A wee bit of Australia for Christmas.
Scene through her eye.
Beauty and time tread the same path; as neither cannot, will not, stand still.
It is 1872; just prior to Christmas.
Nothing ever happens by chance.
An evening full of deadening light, mosquitoes, and children covered in dirt and play induced scratches swarm around her. Through happiness and laughter they cling to her skirts with sticky fingers and grubby hands vying for her attentions, politely climbing over one another, eager for her ministrations. The white paper bags of store-bought boiled lollies she hands to the smiling grubs at her knees disappear after being joyously grabbed, vanishing on winged feet as the lucky recipient ducks for cover either under the veranda, or within the green folds of the mulberry tree at the bottom of the garden.
Their laughter delights her as she walks across cool green grass to the adult filled table brimming with happiness and familiarity; duties fulfilled. She appreciates the sheer exhilaration of the moment, noting the November sun filled with stealth and cunning, slinking gently over the horizon, leaving pools of gold for all to see. She stops momentarily, letting her gaze take in the paddocks surrounding the house block; the majority heavy with golden ripened crops of wheat and oats. Sheep surround a dam in the foreground with cattle at a trough some mile and a half away. Three generations of men are returning home to her on foot from their day’s work. It amuses her that the smallest of them is leading two of the enormous Suffolk Punches back to the shed to water and wash and curry and brush; filling the feed boxes, freeing them into their paddock for the night. She knows of the ladder he will be standing upon to get over the withers of the two gentle draught horses. His final chore will be to go over all leather work with dubbin, making it pliable, clean, and long-lasting.
Her flaxen-haired daughters are carrying plates and dishes brimming with food to the table they laid with love earlier in the day. She glories in the efforts of them. The bread and butter they made together before lunch still casts a faint and warn aroma. The creations of these beautiful waifs has earned them praise from all, reducing them to shy, bare foot wiggling bundles of nerves, not yet mature enough to accept compliment.
The wave to his mother makes her smile. This, the second youngest of her brood adds one or two more pieces of wood to the fire beneath the spit roasting body of mutton; careful all the while not to burn his bare feet on the mass of coals. Not yet old enough for long pants, his bare legs are filthy with the dust of the paddock he has worked in since the first light of the morning, and of the milking yard he visits twice daily to milk the three out of four Jersey cows, calves now weaned.
She can see him at the trough, washing the dirt of the day from his face and arms and hands. Her love for him is complete. Rarely said, yet all-encompassing. His actions alone tell her that his feelings reflect similar adoration for her. Far too polite to show affection in company, he brushes against her on return from his ablution. Broad strong shoulders, narrow waist, and heavy muscular arms carry his calloused, large and thick hands. This evening he wears a smile just for her. It is more in the eye than the mouth, yet the mouth surrenders to the eye and his lips rise at the corners allowing light onto his teeth. Even though she was unable to fully hear the whispered word he left in her ear, she knows it is one of affection. Not to smile would have been akin to not breathing.
A dark movement near the distant milking yard catches her attention like a fly to a trout. It is swift and fluid and raises her curiosity. She turns to face its direction and glories at the delicious breeze filling her hair from behind. For a moment or two, her staring leaves her curiosity unsated, seeing nothing more than the breeze rippling through the crop, like waves on the sea. Again she is smiling at her ridiculousness and the trickery of her mind on such a perfect afternoon.
Her meandering finds her seated between her sisters at the adult surrounded table. She laughs at the wit of her siblings, elated at the companionship she finds with them. The image of her laughing mother; standing, turning, and lifting one of the smiling urchins back to its feet with a kindness only family can bestow.
The explosion of blood and exposure of spear tip standing proud from her mother’s chest startles her. Her mother, swaying but standing, presses the child still in her hands beneath the laden table. She sees her mother fall gently backward to abruptly stop, the length of spear stopping her fall, leaving her propped upright.
She is running, screaming, across her beautiful green lawn to capture one, then another of her babies. Ahead of her the scene through her eye is one of mayhem and terror; tall, slender black men, all baring the marks of manhood across the chest and upper arms running into the party. Spears and nulla nulla’s held high. The slickness of their red coatings scare her deeply with fear for her other babies that she cannot see.
On the periphery of her vision, out to the east, she notes smoke starting to rise from the middle of a crop filled paddock. Her forward movement brings her husband who is now laying face down, two spears extending from the centre of his back. In a shock filled breath she briefly wonders how his body held so much blood. Noise surrounds her, yet none of it she hears.
Across the back veranda of her home she darts; entering the house through the fly screened back door at pace. A long spear thrown from behind her touches the top of her ear, tearing it in its passage of flight; it lands impotently in the carpeted passage before her. She drags her wee ones with her as she runs to her sanctuary. Her holiest of holies that was the birthing suite to every one of her babies, even now there is a cot made up in the corner. Her babies are pressed forcibly beneath the bed she has shared with the only man she has known and loved.
Standing and turning, babies now secure; booted feet carry her lithely toward the bedroom door. She finds it moving quickly inward. Her nose is tainted with the odour of smoke and kangaroo and sweat and dirt. A tall black man fills her vision as he swings his nulla-nulla with extreme force. The wooden club strikes her across the side of her lovely twenty-eight year old head.
On her side on the floor, she sees the black man dragging her screaming babies from beneath her bed.
This last scene through her eye.
Nothing ever happens by chance.
Merry Christmas everyone! Click the picture of the ‘Yule King’ (later to become Father Christmas) above, and revel in my most favourite of favourite Christmas songs.