In winter 2009 we went walking along the Larapinta Trail with an Into the Blue group. The theme of the walk was writing and meditation, led by Jan Cornall. With Jan’s inspiration we all sat around the campfire writing, basing our tales on what we had observed during the day’s walk. Here is a story I wrote inspired by the low prickly spinifex plant, and the tall graceful ghost gum.
Prickly Spinifex and the Ghost Gum
Mrs Mavis Trickett had brought herself up, largely abandoned by her disinterested mother, whose string of live-in lovers saw the girl as a nuisance. A prickly child, Mavis kept her distance from all of them, somehow anchored by her own solid centre and sheltered from false hopes by her dour outlook.
When she was sixteen she left home for good, and progressed doggedly over some years, from cleaner to manager at a seaside hotel. She never joined in any of the after-work jollity, raising her eyebrows and snorting at those who suggested she should enjoy a drink herself.
A big-boned girl, Mavis did not grow tall, and that suited her perfectly. Dressed plainly and shorter than most she was usually unnoticed, and could slip away from a group whenever she felt the need. “I like me own space,” she would say when asked.
However she did consent to marry Henry Trickett, himself quiet and unassuming. They worked together at the Pier View hotel and did not even take the evening off to celebrate their marriage. Henry was attracted to her calm sure bearing, and he knew she would never flirt with other men; indeed she usually kept even him at arm’s length.
Henry had lived all his life in the street behind the hotel. He was a tall thin man with an unusually pale complexion. Even his training as a porter had not overcome his tendency to stoop, and he seemed always about to topple forwards.
His wife was attracted to his soft voice, his gentle words, his tender concern. When he spoke, kindness like gentle rain showered over her, somehow softening her stand-offish manner.
It wasn’t until about ten years later that passion illuminated their quiet relationship. He always felt a little bit of fire would be refreshing, but somehow she remained unmoved, stolid, and phlegmatic. However time brought change, and Mrs Trickett began to glow. You could see it in her skin, somehow golden like the light in her eyes.
Her practical clothing was gradually replaced by pieces with just a touch of colour, or frivolity. She felt herself softening. Her sharp spiky words were blended now with others she had learnt from Henry. “Of course, Pet” as she answered his request for a cuddle. “Oooh, you don’t half tickle my fancy!”
Henry’s silken ways brought his wife to fruit. When their first child was born he saw her transformation, an inferno of energy in the heat of labour, and later with the babe at her breast her eyes ablaze with love.
In writing this little tale I kept the physical characteristics of the different plants in mind. How the characters appeared in a seaside hotel I have no idea! Fire is a transformative factor in the Australian landscape, hence passion and fire at the end.