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.

A Window to the Past

A graveyard can be a great place to explore local history and genealogy, or just take a peaceful late winter walk. So let’s grab our coats and cameras and head out to the nearest cemetery to learn about local history!
How to Explore a Graveyard

In a piece called Travel With a Purpose Angela Dollar (Broderick) nostalgically recalls her grandma taking her to cemeteries to play. She recalls how they would “visit our favorite ‘spirits’, reading their birth and death dates on their head stones and making up stories about what their lives had been like living in Washougal, WA way back when.”

It is a semester break from intense university study and while I have been Waiting For Godot to shed some light on how to structure my days,  I have taken to visiting neighbouring cemeteries.  My son and I have fond memories of exploring the Montparnasse Cemetery when we met up in Paris, respectfully sitting by the tombstone of Jean Paul Satre, writing.

Pennyweight Cemetery, here in Castlemaine, is a favourite. It tells a poignant story of Gold Fever Grief. I love the serene Vaughan Cemetery. When I visited recently I took time to remember Margaret Scott.

So you can imagine my delight when I finally found the Fryerstown cemetery. A Cemetery may not be on everyone’s list of top 10 places to visit but this one is particularly special. I thought that it would be a great place to take morning or afternoon tea in a picnic basket. It was there that I wrote the Saddest Lines to mark the tragic deaths of Annie and Henry Clifton.

Angela Dollar’s grandma had a brilliant way of entertaining her grandchildren. In the process she developed their love of story and helped them connect with nature. Apart from the potential of photography   a cemetery is the perfect place to write or draw inspiration for art. My iPhone photos may not be anything spectacular but each visit nurtures a part of me.

For my part I took the time to view the greening that can come from looking in a rear vision mirror.

 

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.

Mixing with Trees

“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes

Clearly Enid Blyton’s ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ changed me forever. I loved the enchantment of it all. When I was teaching I often used the metaphor of tree roots, particularly with younger students, to convey the notion of drawing from deep within. In writing sessions I have people sit outside with a tree for at least half an hour, amble down amongst the roots and write or draw stream of consciousness thoughts.

There is much to learned about creativity, resilience and self healing from trees! Trees are super co-operators! Gather together the art and writing supplies and get out amid a stand of trees. Check out the Golden Seed Grove for some inspiration. View the Tree of Contemplative practice; meditate by sitting in the arms of a tree! Go out and take the time to listen to what the trees have to tell you.

Resolve to take action to protect these special tree people! Draw attention to the need to save old growth forest and promote regeneration.

In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families- tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland. After you have read The Hidden Life of Trees, a walk in the woods will never be the same again.

Learn about the astonishing way trees communicate.

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!

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.

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!