May They Have Found Peace

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms
Maya Angelou

 

On a quiet country back road, near the Newstead General Cemetery, lie two burial markers of interest. One is simply called Chinese Ground.

Chinese gold digger starting for work, circa 1860s. Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland: 60526 .

The Chinese were not welcome on the Australian goldfields. They were thorough workers, often picking meticulously through the discarded tailings or abandoned mines of other diggers. They were viewed with suspicion as few spoke English, and they were regarded as idol-worshippers. Chinese mining methods used more water than European methods, and such practices were not appreciated in a country known for its heat and droughts. Furthermore, few of them traded their gold in the towns, preferring to store it up and return to China with their wealth. The colony of Victoria was the first to introduce Anti-Chinese immigration legislation, imposing a poll tax of £10 per head for each Chinese person arriving in Victorian ports in 1855. Within a few years all other colonial governments had enacted similar laws to restrict the number of people from China entering the colonies. This did not stop the Chinese from arriving in droves and spreading out to goldfields in New South Wales and Victoria.

Tensions came to a head on 30 June 1861 in NSW at Lambing Flat. It is estimated that around 3 000 European diggers banded together in a rowdy gang called a “roll up” and, armed with picks, whips, knives, sticks and anything that could be used as a weapon, converged on the Chinese camp. Chinese tents and equipment were destroyed, gold plundered, and dozens of the men themselves had their pigtails, or ‘queues’, cut off – a matter of great dishonour for them – or worse, they were scalped. An unknown number of Chinese were murdered: although the official death toll for Chinese was given as two, eyewitness accounts suggest between 30 and 40 were killed, and several hundred more injured.

Given that an angry group of European and American miners met in Bendigo in 1854 and declared that a “general and unanimous rising should take place… for the purpose of driving the Chinese off the goldfield” it is not hard to imagine that the Chinese here in this region suffered similarly.

The other stone, not far from the isolated Catholic Ground is inscribed with the words “A tribute to those who lay beneath may they have found peace”. After substantial rainfall this part of the world is truly beautiful. With only the sound of nearby grazing sheep I think it is a good place to lie and rest.

Tonight I Write the Saddest Lines

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
Pablo Neruda

 

What are the saddest lines?  Neruda expresses the grief of lost love! If you believe the Weekly Times the story of the Daylesford lost boys is one of the saddest stories in Australian History. According to this article it was “one of those small-town tragedies which left scars so deep they will never be completely healed”

Clearly we can dispute what represents the saddest stories in Australian history! Collectively we could compile quite a list!

Today I visited the Fryerstown Cemetery and a lonely grave caught my eye. I stumbled upon the grave of Annie and Henry Clifton! If my internet search is any indication, it would seem that nothing has been written about these children who died tragically in a fire in Spring Gully. They now lie, quite alone, in an isolated, yet beautiful, part of the beautiful Fryerstown Cemetery. I am sure their deaths left deep scars in the community. The Pennyweight Cemetery also bears witness to deep grief.

As I contemplate the saddest lines I could make quite a list. But tonight I feel sad for the Castlemaine community. It is a sad to hear that the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Museum is closing and that unless there is a push to save it the local RSPCA shelter will close. If no action is taken these closures will represent significant blows to the town.

Geological Lesson in Castlemaine

 

“This upward facing fold, called an anticline, is a nice example of how the gold-bearing strata in the Victorian goldfields are folded.

The curved stratum, about 50 cm thick, is composed of sandstone and interpreted to have been deposited as a turbidite—an underwater sediment-rich, turbulence deposit. This particular one involved a lot of sand and would have covered a large area.

These turbidites were deposited as the waters of Noah’s Flood were rising, during the Ascending phase of the Flood. It’s likely they were deposited one after the other in quick succession, and all folded soon afterwards, within days or weeks, based on the timing of the sequence of events that took place during the Flood, as documented in Genesis 6 to 9.” Source: Biblicalgeology Blog

Get some play dough out and take the kiddies, or go by yourself, to the Anticlinal Fold in Lyttleton Street for a geology lesson. Take the time to see the local area more deeply. Check out some of the wonders of geology. Make sure to take along art supplies and introduce the whole idea of an art sketch book at the same time.

Spring is Coming

Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina that “spring is the time of plans and projects.” With  the passing of equinox, July inspires us to seriously lift our game. Slow, cosy winter days are replaced with big plans for action.  There are many  spots to find little signs that Spring is coming. Here, in July, in the Southern Hemisphere, on a particularly bleak wintery day, it is reassuring to go into my private backyard woodland and note that unlike in Westeros, spring really is coming.

 

Who Castlemaine Remembers

“The past does not lie down and decay like a dead animal. It waits for you to find it again and again.”
“The Gilda Stories” ~Jewelle Gomez

This map depicting the journey Burke and Wills is a key part of the monument in Castlemaine

At the time when I was running the Soul Food Cafe I created a number of features which are stored in the Box of Wonderment. One was The Dig Tree which examined the fated journey of Burke and Wills and explored what the creative writer or artist could learn from their expedition.

My great grandfather, George Chale Watson, took a great interest in this expedition. He was in Echuca at the time and was inspired to set off on his own journey of exploration after their departure.

Finding myself in Castlemaine I was intrigued to discover that Castlemaine was the first town to decide to build a monument to Burke and Wills. Initially they wanted to bury Burke at the Castlemaine cemetery.

By May 1862, the citizens of Castlemaine had raised £450 for a memorial from public subscription and donations and on the anniversary of Burke’s death, 1 July 1862, a public holiday was declared. A procession of over 2,000, including John King, John Macadam and Frederick Standish, marched from town to a hill to the east of town where a ceremony was performed and a foundation stone laid by the Sheriff of Castlemaine, Richard Colles.

Why Castlemaine? Why the passion and drive to erect this monument? It appears that Burke, who was born in Ireland in 1820, became the Police Superintendent in Castlemaine in 1858, before being appointed to lead the ill-fated Victorian Exploring Expedition which embarked from Melbourne’s Royal Park on August 20, 1860. Their mission was to become the first expedition of Europeans traversing the interior of Australia from south to north. They traversed successfully but that ultimately this venture would cost Burke and his third-in-command Wills their lives on the return leg. Perhaps if they had connected with the owners of the land they crossed they may have survived.

It is fascinating to check out who Castlemaine likes to remember and offers pride of place to. A visit to the local museum gives one perspective of who the town remembers and equally, chooses to forget.

Out at nearby Guildford a memorial has been created for one of their favourite sons, a Castlemaine born footballer, Ron Barassi

At Chewton there is the Monster Meeting Place where the miners rallied. In pride of place, on a hill overlooking the town, a monument costing a small fortune was erected to remember a fated journey and Robert O’Hara Burke, a policeman who is described as being one of Castlemaine. In actual fact he was an immigrant from Ireland and only lived here for a couple of years. At least Senator Lawson who stands in Lyttleton Street had a long association with Castlemaine.

Personally I would like to know more about what the land remembers; what the land looked like before the European invasion. I would like to know more about the lives of the indigenous people who lived here! Who will you remember and how will you remember them?

Things I Love About Castlemaine

Many years ago, in another life, in a parallel universe, I gave my heart and soul to the creation of the Soul Food Cafe. The Creativity Portal was just one major site that featured the work that I was doing.  Facebook completely changed the online environment and the shift that came with it, along with consecutive losses, silenced me. Ten years ago I walked away from everything I had known, including Soul Food. Eventually I found my way to Castlemaine and settled here.

Reinventing oneself takes time. While Waiting for Godot is a place to wait, a place to reconnect with who I am and what I am passionate about. Now it is enough to sow a new wild garden. The ground is fertile here in Castlemaine and I  know that something will grow. It may be nettle or thistles or roses or carrots or oranges on my citrus trees. If my backyard is any indication something will grow. Fertile ground never remains empty. I am reminded to stay earthed and to attend to my growing ground.

Back in the day Betsy Bayers, “Pinballs’ prompted me to promote list writing. I used the Indian War Bonnet as one way to encourage students to make lists of 28 things they loved, hated, were disappointed about etc. In this instance I will use it to record 28 things I love about living in Castlemaine.

28 Things To Love About Castlemaine

  1. Living within walking distance of the centre of town, the Botanic Gardens and the railway station which provides a regular service to the city.
  2. The host of wonderful spots where I can take my dogs walking – many of which are featured in this blog.
  3. The devoted team who work down at the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are a jewel, something Castlemaine is rightly proud of! I particularly love the woodland area beyond the creek.
  4. The sound of football and cricket matches and sporting teams training at the Camp Reserve.
  5. The comforting sound of the Post Office bell ringing. It brings back memories of my late husband and us staying in an English village.
  6. The sound of the old steam train chugging out to Maldon.
  7. Being able to make full use of a wonderfully stocked, welcoming, library.
  8. Having an electrician respond to an SOS call (the sound of the smoke alarm chirping was impacting on my dogs) and came at 5 on a Saturday afternoon.
  9. Having devoted tradespeople restore my home with loving care.
  10. Having a woodland spring up in my backyard within a couple of years of planting!
  11. Warring with the flocks of sulphur created cockatoos who descend upon my trees. They are hooligans but I cannot help but love those life affirming rascals!
  12. The Pennyweight cemetery is the spiritual place I love to visit.
  13. The exhilarating history of this place! Places like Forest Creek Diggings, the Oak Forest and Specimen Gully Road where history changed.
  14. Good quality book shops.
  15. Turning off the highway and knowing I am almost home.
  16. Proximity to diverse places such as Chewton, Fryerstown, Taradale, Guildford, Newstead, Maldon, Daylesford and Harcourt.
  17. The natural beauty of nearby Mt Alexander and Dog Rocks.
  18. Stunning autumns and spectacular springs.
  19. Looking at old Jack Frost while sitting by my fire.
  20. Enjoying the view across town from the Old Castlemaine Gaol.
  21. Getting a coffee from James and sitting on the platform, deep in conversation, with a friend at the Railway Station.
  22. Knowing my neighbours and knowing how supportive they are.
  23. Waking to the sound of so many birds, knowing my beloved ravens are on the watchtower (neighbouring tall trees) and watching a family of birds take turns bathing in the water in the enamel dish on the back deck.
  24. The community garden at Continuing Ed.
  25. Great supportive friends.
  26. The dog walking community.
  27. Entering my drive, parking the car and walking in the front door after being away.
  28. My home! I give thanks every day for finding it, for being brought to Castlemaine!

Germ of Australian Independence

Much is made of the Eureka Stockade, a rebellion that took place in Ballarat. However, 160 years ago, in 1851, 15,000 protesters gathered on the Forest Creek diggings in central Victoria to object to higher gold license fees. This gathering took place at what has come to be known as the Monster Meeting place at Golden Point. While the Eureka Stockade has a place in Australian history many believe that the Monster Meeting actually started the chain of events. Miners became stronger political force and were stronger and stronger in demanding their rights as citizens as well as miners.

Many of us are guilty of taking hard won rights for granted! Few Australians would think to stop and give thanks to these miners who defied establishment and won democratic rights.

Gratitude is the art of receiving gratefully, of showing appreciation for kindness great and small. It is easy to show gratitude when you receive a gift or an obvious benefit and, alas, just as easy to forget to show gratitude for seemingly less personal benefits.

1. Keep a gratitude journal this month. In honour of the people who met here keep a list of things you are grateful for and things worth fighting for.

2. Each time someone does you a favour make it a practice to look them in the eye and thank them.

3. Think of ways to repay those who have made sacrifices that have been beneficial to your lifestyle. How can you give more than you take? What legacy can you leave? What will your footprints be?

Nature’s Rock Art

In ancient India lived a sculptor renowned for his life-sized statues of elephants. With trunks curled high, tusks thrust forward, thick legs trampling the earth, these carved beasts seemed to trumpet the sky. One day, a king came to see these magnificent works and to commission statuary for his palace. Struck with wonder, he asked the sculptor, “What is the secret of your artistry?”
Eknath Easwaran

The sculptor upon taking measure of the monarch explained the process. Nature is yet to reveal the secret of its artistry. Perhaps she will reveal it to you if you talk to one of these stone people!

While Waiting for Godot promotes contemplative practices. Take the time to check out Contemplative Practices and the Tree of Contemplative Practices for inspiration.

Leanganook (Mt Alexander) Stone People

Rising 350 metres above the surrounding area, Mount Alexander (Leanganook) Regional Park is a prominent landmark offering magnificent views and a natural forest setting for picnics and bushwalking. It also provides important habitat for several rare or threatened species.

On a bitterly cold winter day the mountain took on a spiritual quality. It was enough to simply check out spots like the camping ground and commune with the stone people. The stone people, as the ancient one’s of this planet have much to teach us.

DawnEagle Summers tells us that “the stone people you find in your travels will tell you about their gifts, if you listen to them. They each bring their own lessons to our lives, whether they are a precious stone, gemstone, or just a piece of tumbled granite out of your driveway.” She says that once you begin to explore their world, you will learn more about them and suggests that we try carrying a few Ancient Ones in our pocket when we go out to face the world, to help your energy, or to learn from them. She says that stones love to talk with us, to help us, and they want others to know that they will share their teachings with us, if we but listen.

I will wait for another day to spend some time at dog rocks listening to those ancient ones and creating art.   The sniffers were not entirely happy to be confined in the car so we did not linger. Happily they did get out briefly, on lead, at the picnic ground.

Try spending meditative time with a stone person and enhance knowledge of indigenous culture by making dreamtime story stones.

As an aside, while googling, I happened upon this wonderful local concept.

Little Habitat Heroes is a group which invites children to become little habitat heroes. The group, based in Castlemaine, aims to plant indigenous species,  reduce erosion and improve biodiversity, encouraging a return of local wildlife. They wish to foster an ongoing stewardship of the site with regular events to maintain and nurture the growing habitat.

I acknowledge the Aboriginal Traditional Owners of this land. Through their cultural traditions and stewardship, Aboriginal people maintain their connection to their ancestral lands and waters. Take the time to check out ‘Set in Stone’ for something about world famous indigenous rock art.