I'm re-posting these old 2013 posts for Tom, a man with the voice of a Folk-singer, the heart of a Poet and the soul of an Aussie. May the ancestral Irish-Aussie pioneering spirit stir again....
On our recent trip to Australia I found myself beguiled by roads. We went for a family reunion in the little country town of Talbot. My great-grandfather opened one of the first Pubs in the gold-fields during the great Rushes of the 1850’s, and our family has much history there. Talbot’s glory-days are over. Thousands of gold-fevered immigrants, hundreds of pubs, scores of banks are now reduced to a sleepy one pub, one bank, and a station where trains never stop. But somehow its history still hangs in the dusty air.
I went walking. The roads out of town, straight to the horizon as only roads in a big country can be, seized my imagination with their symbolism.
We all walk life’s road, sometimes a hard road, sometimes a road to success, sometimes encountering a crossroad and the need to make choices.
Here are some of the roads which captivated me. (Click to enlarge)
This is Talbot’s OXFORD ST
Ghostly throngs and the roar of bygone days...?
And this is one of Talbot’s many
BEST KEPT STREET 2008 2009
A triumph of aspiration.
The sign on this one says :
Road Subject to Dust. SLOW DOWN.
Advisable, particularly as it led only to the town dump.
For a broader scene, these views of the surrounding country reveal its current riches: wide open spaces, the beauty of the tall fragrant gums, and a tree full of cockatoos performing the dawn chorus (an unearthly raucous cacophony that only a digger with ears full of sand could possibly sleep through.)
The defining characteristic of roads is that they are linear, unlike field, sea or sky. They are routes for travel, usually goal-directed. You expect to get somewhere on a road, even if to the wrong place. So they are a metaphor for direction and movement. I think they also imply choice, and they can be long, far longer than you realise when you set out.
I think of Carlos Castaneda's description of the impeccable warrior walking the road to Ixtlan, still walking, because he would never reach Ixtlan. Passionate, balancing the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man in order to survive the path of knowledge, without familiar landmarks, among phantom travellers, and to keep on walking. His eyes were clear and peaceful.
And I think of myself walking the deserted Woodstock Road in the small hours long ago, the pools of streetlight, the autumn trees, knowing the road would go on into the future and I must walk it, every step. For in those moments my soul wanted to die, and the road stretched on ahead. I saw myself, forty years hence, looking back through years of light and shade to that moment, glad perhaps that I was still there to look back. And I am, and it is just exactly as I foresaw in my young anguish. I am still walking the Woodstock Road through the lamplight and the leaves, looking back and looking forward.
I still see it stretching before me, in some other dimension at the edge of vision; the heart's eye holds it there steadily. The power of the road, and the power of metaphor to capture the intangible and real and keep it through time, never diminishing in its impact and force. For me the road to Ixtlan and the Woodstock road merged, potent all these years. It is doing its work in silence.