i wish

two men took everything away

two men took everything away
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Two men next door with an FM radio addiction came this morning and took half the lovely garden away. Distressed by the noise at first I went over to the fence in my rumpled tent of hair to ask them would they mind turning the music off. “Turn it down?” one guy called back, raising his head from the battered rusted skip they were filling with sawn trunks. They both wore identical dusty boots and ankle petticoats of puckered nylon. “Off would be wonderful,” I yelled back, waving my hand at the new house to show them, “I’m just… Right there.”

I know asking such a question I have no right to it, it is merely a staining imposition, we have now a right to noise and sexual explicitude and self-expression and sweet silence is a concession, embarrassing to want, awkward to ask for. And I remember being of an age and golden brownness when such men would do such a thing, just to please me.

They turned it off and I went back indoors to my page. This afternoon the machinery all stopped and I went outside in the pining light, carrying the cat. The next-door yard looks plucked and shorn. The big white house stands exposed with its weatherboards stained where the tiny claws of vines have clutched at it so long. All around the water tank bushes are slashed to sticks, where little purple flowers used to drop on the mesh over the dark reservoir and geckos rested, pulsing their throats.

This garden was a repository in my mind of olden spaciousness, leafy tranquility, domain of clover and birds and bees, privacy. This was the garden I hid in when I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, puberty had me in its prickly ferocious embrace and solitude was the only real empire of mine. This garden was ours then, we planted those trees, I have watered in those shrubs and bent over the ground covers and lost things belonging to me in its grasses: thoughts, ideas, whole afternoons, rustling and resting and waving things.

I thought how the trees seemed to belong to themselves, not to anyone human, and wondered why ‘our’ garden, long ago sold to this nice bluff man who smokes on the verandah at night and who likes everything to be pared and pruned like a fruit basket for hospital, seemed not in fact to belong to him the minute he set out to cut it. I told myself, I grew up there, though this is in fact not true, much of that was done on an island well north of here, itself a fruit basket, itself a hospital. There is a camphor laurel, unwelcome intruder but so leafy, so green, so generously spreading and which has the long-ago beams of our teenaged treehouse buried in its trunk. I put the cat up on a high branch where she could see into both properties. I said: this was back before real estate investment spread its cold dry hands around even the smallest, most natural town and took our homes from us.


6 comments on “two men took everything away

  1. Oh wow, Cathoel. I loved reading that. It made me feel simultaneously like I wanted to shout “YEAH!” in solidarity with you against the injustice and insensitivity of this destruction as well as quietly sad and nostalgic about that peaceful and comforting kind of solitude in a small, delightful space such as within a leafy thicket (I’m not sure if “thicket” is the right word but I hope you get what I mean). I love the way you write about this kind of stuff.

    Christine April 15, 2014 at 5:15 pm
  2. Thank you, Christine. It feels good to hear you felt that way. It seems like all the tenderest things are most difficult to protect. We get strident about our rights to express ourselves and I hear a lot of talk about freedom of speech but I’ve never seen a placard for freedom of quietude. This was such a lovely garden. It had a kind of immemorial quality, although when I first saw the block it was just a large hilltop slab on dry grass with an over-bearing grapefruit tree.

    Cathoel Jorss April 15, 2014 at 5:38 pm
  3. you got me with tent of hair – I always enjoy reading Cathoel!

    Diana prescott April 16, 2014 at 3:30 pm
  4. Thanks very much, Diana.

    Cathoel Jorss April 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm
  5. Once again Cathoel, your writing and theme resonated with me,..
    Recognising the worth of the forgotten wild , overgrown places.
    Green and tangled places, that harbour the rare, endangered plants, like the old, small, gazetted TSR- Travelling Stock Route, beside my own farm property, where in occasional killing droughts huge mobs of hungry, thin, bleeting sheep still graze frantically, on their way up along the Snowy Mountains Highway to better pastures. Where laconic botanists come noticing quietly then carefully recording another new or rare species, protecting them in their TSR, from the new Main Roads bridge-making annihilation.
    Places like the overgrown environmentally-precious areas in our built-up cities, like the hidden totally wild, rainforest gullies with deep sandstone pools and rock-ridges smack-bang right in Manly’s industrial highway area, beside my daughter’s “Wild Things” surfshop-gallery. These tangled, difficult to walk through places are full of wild delights, sheltering new bizarre critters, thorned vines, trees, flowering weeds and creepers, that when unwound back, can reveal iguana-like powerful, great ‘entitled to be there- attitude’ waterdragons. Fat, sluggish, pregnant skinks drape themselves over rocks and licorice-shiny snakes slither back, amongst the lantana. Busy hovering honeyeaters and raucous parrots zoom through feral flame trees that blaze their glory through the same sensuous aromatic lantana thickets. Cool, shallow, trickling creeks run their bubbling course past busy, dirty factories, the graffitied storm-water drain-fed streams, full of spotted froglets, bright butterflies and skimming waterskaters. A mini-beast unnoticed city water-highway, alongside the grey industrial buildings, under massive forgotten lime-green umbrellas of tree-ferns.
    Memories of a safe childhood, riding wonky-tyred old bicycles, then resting like a fat leopard high up, in the tallest branches of a venerable old apricot tree at Nana’s place in Wagga Wagga. Gobbling down her lushious ripe apricots, then pegging the sticky-sweet apricot seeds gently at the elderly neighbour’s old sausage dog, Gaylord, from that tree in my Nana’s bungalow garden. My dark green, shady, cool, confused, never tidy, oasis of peace and seclusion. Resting, I laid concealed by Nature, surprising the noisy sparrows beside the aromatic apricots with their orangey-pink soft fuzzy baby-bum skins.
    These are the peaceful, safe, calm, memory places for children and young adults to explore Nature and to escape worries and fears, without the now ever present helicopter-parental worry and scrutiny. Places of Nature, so valuable, for childhood risk-taking adventure, peace and gentle solitude.
    In Cooma a few years ago, in a tiny old street in the town opposite the Old Cooma Post Office, there was an enormous very ancient, healthy, blooming Cecil Brunner rose bush at least two metres wide at the gnarled base, that housed families of tiny wrens and tits, that twittered in the sunshine, protected from town cats. I used to stop off on my ACT roadtrips, for a great coffee made by an old Maltese couple at the local cafe, then I would sometimes photograph the rose bush and resident birds, or beautiful, original settler’s old Cooma stone houses and gardens. One hot January day I drove past and saw the mega rose bush was totally gone- just a gaping deep hole left in the Cooma dry red soil. The new tenants wanted a more Feng Shui gravel strip garden and a mini-carpark behind their solicitor’s office, so, it ‘had to go’. No- it didn’t get bought then immediately replanted in one of the fantastic, massive historic homesteads of Cooma, apparently it was so large that it needed a mini-bulldozer to tear it free from the soil and it was destroyed, dumped in a clump, at the Cooma tip. I never even got time to take a cutting. Probably the rose was planted by the first town settlers of Cooma.
    A year ago I went on another of my photograph safaris, down a winding beautiful windswept dirt road, near my farm property, and was photographing soggy sheep sheltering under an ancient gnarled and twisted, windblown Persimmon tree. After watching me for awhile from his farmhouse nearby the orchard, the elderly farmer rumbled up in his elderly tractor and quizzed why I was photographing his sheep in the overgrown old orchard, of the pioneer house that no longer stood there.
    I told him I did freelance newspaper pics and stories sometimes and was learning shutter speeds and suchlike while photographing the sheep, and the scene was so peaceful and beautiful, even in light drizzle. He told me I should have come when the Persimmon was full of fruit, but that I should be quick to beat the parrots and his daughter’s jam-making and bottling efforts. Turned out he was 90 years old and the tree was planted by his parents the day he was born, from a fresh cutting taken off the famous Morans Crosssing Post Office’s huge Persimmon tree, my own tree, that now stands no longer at my own property. There is not even a trace of that tree now. The sheep kept munching away under ‘our’ tree as we spoke and he invited me to come back anytime in the fruiting season, earlier the better, to fill a basket with Persimmons.
    The beautiful Italian lady-owner, Francesca, of the world- famous Bermagui Gelati Shop (handmade, local and fresh) made a fresh gelati for me a few months after, from local-grown Bermagui Persimmons, and she added dark chocolate. It was slurpingly divine.
    Old, forgotten, overgrown gardens and orchards are our human heritage and the ‘Big Pic’ needs to be incorporated into new development planning processes more effectively, to fully look for, notice then value and protect this less obvious but valuable greenspace and our humanity.
    Every few months after Bega rains uncover them, I dig little china dolly legs, buttons, crockery bits, cutlery pieces, old bottles and jars out of the Old Morans Crossing Post Office site’s lawns and orchard, and wonder about the people and what went on, the human memories, the footprints.

    Margosha April 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm
  6. These stories are so lovely, Margosha. I am sorry that it’s taken me a full year to respond. I meant to answer you at the time & then just didn’t. The evocative tale of the rose bush at Cooma that had to be gouged out and left its hole in the gaping soil. The lady-owner. Francesca, even her name beautiful. Persimmons in the fruiting season. Thank you for sharing your stories and making plain that we guard all kinds of things when we manage to guard a tree.

    Cathoel Jorss April 16, 2015 at 9:07 am

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