I am always intrigued by the various ways people are remembered through their association with certain places. A couple of years ago my attention was drawn to a ten centimetre square, metal plaque on a sandstone rock face. Engraved on the plaque are the words,
‘In memory of Mary
Remembered and missed by her friends’.
This small, unobtrusive plaque is positioned beside a natural stone bench. Situated on the edge of a valley ridge, it overlooks Fitzgerald Creek and across to North Springwood on the opposite side of the valley. It is a perfect location to sit and watch the sun set over the junction of Fitzgerald Creek and Cripple Creek.
For forty years I have been regularly walking out along the fire track to what locals refer to as the Bluff. This rock viewing platform is within an easy stone’s throw of the plaque’s location. And just like I imagine with Mary, it quickly became a favourite place of mine too, within easy walking distance from home.
I do not know who Mary was and have not yet met a local who knew her. I sometimes wonder whether I ever met her myself while walking on the track during the countless times I have come there. I secretly hope that I did. I now make a point of visiting the plaque and sitting on the stone seat next to it. Mary has become part of my story at this special, shared place, just like the many indigenous people who must have come here long before Mary and me. And as with Mary, I do not know who they were, what they thought and did here. But that does not stop my wondering.
Back in 1989 I wrote the following poem after some reflection at the Bluff .
I am the hunter of long ago,
The warrior who would not go.
Sad eyes search this ancient land,
Eyes that cannot understand.
“If this all goes, then life is gone!”
No mournful cry, no dirge-like song.
To the right of the rock seat there is a tree that lurches precariously on the ledge. One of its thick roots holds fast, like a tentacle sucking the rock ledge for all it’s worth. On some days I fancy that this tree is symbolic of indigenous history since the coming of Europeans. On other days it becomes a symbol for life itself.
We used to holiday regularly on the far south coast of New South Wales at the seaside township of Tathra. I would often walk along the beach and then climb the southern headland to a vantage point that looked back along the spectacular coastline. Positioned at this spot is a wooden seat. A small, metal plaque is fixed to the back of the seat and it reads as follows:
‘Sit awhile and listen to Joe Caddy.
He had a few fishing tales to tell.
Zel and family’
And over the years I have accepted this invitation before continuing on to the highly picturesque setting for the unique structure that is Tathra Wharf.
Like Mary, I know nothing about Joe except what is engraved on the plaque on the back of the seat. But one day while sitting where Mary sat, I was reminded again of Joe. Two different but special places had brought the three of us together. And I liked the feel of that, as well as its randomness.
As both plaques indicate, Mary and Joe left behind friends and loved ones when they took their ‘final journey’. We come into the world on our own and we leave it the same way. Perhaps there can be found a certain reassurance in those simple facts, when you contemplate them for awhile.
In 1996 I wrote a poem about the Bluff. Each verse ended with the refrain, ‘I’m alone at the Bluff tonight’. Since learning of Mary’s association with this part of the local bushland, I never feel quite on my own there anymore.
In memory of Mary
Someone I never knew
In days gone by she treasured
The wonder of this view.
Across the valley’s splendour
She glimpsed the other side
Reflecting on its beauty
How Nature mystified.
© Jim Low 31 May 2015