For Julian

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I wrote this goodbye to my brother’s farmhouse, when his family moved back into town in June 2016, a few years after his death. Glad to say, his brood have all moved forward and are building strong lives – guided, I’m guessing, by a strong sense of him. Happy Christmas dear Julian! Thinking of you now.

Julian was in the sentinel trees which mark the spot of entry, where he first invited me to his country, his place, on the Old Winton Road.

He was at the corner of Jenner’s Lane where his widow Marie and I walked, before we turned towards the Baiada poultry yards and the chooks called out to us, beseeching us not to be angry with God for taking him too soon.

He is no longer lurking in the audacious ‘Hay for Sale’ sign, that sits beside long spears of grass and sight-blocking trees, ready to taunt us as we pass – too close to that dreaded and ambiguous intersection of private and public roads.  

He is no longer in the proud but dishevelled country cottage, with its path of red bricks and the heater disassembled on the living room floor. Nor is he in the garage where firewood is now being dispersed and chopped by Wayne, and where bits of old motorbike lay hidden.

Today, for a matter of only hours, he was in the mournful Leonard Cohen melodies that sang out as I criss-crossed the Oxley Highway and drove down the Wallamore Rd, taking a hodgepodge of belongings, bric-a-brac and boxes of Christmas trinkets, marked ‘green tinsel’ to his family’s new place at the northern end of town.

As his spirit dispersed this morning, it latched on for a minute to my aching belief that if only they’d moved to this trim little cottage, so close to the school where he worked, but still with echoes of the old Australia he was chasing, we would never have had to say that permanent goodbye.

And then he left.

My brother Julian now resides in his widow’s subconscious twist of the neck, in his eldest son’s shy smile, his daughter’s sassy tattoo; in his youngest son’s long foot with its bony toes. If chaos comes and mayhem rules it will no longer be his gentle, goofy, smiling sort. It will be something else, entirely new.

But I will still see him in windmills, scattered about the countryside, those lumbering ageless souls, who suck in air to make blades rotate as they pump the water below, their life-force, like my dear brother’s, drawn unseen yet purposeful across the landscape.

Remembering mothers today

IMG_7574 (1)It’s Mother’s Day in Australia – a chance to reflect on all the lovely mothers who have gone before us. I’m loving seeing my friends tributes splashed across social media. I love especially the photos of women taken so recently that I could swear they are still with us.

In many ways they are, since they live on in those they leave behind. And as we mature to take the place of elders ourselves, little things they say and did come back to remind us not only of who they were – but that they are still here.

I gasped with surprise when I first saw this photo of me with my mother. It was passed on to me by my godmother, Auntie Joan, only recently, just before she died. I had never before seen a photo from my early childhood of just Mum and me. I’m from a large family, and blessed with a twin sister and another sister exactly a year older. So the mother- baby daughter pics are always a tumble of Mum and three, if not more, little people – great photos but in a very different way.

There was another surprise in this image. It captures looks and qualities not usually seen in photos of either of us. It is as though the photo shows the way Joan saw us. And that was another unexpected gift.

So when I hold the photo I see Mum, but I feel Joan. Happy Mothers Day to you both.

Remembering Julian today.

Version 2

Today I’m remembering my brother Julian, who was killed this day five years ago, in a motor-cycle accident near his country property.

As our brother, Damian, said in his eulogy for him; “There was an explosion of light too beautiful, and our dear Julian was shot into the Heavens, where he looks over us, forever in our hearts.”

I’m looking at a photo of Julian now that shows a man who’d recently turned 50 – proud of the windmill just installed on his acreage; the one that brought with it freshness, growth and new life. He squints against the sun but I’m struck by how unlined his face is, how he will be forever young – in contrast to his five other siblings who are growing older, tubbier and more lined.

That face is also on the verge of breaking into one of his big smiles. I can see one of his corny jokes taking shape, pre-empted by the emerging grin.

His death wreaked havoc, changing the course of the lives of his young family. But five years on it’s a relief to see they’ve turned a corner and life is looking up for them again. Their goals and aspirations nod to him, so he is not lost.

I miss you Julian. But I celebrate the fact that we had you.