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.

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?

Treasure Hunting in Blanket Gully Road

Ochre was the most important painting material used traditionally by Aboriginal people. It is mined from particular sites and is a crumbly to hard rock heavily coloured by iron oxide. The source material was traded extensively across Australia in the past, with some material traveling many hundreds or even thousands of kilometres from where it was mined to where it was used. It comes in a variety of colours from pale yellow to dark reddish-brown.

Follow Blanket Gully Road until it comes to a T intersection and you enter a very different world from the new housing estate, on the outskirts of Campbells Creek, that you pass to get here. This is a corner of the world full of stones, ochres and pigments. It is not the ideal place for the dog or the little people but it is a surreal landscape full of treasure for the artist.

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.

Remembering Old Roadside Stops

When travelling long distances which is common in Australia (given the size and isolation of the country) sometimes it’s best just to pull over and have a rest.

 

While waiting for Godot I decided to head out and wander up to Leaganook (Mt Alexander). Coming back on the old highway between Harcourt and Taradale I came across one of those old road stops, in the style that I remember from trips to Melbourne with my parents from Gippsland. It was a long trip to Melbourne and Mum had invariably packed a thermos and her tin with the fruit cake we loved.

As I wandered about a flood of memories rose! I also remembered those carefree days in the early sixties when my parents had their first portable bar-b-que and we stopped at places like this picnic ground at Leanganook  on the slopes of Mt Alexander (Leanganook). I think we mainly had sausages wrapped in white bread with tomato sauce, but somehow it tasted so much better than sausages cooked on the wood burning fire, or under one of the earliest portable, electric cookers at home. Life changed for Mum when she afforded that household luxury.

When I take people out on my mystery writing/art making tours I will remember to include time at places like this.

Winter on Mt Franklin (Lalgambook)

Mt Franklin, known as Lalgambook to the Dja Dja Warrung people, is a small volcanic crater that offers ideal place for a picnic set amongst plantings of huge conifers and deciduous trees that create an exotic atmosphere. It offers a fine example of a breached scoria cone. The breach, through which the road now enters the crater, is thought to have been caused by a flow of lava breaking through the crater rim. Lava from Mount Franklin and other volcanoes in the area filled valleys and buried the gold bearing streams that became the renowned ‘deep leads’ of the gold mining era.

 

 

Since I walked away from the city and the life I had known, Mount Franklin has become my point of reference. Up close its size belies its presence on the landscape. It continues to be a marker for me!

Inside the crater of this ancient volcano, once described as a hellish place, it was cold and damp. Other than a solitary camper, huddled for warmth over a fire, we had the place to ourselves. No doubt because pagans have a gathering here, and dare to have a good time, rumours abound about witches inhabiting this place. Bollock to such naysayers! Today I found only welcoming nature spirits, beckoning me to come back, telling me that it is now an idyllic place to retreat to and decompress after a build up of minor annoyances.

Dig out the frisbee, pack a picnic, pile the kids in the car and head out for a nature fix. Allow 30 min max to get to Mt Franklin from Castlemaine. And do pop into the nearby Chocolate Mill for a warm hot chocolate and to replenish the stash you hide from those kids!