So here I am in my old stomping ground-the Bega Valley on the spectacular Far South Coast of New South Wales-driving around giving author talks, interviews and promoting my recently published memoir, Hippy Days, Arabian Nights.
This is where, after dropping out of art school in 1975, I arrived, four years later, starry-eyed and wet behind the ears with big plans and grand dreams of getting back to nature and becoming totally self-sufficient. This is where, for nearly three decades, I lived, worked and honed my life skills. Where I loved, laughed and cried; bled, struggled and triumphed. Where I made friends and mistakes. It was here I grew from a naïve and idealistic girl into a resilient, resourceful and resolute woman. Here, I became a mother and then an artist.
I know every bend in the road - every misty rural vista, every spotted gum, sheoak and tea tree studded forest, every pristine beach of sapphire blue sea and golden sand - a memory attached to each metre of winding dirt track, sleepy side street and strip of bitumen highway. There's the farm where we bought our goat Honey, Wallagoot Lake where my canoe capsized and I almost drowned, the Bega District Hospital where my daughter was born, the turnoff to Aragunnu Beach where we'd spend the Christmas holidays camping among the paperbarks, frolicking in the waves and feasting on barbecued abalone. But I don't recognise many of the locals. Just a few friendly and familiar faces - all of us a little wrinkled, pudgy and greyed around the edges. Old hippies who came out of the woodwork to have a good laugh and listen to me reminisce about our wild, wonderful and wacky baccy past. The mud we puddled, the wool we spun, the grain we ground and the fruit we preserved in glass bottles. So much blood, sweat and tears under the bridge. It's been seventeen years since I left the Bega Valley but the memories are as fresh as a wholemeal loaf pulled from a wood burning stove!
Excerpt from Hippy Days, Arabian Nights:
'My hippy days had come to an end. I didn’t have so much as a pot plant to fertilise or a goldfish to feed. I stopped scanning the sky for clouds or wondering if it was good weather for drying fruit. I missed the smell of the bush, the magpies yodelling and
kookaburras cackling at dawn;
ripping an ear of corn from the stalk and nibbling it moments later, piping hot and dripping with melted butter. I missed bumping into people I knew down the street, the warm ache in my limbs after a strenuous day of weeding and digging. I longed for Billie the fox terrier falling over backwards to greet me when I got home. There’d be no more sun-ripened apricots plucked from the tree or sweet, eucalypt-tainted rain water drunk from the old tin mug at the tank. Never again would I need to be on the look out for kangaroos dashing in front of the car as I drove down Warrigal Range Road or have to pick up a bale of hay and a bag of chook pellets from the stock feed depot in Bega. Instead, my world became populated with grim-faced strangers, the sound of sirens in the night, trams dinging and rattling throughout the day; floury apples, tasteless tomatoes; garrulous neighbours living above and below. But then again, I could shop for trendy clothes, see the latest movie release and visit a gallery whenever I chose. I began to feel the possibility of loving again, of living my new life to the full. But some part of my hippy heart would always be in the veggie garden–standing at dusk with a hose in my hand, listening to the stringy barks rustle in the breeze and watching as the purple shadows deepened over Mumbulla Mountain.'
Some of my old paintings of the Bega Valley
Author talk: Tura Marrang Library and Community Centre
Friday 12 May, 10:30am-11:30am. 20 people, 10 books sold.
Author: Bermagui Community Centre
Saturday 13 May, 10:30am-11:30am. 36 people - standing room only! 15 books sold
Bookshops and Libraries in the area - 28 books sold or in stock.
Next stop - Sydney
Your intrepid little Aussie author,
Follow Katherine on Twitter @katherineboland
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View her artwork at http://www.katherineboland.com
Find out more about Hippy Days, Arabian Nights at http://www.katherineboland-author.com