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hedges



Now...there’s acertain age - strong enough to climb well, yet light enough to alight upon supports that will soon enough refuse to bear the weight. This, for most, is the golden age of tree climbing...but, for me, it was hedges.

The larger trees at home were, without exception, unfriendly to climbers - even where their lower limbs were accessible. But, then...there was still Malmsbury...

My grandparents lived on a farm - up in the Victorian midlands - where the farmhouse, kitchen garden, chook run & such was bounded about by great hedges. We’d go up there frequently of a weekend, when I was a kid, and - once - I ascended these...the master of all I surveyed. My sister tried - and failed - exhilarating me, who was heartily sick of her bullying. But this, I then realized, meant that mine was a fleeting pleasure, soon to be outgrown.

So, I savoured it...

Asolo circumnavigation was - clearly - the task at hand. Admittedly, I did have to descend a few times - purely to cross gaps unsafe to jump - but, I persevered - the Magellan of his day...and made the epic journey w/nothing but some scratches to show.

Then, I decided to do it again.

And, second time around, I stayed for the view...

The farmhouse was perched upon a hillock, like most in this landscape that so resembled Tolkein’s Shire - albeit shorn of smials -  and, from here I could see everything...the woolshed, yards, and the creek where I chased frogs, the hills where we went mushrooming, the river below - fringed w/dense groves of trees - and the uplands rising to the highway, where my grandfather was busily fighting thistles...oblivious to we Mac Kinnon’s proudly Scottish heritage. Closer, there was my grandfather’s magnificent junk pile - the kind of rusty assemblage of old agricultural machinery that no self-respecting farmer lacked in those days...most of it, indeed, more rust than machinery, but not to be thrown out, nonetheless...

The chook run - filled w/birds far too stupid to play with - was right below my feet...and, I could see the sheep scattered across the hills, although their signs - darkly abundant & pungent balls, like badly-made marbles for smaller hands - were lost in the distance. The cattle, too, were there below on the river flats, and - squinting carefully - I could just make out their disfiguring splashes, which gradually encrusted until they hardened during summer into rock-hard scats.

We never got close to the cattle - being warned of their dangerous moods - and so, oddly enough, my main memory of them as a child is of their droppings, left behind in those paddocks they had abandoned...an unsightly mosaic of minor explosions - and richly disgusting if fresh or disturbed, unlike the neat output of their fellow inhabitants.

The dogs, too, were there - just near the gate -  but these were working animals, far too dangerous to play with, that I always eyed with some trepidation...

Which, was about the time I got caught.

Now, hedges are not built for such excursions - and there was now a profuse scattering of minor debris surrounding the whole encampment - so I’m not at all surprised I was cut somewhat short. But still, as I went in to bathe - scolded but not punished - into that confusing hodge-podge of a house I so loved...I knew something of this would stay with me, even to this day...

Because - for one ecstatic & extended moment - I had held it all...as if in the palm of my hand...



John Henry Calvinist