Last weekend I went to the Barossa Valley with the Trust. We gathered as we have done yearly to do jobs that take time and to think together about what we are up to. It always brings thoughts of Suzanne herself too, and her life, which is now (it still seems amazing) in the past.
We stayed in Lyndoch, which is an old village, on the outskirts of the Valley with a view of beautiful hills (the Gawler Ranges). While I was there I went for a walk and discovered the local cemetery – a beautiful, peaceful spot, filled with interesting gravestones and many hints of past lives. I was particularly struck by the numbers of children and young people who are remembered there. Ernie Peake aged 14 months, Carl Kleinig only 3 months old, and Sylvia Kennedy (17) are three short lives whose only public mark on the fabric of the world we live in is these stones.
At the end of the weekend, when I left Lyndoch, I drove back towards the city on the Williamstown road and took a turn off to the left down Hoffnungsthal Road. Eventually I wound around past the flying school and the lavender farm to a windswept, low lying expanse which was the setting of a little settlement in the 1840s. It was the place where my German ancestors, the Beckers, came to when they first arrived in 1858. The whole place was flooded out in the 1860s and the church and cemetery there and all sense of housing or settlement have disappeared, almost entirely. There are markers that have been placed there commemorating the place and its people, including a list of the names of those who were buried there. This includes 3 Beckers, Johann, Rosina and Paul (I feel sure that at least two of them would have been children). It’s a beautiful place.
Of course there are many others whose echo is also here in the quiet moments of life, folk whose names we don’t know; lives we can hardly understand or imagine – not least, here, the Aboriginal presence.
It’s so chancy and amazing to be alive. What a fluke that we are all here, trying to live as well as we can, mostly blundering along, succeeding a little, failing a little. I like to reflect on those invisible unknown ones who came before us, whose brief time in this glorious universe has become part of the comet tail of the past.