Over the Hills and Far Away

Day 26.  Living in the hills on the periphery of Melbourne, it’s always fairly quiet around here. We don’t have neighbours within hearing distance, and the road isn’t close by. There’s one small general store, a primary school, a rural supplies store, a pub, bakery and a pizza place. Most of these are now closed or open on a limited basis. Time has come to a standstill. The nearby flight path is silent, the early morning workers’ cars are few and far between. The kitchen clock tics more loudly, evoking memories of dark, claustrophobic antique shops crammed with heavy wooden furniture, tapestries, Victoriana and mantelpiece clocks. The wooden beams creak overhead, expanding and contracting with the day’s heat; an annoying fly hums about, landing on my arm as I write. This deathly quiet seems like I’ve stepped back in time to another place in another century. On days like this, the black dog hovers too close for comfort.

It’s almost four weeks of self-isolation now and I can count the days of escape on one hand. Simple pleasures- a walk around an oval, a short drive to a nearby township to pick up a special order, or to drop something off from a distance, a long awaited postal delivery- have become the highlights of my month.

Driveway, mist over creek. Day 10

One of those outings occurred on Day 10. We left home early as the morning fog still hovered above the creek valley below our place. The drive took us through the hills that form part of our district and followed the steep descent to the township of Yarra Glen, suspended below the road in a pool of blinding light. Travelling along the fertile plains of the Yarra Valley to Coldstream, we passed by vineyards and strawberry farms, fields of dark leafed cabbage and paddocks of sheep and cattle. Our mission was to collect a few day old chickens from a hatchery, a necessary and essential trip, officer, in order to provide future laying hens for my small self- sufficient farm. It is a familiar landscape: I’ve been travelling through these same hills for forty years. Yet on this occasion, the landscape seemed to sing with extraordinary beauty. I discovered new vistas, old railway bridges and distant mountain ranges that I had ignored all these years. Less traffic, the cold, clean air of the morning, the silver sun rising through the glinting frost in the valley, I felt a rare euphoria, a joy that emanated from being immersed in nature.

Cabbages of Yarra Valley, Day 10

I made a resolution on Day 10, that when all this is over, I want to go on more picnics in the nearby hills and valleys. To be a part of this landscape while we still have it. To do what our ancestors did on their days off.  And when I’m more confident about the state of the world, perhaps I’ll take a longer drive to other beautiful landscapes and bush within Victoria, to visit this land with new eyes.

13 thoughts on “Over the Hills and Far Away”

  1. *soft smile8 ‘Living in the hills on the periphery of Sydney . . . ‘ and wildly plagiarizing your writing on this quiet Friday afternoon . . .thank you for allowing me to walk alongside you with no social distance twixt us, and enjoy the lovely landscape surrounding you . . . Since I have worked and studied from here for some two decades . . . I feel totally and absolutely and deliciously at peace . . . Having lived thru’ the horrors of WWII for six years and come out of it and grown up in strange but welcoming Australia . . . I just feel gratitude about my current fate. I do not count days. I do keep abreast of the news. Feel desperately sad for what is happening. To me that is karma. Perhaps best put by the ‘circus gardner” ‘in Ebgland a few days back . . . I had lost your mail and could not share . . . perchance you shoud look . . . you would have a lot in common . . . meanwhile I remember a dear Irish lover who always told me to ‘go with the flow’ . . . .be well . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did have a look at Circus Gardener and enjoyed it very much. Go with the flow was the old mantra from the 70s, leading ultimately to a hedonistic and nihilistic approach to life. Ah to be young and carefree.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fran – fully agreed! BUT, if the methodology keeps one, having reached a certain age, not having a heart attack or a stroke or even a day feeling ‘blue’ . . . sorry dearHeart . . . it is a natural medicine for me at the moment . . . be well . . .

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  2. You live in a beautiful area, Francesca. I am so excited that we are going out to two stores today. But you know, I get a little apprehensive about going out. Once I’m out, I ‘m fine. But it is that initial thought of having to be among people–which seems so very foreign–that doesn’t set well with me. I always feel so safe to get back inside the house. That has got to stop, and I know it will, but what a different time we are in now…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I share your apprehension Lois. On the two occasions I entered a shop, I felt completely paranoid. I wore disposable gloves, and carry my own sanitizer. I am fortunate in that others now shop for me- they are younger and still go out to work. Stay inside the house, or at least in your own yard until it is really safe. It may take quite a while.

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  3. Stunning photography. It really does call for exploration. For me tnr one disappointing aspect is that essential travel doesn’t includea drive in the country a d a solitary picnic. Iso ife would be better if it did. But the no no-essential travel rule is beimg ignored too much… out here on the backroads anyway. Which I doubt will hurt but if it was a free for all, the odds would tip. We miss our local drives, and particulary the beach at this time of year… Poor Deez is mssing out too. But we walk down to the river and around the reserve with a frisbee. And where we saw the first plane overhead for quite some time… and it was remarkable. This morning we were discussing how the village is quiet, much like it would have been in the old days. There would have been family, sport and social gatherings and around church, shop, bakery, hotel at limited times, unlike modern opening hours. I like it quiet, miss some of my freedoms but support the sense of it. I’m staying home.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Poor Deez. yes a quiet village takes you back to another time. Mr T needed a spare tyre for his wheelbarrow, discovered that there was a Jayco in Healesville and noticed that it was much closer, according to G maps, than the boring suburban one in Thomastown. We are beginning to get sneaky.

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