Mountains of spray spiraling in the threshing wind. Running, screaming, laughing, captured by waves as they leap over the pathways, dripping in wet, tramping eventually in soggy sand in dusk, dusk exacerbated by gloomy clouds sitting on the last of the sunset.
We have been in Australia for the last month and today we extended our stay for another week as Peter, Michael’s father, was admitted to hospital yesterday. We saw him last night after he had spent a long day in the emergency ward. He was exhausted and grey and drawn. His long rangy body looked tiny in amongst all those beeping machines. Since having polio as a child, he has been beset by health problems, and they have returned in force as he has grown older, and yet he shrugs them off, more irritated by them than concerned, turning to all his doctors with the utmost good faith that he will be cured. And we have no doubt that he will again leave his hospital bed to immerse himself in his paintings of the sea, which are obsessing him now more than ever.
At the moment we are staying at Blackrock and daily we walk on this lovely part of the coastline. Sometimes when the wind is up it is so wild and mad with the waves pummeling the boulevard and sending spray right up onto the upper walkway. Other days, it is as gentle and reflective as a mirror with as many as 50 black swans feeding off the reefs. One picturesque, gentle evening, we had the best fish and chips on the beach at Half Moon Bay with Pete and Marg. The light was exquisite washing over the water and the young life savers practicing their laps to the buoy, the cliffs golden, the ‘Cerebus’, an old submarine-battleship, a black silhouette outlined in silver, people picnicking in the sand, the air balmy, a great sense of wellbeing given to all of us there.
In enormous visual contrast we have also stayed in the country with my parents and gone camping with them too. One such camp was near Marysville, with Mum and Dad and Jake and Jaqui, up in the mountains in the Howqua valley, in a meadow called ‘Sheep Yard Flat’ and alongside a beautiful fresh clean stream that we could swim in with its depth at about 7 ft and could drink from too. Each night we had a fire under the great black sparkly sky, eating wonderful stewy feasts out of the iron pot on the coals and drinking tea from the billy we made from a large fruit tin, our stories and laughter in gentle harmony with the great quiet that filled our beings.
Castlemaine, where Mum and Dad live, continues to be a lovely place to visit. It is an old gold field town, so has many stately old buildings and cottages with pretty gardens and shady old trees. There are good coffee shops and restaurants and fantastic eclectic clothes shops, galleries, antique shops and markets. It has its own lively culture for music and the arts and does not seem to miss the brighter lights of Melbourne, though probably every young thing has to go out and find this out for themselves as our own boys did when we lived here too.
Now we are preparing for our home in Italy. When we stand at the edge of the sea on Port Philip Bay, looking out toward the Antarctic, all about us the low horizon of a worn out land, we feel we are on the outer reaches of the planet. We are a long way to the central belt of life that gives enough sustenance to artists and dreamers and makers of dreams. I know when I leave Australia that I have not touched its ancient primeval heart. I have not become the deep red of the dusty earth or understood the consequence of being here and taking from its old bones the source of its life. I still feel like a barbarian that is ignorant of the richness that lies here, superficially touching the land and its mysteries, an equal one of the destroyers of this country and its original people, and my urge is to leave it alone and then I would honour it more. Now our hearts yearn for our own studios and our own space. We are nostalgic for our adopted Tuscan landscape of rich verdant mountains and cascading streams, of villages on the highest reaches and misty dragons in the valleys, of all the textures of life and culture engrained here and touching our civilized hearts. I know this is where I come from, where my true heritage lies.