Johann glanced back at the bug of the man settled on the tucker box. ‘Cup? You want a cup? Be my guest, they’re in the tucker box, I think.’
I sidestepped that idea and ran to the Kombi. The coke bottle, I’d use the coke bottle.
After emptying out the icky liquid, I raced to the other side of the van. I reached as far as I could on tippy toes. No use. I was just too short. I jumped. I tried climbing up the roof rack. Failed. No footholds to launch me up. I slumped on the edge of the road and cried. No one cared that we were in danger. Liesel had given up without even trying. She didn’t care. And worse, I didn’t matter. Me, a nobody. Thirsty and no one bothered to give me a drink. Aware that I was all alone, I sniffed. Nothing could make me happy, not even the smell of kangaroo steak wafting under my nose.
‘Oh, little girl, why so sad?’
I looked up to see Boris in his grey skirt towering over me. I was sick to the stomach, like I had eaten a cocktail of worms and cockroaches.
‘What is wrong my pet?’ he asked.
I shuddered but refused to answer.
‘Maybe I can help you.’
For a price, I thought.
‘Just tell me what you want more than anything in the whole wide world.’
I glared at him. Over my dead body. What is this man?
Tears blurred my view.
He extended an arm to me. ‘Anything, anything at all.’ his arm seemed so skinny; more like a tentacle than a limb.
I rubbed my eyes.
It crouched beside me. ‘Come on, you can tell me. You can trust me. I can grant you anything, any wish you have.’
Beside me perched a man-size cockroach. Its oily armour glistened in the golden rays of the risen sun.
‘I don’t think I need anything, Sir.’ I tried to stay cool and resisted the urge to recoil.
Its antennae twitched. ‘Anything. Just say the word. Your wish is my command.’
‘I want you to leave me alone,’ I said. All thoughts of thirst evaporated.
Its beady eyes bored through me into my soul trying to suck out all my goodness, my life. ‘My dear girl, I’d beg you to reconsider. With the gifts you possess, the universe is your oyster—if you follow me.’
I gulped. A cold breeze cut through me and as if I’d faced death itself; the Grim Reaper. I pushed myself up, and staggered from it. ‘No thanks, I’ll have none of what you offer.’
It reached out a spiny hand. ‘But you’ll—’
‘None at all.’ I dropped the bottle, and bolted to the campsite.
[One week remaining of our MAG exhibition at Brighton Central Shopping Centre. So far, a most successful time. Our artists have sold over 56 works and counting.]
Heavenly Hike Around Dove Lake
The pinnacle of the K-T-Y’s (K-Team, the Younger) road trip around Tasmania was Cradle Mountain. I might add here that we’d abandoned my husband (Hubby)in Poatina on a Christian Leaders Training course, while I chauffeured the younger members of our family to the scenic sights in the Central Highlands and East Coast.
So, Sunday January 18, 2009, with Cradle Mountain National Park our goal, we drove the hills, dales, twists and turns. And we fended off near-misses with drivers who apparently didn’t know which side of the road they were meant to be on.
Before entering the National Park, we had to buy The Pass. And the K-Team kids took the opportunity to have some lunch at the café in the Visitors’ Centre.
Then another wait on the sealed but narrow road. We watched the procession of cars squeeze past us as they exited the park. The boom gate took what seemed an eternity to rise. I reminded my “lambs” that good things come to those who wait. However, the only positive my 15-year-old Son 2 could muster was more atheistic zeal to preach to his captive audience.
Finally, the boom gate rose, and I ferried the K-Team Young’uns to a highly sought-after carpark. We piled out of the car, sorted out backpacks, and with the sun warming our backs, commenced the hike around Dove Lake. At first, I had to drag a reluctant Son 2 to join us on this adventure, but soon, wooed by the brilliant scenery, he raced ahead to catch up to his older brother.
This time we hiked the opposite way around the lake from the way we did in 2001. Following the well-trodden path, a small lake emerged.
‘Is this Dove Lake?’ Son 1 asked.
‘I don’t think so,’ I replied. ‘I remember it being bigger than this.’
A sign designated to the pond, confirmed that it wasn’t Dove Lake.
A little further on, we reached the boat house and Cradle Mountain framing the view of Dove Lake. On the shore of pebbles and sand, a photographer perched near his sturdy tripod and SLR camera with telescopic lens, while his wife, long-suffering, sat under a beach umbrella enjoying a novel.
We continued our trek around the lake. Son 2 ceased his drone about the meaninglessness of life, while Son 1 captured the beauty on the little digital camera I had lent him.
We marvelled at the sun sparkling diamonds on ripples of water.
I explained that the tannin from the button grass in the highlands caused the rivers to run the colour of tea.
A cheeky currawong amused the boys.
Every few steps, I stopped and took yet more photos of the lake and the mountain towering above.
Even so, time stood still…
Within an hour, the K-T-Y had reached the halfway mark. What a difference eight years make! What took more than two hours in 2001, half the time this time.
More magical drifting. See, I wasn’t hiking; the path was easy, the views spectacular. My film camera took over.
Tea-stained ripples by the shore.
The knotted trunks of the emerging rainforest.
‘I’m in camera-heaven!’ I sighed as I caught up to Son 1 who was also clicking away on his camera.
The deep blue of Dove Lake dazzled us.
Further on, a passing parade of hikers lead by a tour-guide directed my view to Cradle Mountain through a tangle of vegetation.
Then Dove Lake again framed by twisted and thirsty trees.
A couple approached us. ‘How far?’
I looked at my watch. ‘I don’t know, but we’ve been walking about an hour and a half, so, at least that.’
‘Hmmm, we’ve only just begun,’ the man said and then passed us.
My sons raced ahead, eager with the end of the hike in sight.
Dove Lake winked through the trees. Yes, our hike was almost done.
I caught up to the K-young’uns. ‘Took us two hours this time.’
‘Dad’ll never believe us,’ Son 1 said.
Over a hotel dinner at Deloraine, the result of the boys needing a “dunny stop” and me not wanting to cook tea that night, we reminisced the tale of two Cradle Mountain trips. And Son 2 had to admit that the hike around Dove Lake this time was not bad. And maybe, just maybe, there was a God who created this amazing world.
[This time, some of the T-K Team step back in time into the Mt. Painter Sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia; a land offering a glimpse of prehistory…]
Late 1980’s, and my husband and I planned a honeymoon stay in Arkaroola, the town within the Mt. Painter sanctuary, Northern Flinders Ranges. When we arrived, we rolled up to the motel and presented our VISA card for payment.
‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ said the manager, ‘we don’t take VISA. Only MasterCard.’
‘What?’ But we were counting on our VISA to cover the costs.
We scraped together the cash amount for the three-nights of accommodation and emptied our wallets of all but a few notes. Romantic dinners in the restaurant, off our menu. The longed-for Ridge-Top Tour, off our track. Then cold hard panic struck, how were we to pay for petrol when we returned to Adelaide? The amount in our tank, Dad’s four-wheel-drive vehicle that he loaned us for the holiday, may not last the journey back to Hawker. All because the town in which we chose to spend our honeymoon, was so remote, they did not deal in VISA.
We sat on our motel bed and counted our measly amount of cash. What were we going to do? It’s not like I hadn’t gone without before—on the T-Team with my Dad. Being like-minded and frugal, we dealt with the disappointment, and decided we’d cook our own meals using the barbecue facilities and not venture too far from the town. Besides, there were plenty of places to which we could hike.
I took a deep breath and picked up the book our pastor had given us as a wedding gift. Inside the front cover I discovered an envelope. ‘I wonder what this says,’ I said to my husband.
I took out the card and opened it. An orange-coloured note fluttered onto the floor. I picked it up. ‘Hey, look! Twenty dollars.’ I waved the note in my husband’s face. ‘Twenty dollars! Pastor must’ve known we’d need the money.’
‘I think God did,’ my husband said. ‘Twenty dollars makes all the difference.’
‘Can we do the Ridge-Top Tour?’
‘Um, perhaps not that much difference.’
‘Dinner at the restaurant?’
‘Maybe, but we still need to watch our spending.’
I sighed. ‘I know.’
In the restaurant, and eating the cheapest meal offered, I spied a photo adorning the wall behind my beloved. A waterhole with red cliffs on one side and cool but majestic eucalypt trees on the other side. ‘Echo Camp,’ I read. ‘I want to go there.’
‘Hmm, not sure, if we have to drive far.’
A couple of days passed, and we’d exhausted all the nearby scenic sites to which we could hike. We decided to drive up the road, but not too far.
I spotted a sign to Echo Camp, and not-too-many kilometres off the “main” road. My husband noted that the track was only for “authorised” vehicles.
‘That’s not fair,’ I said. ‘They shouldn’t tempt us with scenic places like that in the restaurant and then deny us because we’re not “authorised”.’
He who was driving, turned into the track. ‘You’re quite right. Ready for some adventure?’
‘Okay, well, it says Echo Camp’s only a few kilometres down the track.’
My husband drove up and down the track. It soon became obvious why the track was meant for “authorised” vehicles. But we were committed, and the track became so narrow, with one side rocky cliffs and the other sheer drops, we had no choice but to lurch forward, upward, downward, sideways and every-which-way. While I clutched the bar on the dashboard, my husband had fun, relishing the roller-coaster ride to Echo Camp.
We reached a relatively flat area where we parked our four-wheel drive vehicle. The Painter Sanctuary mountains rose and dipped like waves before us. A feast for the eyes with shades of sienna, blue and mauve. I captured this beauty with my Nikon film camera.
‘By the way, where’s Echo Camp from here?’ I asked.
‘Just around the corner, I think.’
‘How many kilometres have we travelled?’
‘More than the sign said, but it can’t be far.’
‘I get the feeling we missed it on the way here.’
My husband nodded. ‘I think we did. There was a fork back there, but I wasn’t sure. And the angle was too sharp to turn down.’
‘Better check out that track.’
We back tracked and found the way leading to Echo Camp. By this time, the sun hung low in the sky, so our time savouring Echo Camp was limited to no more than half an hour, wandering near the rock pool, taking photos, and enjoying the peace and silence of this land untouched by civilisation, and reserved for the “authorised” apparently.
Aspects of Echo Camp
Then, after braving the roller-coaster road again, we crept out from the contraband track, and back into town.
My most recent painting of Arkaroola landscape, Dinnertime Northern Flinders is for sale at the Marion Art Group exhibition at Brighton Central. You can also check out my work on the Gallery 247 website.
Marion Art Group’s exhibition (first in three years) is to be held from Monday October 17 to Sunday October 30, Brighton Central, 525 Brighton Road, Brighton, South Australia.
[After a three-year hiatus between exhibitions, Marion Art Group will hold an exhibition at Brighton central shopping Centre (Brighton Road, South Brighton) from October 17-30, 2022. One of my artworks to be displayed, Cockling at Goolwa in Pastel revisits the K-Team’s journey down “memory” highway, 100-kilometres south of Adelaide to Goolwa Beach on the far-flung edges of the Fleurieu Peninsula. Remembering our time with friends 20-years ago searching for cockle shells in the sand.]
Cockling at Goolwa
A picture, they say, tells a thousand words. So, what is Cockling at Goolwa’s story? How can the simple heel-toe dance of “cocklers” (people who dig for cockle shells), their feet sinking in soggy sand of the in-coming tide, in the flux of early summer warmth, on a remote beach south of Adelaide tell us? What story worth a thousand words? What was it about this scene that attracted me to capture it? First in photo and then several years later, on canvas in acrylic, and recently in pastel.
I think the water reflecting the sky, all silver, the people on the wet sand, a mirror, swaying and twisting for cockles captured my attention. I’d been there, on the glassy surface, watching for bubbles, grinding my heel into the bog, feeling for the sharp edges of shell and plucking out the cockles that snapped shut when exposed to air.
I was there, but then I watched. Mothers, fathers, and children lost in the moment of twisting and hunting and collecting cockles.
‘What will you do with all those cockles?’ I asked.
‘They’re for fishing,’ one of our friends said. ‘Bait for fish.’
‘Hopefully, we’ll catch a few fish and have them for dinner tonight,’ another said.
I imagined fish, fresh from the sea, thrown on the barbeque and the cockle bait inside them buried once again in our stomachs. We continued digging for cockles…family and friends, one with the ancient, outside time—nothing else matters but the cockles.
Goolwa, if I remember, has mounds of spent shells in the sand hills, monuments to generations upon generations of Indigenous Australians, their open-air kitchens and meals. Did they perform the same ritual, on the same patch of wet sand, delving for cockles to fry on their fires? A quick perusal of Google reveals they used nets to collect cockles and catch fish. They then cooked the cockles on a campfire.
We are here, they are gone, but their spirit of history lingers, reminding us, though we seem different, we are the same. We are digging, dancing and delving for our dinner. We are still, in the moment, alone in our thoughts in a forgotten corner of the world, unknown by the world, yet one with this country’s past. And God knows each one of us—each part of us, even the unknown parts of ourselves and our secrets.
What if I shared a little secret—an artist’s secret? Okay, I’ll tell you. I painted this picture in less than two hours. Now, that I’ve told you, would the painting be worth less to you? Must time be equated with worth? Sometimes I do take hours upon hours, layers upon layers, and more hours planning to get the work right. But not Cockling at Goolwa.
I love the beginning of a painting; laying the foundation, engaging my inner-natural child, the paint flowing from a thick brush on a damp canvas, colours blending, mixing as I go. One side of the brush crimson, the other blue and a dab of white. Sienna somewhere there in the foreground shadowing the sand. Mid-yellow added incrementally to shroud the distance in light grey for perspective. Then just a hint of heads of land jutting out halfway across the horizon with a suggestion of ultramarine in the grey. So simple, and sometimes, like with Cockling at Goolwa, the scene emerged before my eyes. In the world of artists, I believe the term “magic brush” or “magic hand” has been used. Um, trade secret, so don’t go spreading it around.
So, there you have it, in less than an hour, surf, sand, sky and tones in all the right places.
Now for the people, the twisting, turning people, their feet in the boggy sand. How do I paint them? I had a break and drank a cup of tea. I remember not all the children hunted for cockles. Some kids body-surfed in the shallows, some played cricket and one little boy with a wish to be hunted, or to be warm, buried all his body except his head in the sand. I found him and he broke out of his sand-grave, the sand zombie.
‘Don’t go tracking your sandy footprints into the shack,’ I said.
He washed himself off in the surf, then sat wrapped in a towel and shivering in the sun while watching the cockle hunt.
All the while the “cocklers” cockled for cockle shells. Soon the boy joined the hunt for cockles.
Then when the paint was dry, I plotted the people in with pencil and then painted them in with a finer brush.
‘I like that painting,’ a fellow member of the art group said. ‘Don’t do another thing to it. Don’t even frame it. I’ll buy it as it is. How much do you want for it?’
Paint barely dry, I took the work home, signed it and then the next week at our Christmas lunch, I delivered Cockling at Goolwa to them. The buyer showed the work to others at their table and all admired it.
What made another person connect with Cockling at Goolwa? For this person, their son and family spent many summer holidays at Goolwa, doing just that, cockling. Time out, out of time, unwinding, relaxing, happy times, happy memories, captured on canvas…in less than two hours. And I must admit, the story is slightly less than one thousand words.
But, perhaps as you look at the copy of Cockling at Goolwa, you may have a story of your own about the painting. Maybe a painting’s story is not just one person’s story, but stories from many people, one thousand words, or more…
This day being a public holiday in South Australia, hubby and I took a meander around the Happy Valley Reservoir. This Reservoir has been open since last December and this is the first time we’ve entered this reserve.
Before December 2021, the reservoir was closed to the public to keep the water supply clean. However, I gather that water purification technology has advanced enough to allow the public to enjoy the ambient nature of this now recreational park.
Below are some moments captured in time from our Monday Meandering around the reservoir.