I’ll tell you a story … A story of two lovers of vastly different lifestyles, of an age when one would never expect such a event to ever again enter one’s life … Two people from that older generation that we had come to think of as staid, conservative and settled … emotions suppressed under an obligation of domestic duty. Our two lovers, for that is what they did become and they did forge a new life together for the rest of their lives … were in their mid-fifties, neither were of what we would call; “The beautiful people” … nor given to extravagant lifestyles … in short: Plain, everyday people … but do not those same people, those “plain people” desire, dream, want for that elusive satisfaction denied in a mundane lifestyle … will the mystery and pleasure of love be lost in the duty of domesticity?
I knew them well. I am a builder. I built the house for the people in this story a long, long time ago, and that building over several months allowed me to learn about the personalities of my customers. I lived in the district as I built the house, so I also was able to study other people and trades as they came and went on the farm site. I met and was known to the protagonists of the tale … how they fell in love is their own private concern, I can only relate what I learned from observation and what was divulged to me in quiet conversations at a later date.
Then, a couple of years ago, I was asked to attend as an observer, a workshop on alternative crops for arid area farming. It was to be held in the district where the story below is based. There, I asked a couple of local farmers if they had heard of the couple since. Well, it seems that after twenty five or so years away farming in another state, they had returned in their old age to the district … I did not enquire any deeper into their circumstance … nor health … I would wonder if they were still “of this world“ now.
The Murray Mallee is a vast area … it is sparsely populated and the farms of huge acreage. The loneliness of those places can consume a person and create a hunger for company as ravenous as the real hunger of a starving refugee! So too can the hunger for love haunt and drive a person to seek comfort in a lover’s embrace … so it was for our two lovers in this story.
It was evening, the sky had darkened to a voluminous pitch with the encroaching night. Celia strolled out to the home paddock windmill to get away from the house and her grumpy husband. She walked out over the gibbered paddock to see the approaching storm. There is a wildness within thunderstorms that both frighten and thrill, and Celia liked to feel that release of the power within the storm. The cool wind slipped about her arms as she stood at the base of the windmill-pump and listened to its creaking and groaning. She climbed the ladder to the top of the frame and gazed out over the purpling, endless mallee scrub.
The rumbling of thunder made her catch her breath a little and suddenly two simultaneous stabs of lightning made her heart jump! jump! with their frightening power and their following thunder thrilled her senses! She felt so insignificant in the entire scheme of the world around her, so powerless, as if swept along a frightening rapid river. All her life seemed to be a series of decisions made for her outside of her control, outside of her wants and considerations: Her education, her marriage, her domesticity and now, the farm.
Lightning struck closer now and the cracks of thunder positively scared her and she climbed back down the ladder just as the first spits of rain dappled onto the dry paddock. She shook her hair as she ran to the house. It was so refreshing, the rain, that wet-hay smell that comes with that first wash of rain after a dry spell in the mallee … life reborn!
“Celia … Celia,” Gilbert Adamson called impatiently from the interior of the house.
“Coming, coming,” cried Celia with weary frustration.
The Exile of Celia Adamson
“That which is done out of love takes place beyond good and evil.” (Nietzche, Being and Niceness).
One day, many years ago, when Celia was in her late teens, nearing twenty, her mother came into the lounge-room and saw Celia reading a book. She moved over and with her index finger tilted the book back to read the title:
“Carmen and Calomba,” she read out softly. She knew the stories, she had read them herself as a young woman.
“Yes,” said Celia.” I found it in the bookshelf, it’s quite interesting!” she spoke enthusiastically.
Celia’s mother dropped her hands down and clasped them together in front of her skirt. She gazed down at her daughter and sighed and went over to the bookshelf. After a quick perusal she picked out a small Gideon’s Bible that had fallen into her ownership years before. She moved back over to Celia with a wry smile on her face and with index finger and thumb, as though picking fluff off some material, plucked “Carmen and Calomba” out of Celia’s hands and replaced it with the stern lessons of the Bible.
“It would do better with you, my young lady, to learn patience and fidelity through the Bible rather than whoring and conniving through literature. One will serve you well for marriage while the other … well … it can serve you, that I won’t deny … but it can also hurt you more than you can realise.” Her mother’s eyes softened here a little, for she could already see her daughter’s weaknesses and for all their apparent simplicity to their children, a parent has the opportunity to watch the child grow in both body and personality. So much did her mother presume to know of her daughter and so much was she dominant in that relationship, that when told of Gilbert Adamson’s proposal of marriage, she set her lips in a determined smile and without so much as a serious discussion with Celia set about organising the wedding arrangements. Celia, like it or not, was betrothed.
What nature had denied Celia Adamson in physical beauty, she had endowed with adaptability. Celia Adamson grew to be a very capable person. She ran “Flora Downs” station with all the expertise of a seasoned farmer and when they lived in the city had raised three children to boot! As per beauty, well, any sensible man will deny there is such a thing as a “plain woman” … there’s a certain mystique as any mature man would know, surrounding what foolish persons call “plain” women, perhaps from those secluded years of bashfulness as a teenager, when a cutting remark can hurt so much, the downcast eyes in company, that shy tone of voice and the with-drawn shying away from crowds all combined, it seems to create an attractive aura of personal mystique and inner strength that can compete on any platform with physical beauty.
Gilbert Adamson nurtured the illusion that farming was a profitable and healthy lifestyle. This illusion grew from the childhood miss-perception of a family tale of a forefather back several generations who had been a successful farmer before moving to the city to try his hand at commerce, which duly failed miserably and therefore the family belief that “he should’ve stuck to farming, he was successful at that!” So Gilbert Adamson wanted to be a farmer. After serving his apprenticeship to industry for twenty years in managing a cement factory, he bought a farm in the mallee district of Callaran. When the last of their children left home so did they.
He worked the farm part-time for a number of years till they set up the farmhouse, then they sold the house in the city and moved lock, stock and barrel to the mallee to run the farm full-time. There is an old Italian saying: “When you have achieved your goal in life, beware, for death is not far behind!” Gilbert had reached his goal with the farm and no sooner had he harvested his second season of grain there than he was struck down with his first heart attack … this in the days before the surgical heart “by-pass” was freely available.
Celia, after a time of adjustment to her husband’s stricken state, took over the running of the farm. Although somewhat incapacitated, Gilbert would advise on schedules of fertilising and cropping and shearing etc. But Celia would hire the labour, arrange the servicing of the farm machinery, the care of the livestock and a hundred and one other things necessary in running the farm. It was such a necessity that brought her to meet, for the first time, the windmill mechanic, Jean Gameau.
Jean Gameau was one of those congenial Frenchmen who appear now and then in the most remote areas of Australia with a fragile smile and an endearing personality that seems to adjust to the hardships of that area with fatalistic aplomb. As familiar with the landscape as though that desert township street was the Champs Elysee that he was strolling down!
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