Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: SEA CHANGE or TREE CHANGE (07/13/17)
- TITLE: Fifty-Two Weekends, and a Second Mile.
By Noel Mitaxa
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She briefly allowed a murmur of approval to punctuate her reverie. For it wasn’t just what they were leaving behind; it was what was about to open for them. And for their new community.
Fifty-two consecutive, hectic weekends and any vacations had seen them high-tailing out of their downtown apartment to cruise the two hours to their dreamland; a forested sixty acres that stood out against mile after mile of featureless wheat farms. Friends visiting over long weekends had rolled up their sleeves to create masses of mud bricks and pressed-earth blocks; hoisted the massive rough-hewn ceiling beams and aligned the huge double-glazed windows and skylights to maximise natural light within their thick, self-insulating walls as their house took shape among the trees.
“Wish we could do something like this!” A summary of friends’ conversations during working bees, barbecue meals and in Sunday late-afternoon packing up as everyone farewelled this unfolding dream to head back to town. And who knows how many of their friends would lift their sights to embrace a similar dream over however many years spread out before them?
For these coming years would be packed with day or weekend seminars or small-group camps to explore dreams of sustainability. Dreams fed by getting up close and personal with nature – firstly recognising the vagaries of its seasons and then learning to predict the variations by observing how birds and animals undertook their own individual and mutual preparation. All packaged in the fragrance of the towering trees and lush undergrowth.
For fifty-two weekends, they had mostly by-passed this small general store – was it run by a lady called Shirley? - in their haste to reach their future home. But that was about to change.
Now, having moved onto their base, they wanted to get to know the locals and launch themselves into this farming community. What they could not produce themselves, they would happily buy at the store – even if its range or prices could not match what the city could offer. And everybody who booked in for their seminars would also buy food and fuel, and give the local economy a shot in the arm.
A sudden sense of uneasiness briefly chilled Helen's inner glow. Country folks’ reputation for sticking together in tough times was legendary, but suspicion of strangers also entered the picture. Would she and Jim be welcomed? Should they have made more of an effort to get to know them before this?
Too late to wonder about that now Helen, she thought, as they stepped in through the door.
A chorus of welcomes erupted from a grinning bunch of locals, as Jim and Helen found themselves fast-tracked onto their course in Country Life 101.
“We parked everybody behind the store,” Shirley explained, “because we wanted to surprise you when you arrived. Old Dave here lives on the farm next to your new home, and we knew when you would get here. He’s kept an eye on your arrival and departure times over the last twelve months. Haven’t you Dave?” she added, gently nudging his ribs with her elbow.
A cacophony of questions followed. Did Jim play any sport?
The school enrolment was dropping - did they have any kids?
Was Helen coming to the women’s association meeting on Wednesday?
Did she have any recipes for the community cook book?
But then Dave called for silence. Clearing his throat, he reached out and grabbed Jim firmly by the hand.
“We want to welcome you to our district, and you’ll find that we like to support each other without making any big fuss about it.
"I’ve told everybody how much I’ve admired all the work you’ve put in to build your house, and it’s been terrific to see how your friends have helped you. Mud brick houses are a bit lost on us, but we know a lot about farming.
“So, since you city folks don’t know much about farming, we decided to give you a hand. You don’t have to thank us, but we all got together to ring-bark all your trees and make it easier to clear your land.
Now you can become farmers like the rest of us!”
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