new this month
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
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
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