.
Understand is a great word – to look up and see whatever is happening from a totally different perspective. My breath slows and in the gaps it is possible to hear the voice of the Spirit of God.
Judith Lynch is a writer who lives in Melbourne. More of her writing appears at tarellaspirituality.com
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