Langwoorna

December 2, 2009

This is a short story I wrote a few years ago now; it holds all my feelings about the house where I grew up (which was called Langwoorna, hence the title).

The Boy loved that place. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t close to anywhere. But it was his; his house, his home. ‘Langwoorna’ was an old house, covered in ivy and fake brick. It sat in the middle of farmland just outside of Bendigo. The boy didn’t care though; he just cared that it wouldn’t be his for much longer. Life wouldn’t be the same without the space, the freedom, even the outside toilet.

He’d had experiences with that toilet. It was a haven of light, an islet of calm amid a sea of brooding darkness. Something was always hiding in that darkness, something evil and hideously deformed. The dash to the dunny was exhilarating; blood throbbing through his veins, drowning out the wails of tormented souls and dark beasts. But you were safe once you reached the seat and slammed the door behind.

Once dawn broke, the darkness had fled. Nothing to be heard. Nothing at all. For miles and miles all that could be seen were the winking heads of wheat, the gnarled form of wizened gum trees. The cool, crisp air of winter was entombed in the deep silence of sleep. Even the magpies slept in winter. Icicles hung from the fence like the crystalline swords of fables and tales. The boy and his sister would snap them; the crisp crack splintering the frozen air. After rains they would pull on gumboots and slosh through puddles. An old ditch out the back used to fill up with water, turning into a natural pool. Grasses became coral for the day, and the boy and his sister would play out dramas from the high seas.

Winter held no life, however. It was not until spring that the magpies started to greet the rising sun. Emerald shoots burst from the ochre earth. Days spent sitting in the sun, building cubbies and journeying on magical adventures. Tadpoles darted away from probing hands in the dam nearby. The boy would walk, contemplating the world and it’s natural beauty. He couldn’t leave this behind. The freedom, the space. His life revolved around the land and it’s seasons; they were his life. The boy couldn’t leave it all behind; spring was what he lived for.

Summer was hot and dry. The horizon would shudder with haze. Smoke choked the air; summer was the time of fires. Birds took shelter in the trees. But closer to the house, icypoles dripped and watermelon seeds hissed through the air, fired by the grubby fingers of the boy and his sister. Their dog would galumph around the yard, working itself into a panting, heaving mass of warm fur and happiness before coming to rest in the shade at the boy’s feet. Cicadas called harshly to each other from the peppercorn trees. The boy had a net on a long pole to try to catch them; the always flew away, but the game of trying was fun. The tadpoles were huge in summer. They would flit lazily form shady patch to rocky overhang. The boy and his sister would squat patiently at the water’s edge. Any sluggish creatures would be plucked squirming from the cool water. After spending a few minutes in a glass jar, they would be released to dart into the dark depths of the dam.  Summer was a time of laziness and ease. The boy couldn’t give that up; summer was the time for relaxation.

Autumn was the time of change. The leaves on the oak trees would turn golden-brown. The wind hissing through the old pines out the front. He couldn’t live without that sound. The ghostly whispering of those immense boughs. Needles snapping underfoot to release the pungent smell of resin, the trees lifeblood. In autumn the frogs would croak in the dam. Clouds would sail by in gusts and drifts. Not like the immense ramparts in movies; like wool, rather, drawn out into floating strands by the blustering wind. Autumn was the time for walking, pausing, reflecting. The boy couldn’t leave this behind; not autumn.

The boy did leave them behind though. He left to live in the city. No freedom. No space. No whispering pines.

Yet I still have winter, I still have spring. I can relax in summer and when autumn comes, I walk, I pause, and I think. I think of the space. I think of the trees. I think of the freedom I had. And I remember; I have not lost it at all: I have the freedom of the soul.

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One Response to “Langwoorna”

  1. required said

    Well articulated… reminds me of home.
    We should really round everyone up and get on with building that playground there.

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