To my dearest Huon Valley,
I confess I’d only heard of you once or twice before, in snatches of text or the spoken word and usually in some context with apples. I imagined old trucks and apple boxes, woollen jumpers and men with pipes and hats, flannel shirts and rough hands blistered by splinters. Of woman, steeled by hard work, of sweet pies and spiced apple sauce to accompany the Sunday roast. Of orchard tending, raking carpets of russet Sturmers for the cider presses, the cool stores humming with the cloying aroma of crushed juice.
But I’ve come to learn you are much more than this. My thoughts of you are just reverberations of a time when you were alive with the industry of apples, sadly a time no more.
Yet I find your orchards of old, neglected and gnarled apple trees beautiful in a macabre sort of way. Twisting as if in anguish toward yet another season of torment where fruit will disgorge from limbs and hang, unpicked, inviting an aching mastitis of the branch and frozen in an agonising wait for the relief of Autumn.
Where the apple is your enduring spirit, the many waterways, tributaries creeks, streams and of course your mighty river are your arteries and veins and with each throb, a valley moment sharply focuses but for a second.
I close my eyes and following your coastline and verdant hills in my minds eyes is like languidly running my hands over your waist, little by little over your hips and coming to rest, cupping your glorious curves, your arcs and crevices familiar and yet alluring, promising much to the desirous, inquisitive and persistent enquirer.
Sheds of wood, sheds of iron, bleached or rusting, sentinels standing guard, sprout from you like points on a weathered map or like ancient runes.
White capped mountains, those dark glacial curtains in the distance, in one direction, separating you from the city beyond and in the other direction, a wild untameable landscape threatens to reclaim the hard fought order of your paddocks, fields and orchards.
You have left an indelible mark on me now, how could I ever go back to the linear boundaries of the quarter acre metropolitan confine? You have shown me that life is too short to live somewhere ugly and I’m glad I listened to my instincts when I flew here all those years ago and something stirred inside me as I drove over Vince’s Saddle and descended into your embrace. Something felt right about being here, being with you.
I remind myself of this when in moments that I’m distracted or when I’m mired in small mindedness, a soothing salve for me is to drive and drive I do.
I’ll self medicate with what ends up as an overdose of aural and visual stimulation as I take in aspects of your splendour and I usually end up at the same spot, almost spent, in a post coital flush of sorts.
From the crest of Silverhill, near where I live, I gaze across the river as the cold blue chill of early evening descends on the Huon River, a chorus of smoke plumes, curling skyward from the hearths of many homes all singing from the same Winter songbook. I take a huge lungful of air and regard the expanse before me.
I feel lucky, my glass is half full, the quietness around me like a coat but my heart is making a racket in my chest that I’m sure everyone can hear.
I’m still in love with you, Huon Valley.