LISTENING TO AN OCEAN-That you can’t see for the dark- From Worzel and Godfrey

“Hey Happy”, though he never flew, Godfrey wrote words of encouragement on vomit bags, located on ferries, and train seat pockets. Here I was, boarding my plane home from Wales, over a vast ocean I could not see, or hear in the dark. I was mardy of heart, full of new stories, and stuffing the special jam sandwich Adelaide had given me for the journey, into an air-sick bag, for the desperate  hours of dawn…

Hey Happy”!, was written on the unused sack. A Godfrey message, I took it as a sign. It reminded me of his joy, in the third year of his travels, an epiphany  one cool morning picking raspberries, convinced him indeed, that that vagabond life was a wise choice. From that year, came these three stories.  

Listening to An Ocean-     Here I am, stretched on a log bunk, underneath a roof of cedar beams, waning of the moon, I light no lantern lest it lure a bat or moths into my room. The cabin is on pilings, so the crabs I hear scratching cannot climb up the smoothed bark, and I lie listening to an ocean that I can’t see for the dark.

The “come hither” beckons, every few seconds from gentlest of waves on the sand, and hear the grumble of gravel, disturbed  by the surfs flirtatious ways. That low murmur?, it is time trying to trick me. Soft as gulls feather, wafting by too quickly. I hear to, the thork and puff, of Orca whales , in the sound passing through. imagine the tremble of the salmon, about to meet the hungry moon whales off Port Renfrew.

I keep in memory a hut  on the high, remote Gouland Down. The ocean two days tramp, beech forest, muddy ground, cable swing bridge.On a ridge, at midnight feel the seas salty breath, as she meets river mouth in full moon rendezvous, parted only by demanding tide, to reunite at dawn, slip behind tides back, I heard the Tasman Sea calling, in the dark on that old, long Heaphy track.

In old man dreams I will ask, “oh sandy pathway carry me down, to the work worn streets of Westport Town. She’s a place rough and tumble, alright. Out on the dunes I will sleep,  and let my lullaby be the echo of the wild Paparoas, and  the dark, unseen Tasman’s rumble in the night.

Quinney’s Bush-   All you road weary travelers bound for the west coast, look for the farm gate  with a box nailed to the post. In peaceful Motupiko break your journey, as long ago I did, wrote Godfrey.

Ray Quinney made his river section, where it meanders through the trees, a place to camp for families, a home for hippies. Instead of rules or fees, all donations in the box went to aid The Red Cross, Arthritis, even Leprosy. All very rustic, the best shower ever, in a wee hut stand on a drain, pull one rope for hot water, one for cold, let it pour down from a boiler above. He had flying foxes, and wood for the fire, and Ray Quinney dragged the kids behind his tractor on a tire.

Sweet the Motupiko River, with deep bends, and tiny clear pools in which to bath, end of hot days picking raspberries up the valley. In the river I’d float, at evenings hush, hear distant singing from the campfires, down stream at Quinney’s Bush.

Last time I stopped by Quinney’s Bush…I knew on sight that the old man must be gone, no more box on the gate for the poor, “Manager”s sign on a new office door. Fancy new shower, his odd old contraptions gone, grid of campsites, no more hippies, no deep random grass to pitch a tent on. It was raining steady, the Motupiko wild and brown, I said a silent thank you to Ray Quinney for the memory, and hitched on to Murchison Town.

But that rain and wind will calm, turn the hills of Motupiko verdant green, and all who knew Ray Quinney, will not forget his goodness, or the medal he received, for creating Quinney’s Bush from The Queen.

And all you modern travelers , heading weary to the coast, keep an eye out for Godfrey, peddling down the Buller Gorge, listening for the sound of ocean, unseen in the dark, down that winding road that he loved most.

A Very Good Year-    Perhaps, looking back, I ought have listened to Ma and wore a sun hat more. Focused thoughts on career, than spending days fishing in roily surf, or off pier. But what a good year! I rode a pink bike with the basics of gear for life outside. I dragged us up some steep bits, down the back blocks, and beach stretches in fearless youth we’d ride.

Oh, the characters I met, like the old chap who showed me in a jar his pickled piglet. another who gave me a ride in a cattle truck, across the hot, flat plain. He handed me $10.00 and a recipe for raisin scone, when we parted cool  of evening and I peddled on alone.

I tended chickens and goats, mucked about in boats both grand, and sinking. Was first time I had my poetry called “What Utter Crap”, by a decrepit old professor, showed up at the hostel, as I was working. We rarely spoke, and the elderly grouch did not think much of me, he would fall asleep in the shops  of the small town, and we’d get a call to fetch him home, myself and  the bosses son, Brenty.
Lest I awake dead,  Ma warned me-” Do not hitch-hike a ride”.This day a car older than we are, pulled off to my side. The roof was caved in, it was missing vital parts like windows and side door. On the back seat slavered three hunting dogs, the driver shoveled rubbish from beside him to the rusted out floor.It was once a Morris Minor. The dogs amused themselves by tearing up the fellows groceries, as we hared along at 70, he told me his sad story. ” The cops took all my weaponry, but I got my sharpened screwdriver!”. This he proudly waved about,” it’s lovely”, said I, at the crossroads where  he let me out, roaring off in a cloud of oily smoke, I oft wonder what became of that young bloke…

What a very good year!, Invited to a wedding, wrote my sister, Alice of it. For the beauty of the singing, homemade guitars were played, rain hammered on the sheet metal roof of the pub, and I was asked to sit with Grandma, lest she strayed. Ancient and tiny, well into the sherry, not as daft as she pretended to be, with a twinkle in her eye, let her hair down, whipped off cardigan, and danced the night away with me.

On the pubs veranda, seeking cool, moist air, was joined by the bride, quiet by my side. We did not see the ocean for the dark, but could hear it, the bride told me how her Grandma summoned whales to the boat with stick and song. She grieved for that wisdom, lost and gone. The rain had eased, I told the proud young bride, that I felt she had the wisdom in her, time would wait, show her how to pull it from that sheltered place inside.

It is the midnight ferry sailing,  the Arahura riding laden with boxcars, and trailer loads of sheep, all quiet now, about to disembark. Farewell, never goodbye, I cry over the railing, and listen one last time, to that ocean that I can’t see for the dark…

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9 thoughts on “LISTENING TO AN OCEAN-That you can’t see for the dark- From Worzel and Godfrey

  1. Your prose is so catchy, I’ll probably think and talk like this all day,”In peaceful Motupiko break your journey, as long ago I did, wrote Godfrey.” Hmmm, I’d better watch myself. I loved your description of the ancient and tiny old lady, who was not as daft as she pretended to be, with a twinkle in her eye, let her hair down, etc., We all know someone like that, especially if we ever traveled the west coast, on a pink bike, in the summer…

    • Thanks for the read, Diane, I hope to speak in rhyme, and one day be daftest one in the home. Not much of a dancer though..mid reception, this gran escaped Godfrey, dashed out on the road, scooped a fresh killed Possum, and fed it to the publicans dog, under the table. Nobody was concerned..

  2. So much to enjoy and think about in this post, Sheila: the recurring theme of the ocean hears, but unseen; the apt metaphor of the ocean and river beginning “seas salty breath, as she meets river mouth in full moon rendezvous;” Ray Quiny, a man who made things better and people were lucky to meet; grandma and the bride; and, of course Godfrey. Also, you gave me another word: marny. I looked it up and now its mine. A delightful read this, my friend. It will be reread.

    • Thank you, Janet- This is one of my longest works- great fun. Ray Quinney was an unsung hero, a true eccentric. I envision he and Godfrey, getting up to mischief in the wild beyond.

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