What I have learned on this life’s journey? If anything I learned it best from Godfrey…Dustsceawung, he solemnly reported, when I noted it was getting deep in his, our loft spare room. “Dust, said Godfrey, was once a grand thing like the stone of a Welsh castle”. Like fine glacial silt, imagine this the dust of sod homes and cabins that the settlers built, dust ash is from wood fire twice has warmed you, it’s the fine warning wafting from the volcano…I learned from Godfrey, patience is a good thing, and much more when he took me for a weeks “Expeditioning”
He had always found home, returning full of stories and sunburn, seashells, polished beach glass and rocks. From my tongs and good tweezers, and the help of two mirrors, Godfrey could remove thorns from his own buttocks.
“Expeditioning, as taught by Godfrey- “Wear your brown muddy boots, on the steep bits never trust your life to foliage or roots”We headed off, into the coastal fog zone, behind damp right away, sliding down the track of mud and over sandstone.
“Put on stoutest under things, beware where you sit and rest for nettle stings”. The foot of the cliff was thick with Thimble Berries, warm for us to gorge, we clambered over dunes, Godfrey said we sought an old friend, “son of son of son of the sand spit, George.
My vagabond made fine use of his skills in the gypsy craft. For us to cross the estuary, up the big river we built us a raft. From the raincoat he never wore, (it made him perspire), elastic pulled from his drawers and an old rubber tire. It bobbled a tad as I crawled aboard, used our cooler lid as a paddle, his kilt for a sail, an old beer sign worked for a mast, it was floating past.
I paddled and smiled, and waved like the Queen Mum, as folks pointed from fast moving cars on the bridge and the highway above. A goods train rolled slow, two crew from a freight wagon tipped hats and wiped sweaty brows, we journeyed up river till turn of the tide, and camped on a grassy bend, twixt two herds of milk cows.
“Cow paths zig, said Godfrey, cows wander at will with a zag in the middle, for meditative pause, a drink or a piddle”. “Expeditioning”- night so quiet we could hear the cow’s stomachs gurgling. Godfrey wrapped thrice round in kilt and purple blanket, dreamed in warm cocoon, I sat up late by the fire as moon cradled moon.
Morning coffee, Eggy toast, and down the coast over nasty, straddled dead tree Godfrey called “The Nancy Log”, laughing at me. I said not a thing, we were Expeditioning. “Beware the posh house here of very, very bad Verne Bumb”. Mr Bumb looks down lowly on us vagabond type, I found out when I asked him once, “May I feel your plums?”. Only wanted to know if they were ripe…
“Yet Miss Cord -Green, other end will give us a cold drink, and let us wash our feet in her sink” …”the feral horses roaming here are loathed by old Verne Bumb, kids still ride horseback to school days they can catch one”. We were seeking son of the sand spit George, and found him Mystic End, near the waterfall, on the steps of a house made of driftwood, deep in cedar shade. We found George the younger, the elder down in the city, selling the carvings he made”.
“The day we headed home, not even the #50 bus would stop, to let us inside so dusty were we”. Picked up hitching, in a van full of wet dogs was a wonderful thing…for it was joy I learned from Godfrey- “Serendipitous Expeditioning”.
When Godfrey left, it was a long time till I hiked again, solitary, bereft, eventually I’d go for a day, catch the #50 bus, out past the ferry terminus, or by car west to “Whiffen” or “Goose” spit.( “Geese do not spit, but they oft Whiffen at me” once noted Godfrey) Back then the spit was divided into an island at high tide,on the eastern tip stood a lighthouse where he camped, sheltered from the wind by it’s side.
Red cheeked I was, from spray rime through winter’s bitterness, the tussell that is spring, indifferent late summer we called “Fog-aust”. No one worried over me, when I stayed out autumn nights below that lighthouse. I met the loners, the coast dwellers who recalled Godfrey, met The Digger, and his Wise Woman who gave me lettuce and zucchini….finally met George the Carver, son of the son of the sailor and sand spit, hauling crab trap from the sea..”.Dustsceawung”…knew one day would use his word in a story…