The Hands that Rock the Cradle

I have a daughter. Although I am a new parent (she is only 10 months old) I am like the rest of you, reeling from the news of another shooting, another disaster in a public school. What if it had been my child? What if it had been one of my sisters who was killed? What would I feel?

I think it is most natural in times of grief to hunt for blame. Humanity has been wired this way, I don’t know why. If there is no earthly place to put our blame, we send it up to God.

But what if it is not God that we should be blaming, or other people? What if the answer lies in our own hearts, in what we teach our children?

The term “social justice warriors” has been used to refer to people who are relentless for social change. Change is imminent, they say, and if there are enough protests and backlashes on social media, the world will change. I disagree. William Ross Wallace wrote a poem that included the lines, “For the hand that rocks the cradle

Is the hand that rules the world.”

It was true in the 1800s, it is still true today. What if our greatest power to change the world was in quiet hands, rocking our children to sleep, teaching them love, responsibility and courage?

 

The world around us, all of modern culture, sends the message that children should be given free rein to express themselves completely, that they are the sovereigns of their own upbringing.

For instance, in popular Disney movies, it is always the parent who stands in the way of the child’s dreams and aspirations. Parents are regarded as killjoys who don’t know better. They mean well, but they just don’t know or understand their children, and so they’re in the way. What a prevalent message this must be in order for it to be present in even childrens’ movies!

Yet the Bible specifically says in Proverbs 22:6

6 Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

This speaks to action on the parents’ part. Training is deliberate, not accidental. If we let children go their own way, where will they go? Their feet run swiftly to wrong.

I am amazed that at the tender age of 10 months, my daughter already possesses a desire to do things she knows she’s not supposed to. We have a rule in our house: No chewing on cords. It seems simple, but it’s hard for her to learn. Chewing on a cord will earn you a flick on the fingers, and a firm “No.”

Yet my ten-month-old, unable to walk on her own, will look toward one of us to see if we are watching, as she heads toward the cord. She knows she is in the wrong, because she will drop it if one of us looks her way. Sometimes she even smiles, thinking she is not caught.

Watching this, it has been confirmed in my mind that people are born with the seeds of sin. They are in our DNA from the beginning. Children don’t need any teaching to cause them to do wrong, they need teaching to cause them to do right.

It is these hands, shaping the child, rocking the cradle, that cause the greatest change. In my optimistic heart, I pray that when my children leave this house they will know love and how to love, how to show compassion to others and encourage the beaten down. But I also pray they will be ready for the war that is already staged over their soul.

I want them to know that there is evil in the world, and how to fight it. I want them to know the clear lines between truth and lies, and not be bought by the gray that stretches between. I don’t want them to listen to their hearts as Disney preaches, I want them to listen to the words of God, who doesn’t change them to fit the times.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

I want to raise up men and women, not children.

My children, whether they choose to own guns or not, will know how to operate one. Whether they have to fight or not, they will know how.

They will have weapons, among them the word, For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

In this world, the greatest danger is the loss of our souls. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell,”(Matthew 10:28) and yet public prayer is discouraged in schools.

This is why the shooting happened. It happened not because he had a gun (it was the tool he chose), but because he had evil in his heart. No matter how much we claim that the NRA is to blame because it stands in the way of “common sense gun laws” no matter how much we admonish lawmakers for not passing stricter regulations, no matter how much we bash high capacity magazines for the damage they do, the problem lies only in the hearts of men, in their DNA, and it cannot be rooted out by regulation.

It turns out the problem can only be trained out of us by God, and his use of the hands that rock the cradle.

 

 

The New One

There were bets placed on you, you know.

Most people thought you were going to be a boy, because of how I “carried” you. Long and lean, finally my extra-long torso was good for something besides making regular shirts look like crop tops. It was sort of a secret, we didn’t tell anyone about you on Facebook. “Let them figure it out,” we said. Ethan and I thought it would be fun if we just showed up at church with a baby one day.

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You were due on April 4th. Of course, there was a lot of debate about whether that was your real due date, because of a very late ultrasound, and your mother spent several sleepless nights worrying about whether they would “let” April 4th be your due date.

You were meant to be born in Montana. I was. Most of your aunts were. Montana is a good place to be born. We had it all picked out: It was a tiny gray house on 39th st, surrounded by big gray apartment buildings. It was called the Birth Center, and it was staffed by lovely liberal nurses and midwives.

I made them afraid. The first time we went in there, they asked, “Are you thinking about becoming pregnant?” I was already 22 weeks along. Apparently most people don’t wait that long to start prenatal visits.

But I’d felt fine. Well, not fine. I’d been working outside a lot, and between the bouts of morning sickness and buckets of ginger, I’d felt fine. Besides, we were busy. When I first thought of it, I was up on the range, leading my little blond mare down a steep hillside, choking on the dust of over a hundred head of yearlings, and I thought, “You know, I feel a lot more tired than normal. I feel a little sick. Those campfire sausages we ate last night didn’t taste that good. I wonder–.”

So we went to the Birth Center. We met Jeanne and Audrey and Cathy and Liz. I drank a horrible drink that was sugar and water, so I could see if I had gestational diabetes (if I didn’t, I do now!). I got myself pricked for you, which is saying a lot. Then Ethan and I, naive as we were, got slammed with it: the questions.

What did we want to do about this shot, or this antibiotic? Did we want to give it to you when you came, or did we want me to get the vaccine before you were born? Which hospital should we register at in case things went wrong? How would we get to Missoula in time? How long would we stay? There were papers to sign and social security numbers to remember. We were very grateful we were married, because that made things simpler.

I went with a friend shopping for maternity clothes. I said goodbye to the size of wranglers I had worn since I was fifteen. I got out the empire waist shirts I’d bought back when they were cool.

Three and a half months!

Three and a half months!

There were some hard times. On a car ride home from Boise I threw up four times. And I thought, as I was throwing up for the fourth time along highway 93, in the dark in the sagebrush, “This is as low as a woman can go.” After that we swore off Thai and all other ethnic food.

It started to be more worth it when I felt you move. At first it was just a flutter, like a moth in a jar, mostly while I was sitting. I’d go completely still and smile. After a while it became more like a shudder, as you bounced off the walls. There were kicks, and hiccups. Finally we began to feel limbs, as a heel or hand of yours would wrinkle the surface. You liked to move at night, when I was trying to sleep.

The more real you became, the more determined I was to keep you safe. I did fall down the stairs once, on one of my nightly visits to the bathroom (there were many). I went down hard and the thud jarred Ethan awake. He came down quickly, scared, and I was scared enough that there were tears in my eyes. But I was all right, I had just landed on my back. We hugged each other shakily and he told me to be more careful.

I had to stop carrying things for you. I’d always prided myself on being strong, on being able to heave a fifty pound bag of dog food over my shoulder and stagger along as gamely as a sherpa. Now I had to stop, I had to wait for someone else to do it for me. At first I was chagrined, I hated asking for help. If a box of beef I’d packed was over thirty pounds after I put it on the scale, I felt like I had gotten away with something. Then one day, asking for help stopped bothering me. Maybe that was the day that the bulge of you made it hard to carry things.

Then there were the things. Mom said that “babies don’t cost much,” and “babies don’t need much.” We forgot to ask her to define “much”. Ethan built a crib, I created an amazon registry and Mom sat at my shoulder telling me what I needed. Blankets, burp cloths, onesies, sleepers, shoes and socks, carseat and bouncy seat and mattresses and sheets. The mattresses and sheets needed to be chemical free because of SIDS and the onesies needed mittens because of fingernails.

Five and a half months.

Five and a half months.

As you got bigger, I started to have a growing concern about how I was going to get you out. We went to a birth class, which described the impossible in a series of concise cartoons. In case that didn’t work, they told us simply, there was always c-section. This birth class did result in a few sleepless nights, some of which Ina May (a midwife whose book I read) helped to dispel.

If you would have let us know a few hours earlier, you could have been born in Montana. As we drove home from what would be our last prenatal visit, I didn’t feel that well. I thought it was just because I was dehydrated. But everything else seemed normal, so we went to bed. I woke up at four in the morning feeling worse, and with some sort of cramps. It was April Fools’. I woke up Ethan. He was very calm.

I didn’t want to call the midwife, it was the middle of the night and I didn’t want to bother her. I didn’t think that I was in labor yet. The midwife had told me that some women could have cramps that went on over several days. Couldn’t I be one of them?

Ethan insisted. When I hung up the phone, she had said to come as soon as we could. Well, thanks to you, we weren’t quite ready: I had two clips for your umbilical cord and that thing that looks like a city water tower that is actually for sucking out nostrils. Ethan had been briefed with a plastic baby and a fake pelvis about how to deliver a baby. I had tried in vain to practice Kegels, but since I never quite understood what they were I never learned (did anyone else envision an elevator when they talked about “pelvic floors”?). Suddenly laboring in a car over a mountain pass for three and a half hours didn’t seem like a brilliant idea.

Ethan started throwing things into our Subaru, including blankets in case we had a highway birth. By the time we were ready to go I was definitely in labor. I laid out in the back and we took off. Well, that was a hellish ride. I remember it as a flash of turns and lights going by, some sort of bloody roller coaster. I remember looking out the window and seeing stars out. I remember thinking about all the time I was supposed to have to labor quietly with my husband rubbing my back comfortingly (according to Ina May) that I wouldn’t have. I remember crying because I should be tougher, after all I’d been bucked off a horse and it hadn’t been this bad.

In Salmon we had to stop for fuel. I went into the gas station bathroom and didn’t come out. The problem was, I’d have a contraction, and by the time I was up off the floor, hands washed and ready to come out, I’d have another one. It was impossible. And meanwhile there were two poor girls who needed to use the bathroom who kept pounding on the door until finally someone told them to use the mens’. I’m sure I couldn’t go to that same bathroom without having flashbacks.

I confess I wimped out. I felt so bad about it, I kept apologizing to Ethan because we weren’t going to have the birth we wanted. I was still apologizing when we pulled up under the Emergency entrance at Steele Memorial.

So you were born in a hospital. You were born less than an hour after we got there, with a crowd of people we didn’t know. I made them loosen the fetal moniter because it hurt with every contraction. And everyone yelled at me to push, including Ethan. I thought they were all rather mean because I was pushing, and had they ever tried to push a baby out? It’s bloody hard, and it does make you cuss a bit.

They passed you to me as soon as you were out. You were all wet and sticky yellow-white. And I looked down at you and cried. I cried because you were out and I was all done and somehow God had created you and you were ours.

Look at all that hair.

So much hair. 🙂

After that there was almost a fight between the OB/GYN and Ethan, because Ethan wanted to delay your cord clamping and the OB wanted to cut it right away.

“It’s our kid!” Ethan protested. And he won.

Finally all the people began to trickle out, and we were left with just one midwife, a godsend who had delivered babies down in Africa and therefore wasn’t afraid of the process. We made it from the delivery room with our family still in one piece. I was holding onto you and didn’t let you go.

Then there was the long day, where the sun came up and shone through the window, and I was looking out at the MOTEL sign that they hadn’t taken down even though the motel had been demolished to make room for the hospital. I was holding you in my arms, and thinking that it couldn’t be the same world I was in yesterday. It couldn’t be the same country, or the same town. The whole world felt fresh and clean because of you.

We couldn't believe she was real. We just kept staring at her.

We couldn’t believe she was real. We just kept staring at her.

Of course, there was a lot of mess to clean up, which wasn’t so magical. I was still wearing one of those stupid hospital gowns that have openings all over but are nevertheless impossible to breastfeed in. I felt light and strange without you inside me, and as skinny as if I had just survived a death camp. Dimly I watched people come and go. Ethan sorted out most of the paperwork. He’s wonderful like that. When I handed you to him so I could sign some things, I thought he’d never looked better. There’s something about a man with a baby in his arms.

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I wanted to be one of those people who pops out of the hospital and goes and runs a marathon, but the truth was I couldn’t walk. I had to take very small steps, and my body felt like it had been wrung out.

The midwife smuggled the papers to us, to get us out even though the hospital wanted us for another 24 hours. What a blessing to be outside in the sunlight, getting into our car to take you home. The newness of it! Of course I had to be wheeled out, but I was too tired to put up too much of a fight. I got to look at you while I was wheeled. You were in your carseat, absolutely tiny, even the little hat they gave us sagging into your eyes. You were asleep, your little rose-like lips just slightly parted. Ethan was very proud his little girl.

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It’s been a month and a half. You’re still little, but you wouldn’t fit out of me now. You make faces and cry and smile, and you smack me with your little hands in the middle of the night when you want to eat. When I put you on the floor on your stomach, you can lift up your head. You are quite frustrated that you can’t go anywhere yet. You’re a little more sturdy now, so we aren’t as worried that we’ll break you.

The time before you came seems so long ago, I can’t imagine what it was like to not have you. You have quite a distinct personality already. I can picture you in a few years, anxious to run instead of walk, anxious to be ahead, to catch up to everyone else. Patience.

Funny that we learn this just now, but God knew it all ahead of time. He knew everything long before we did. We love you. Welcome to this fleeting, crazy incredible world.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

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Home

Coming home means sleeping in the airport for seven hours. Coming home means being one of the worried, terribly exhausted people in line wondering when United Airlines will finally make up their minds about whether it’s the rain or mechanical failure. It is talking to an Aussie bloke from Melbourne and feeling like you’ve known each other for years. It means climbing off the plane on shaky legs (legs that have been wanting to gallop all the way from San Francisco).

It means that you are the last one using the restroom in the Boise Airport at 3:00 a.m. It means laughing at yourself when you realize the toilet, sink and paper towel roll are all manual. We’re not in California anymore, Toto.

Coming home means talking to the kids in the seat behind you, then talking to them again after you get off the plane. Mostly because you miss your sisters so much. Then again, they seem like nice kids.

It means using the payphone the wrong way so that your dad gets a million phone calls and you never give him a chance to pick up, all at three in the morning.

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Christmas in Queensland

It is waiting, nose pressed against the glass, watching for a big white van. Coming home means looking the wrong way for the van because you’ve been in Australia so long that your brain’s been hard-wired for the wrong side of the road.

Coming home means seeing your youngest sister walk through the automatic glass doors and not knowing who she is. Then crying out “Booboo,” because that’s what you used called them all. And it still fits her, and it sounds right in your mouth. It means hugging her long and hard and remembering her crooked grin.

It is seeing your sister who grew out her hair long and cut it before you could see it. It means hugging your parents, and finding them exactly the same as you left them. Coming home means finding not a day has passed.
It means climbing into the white van and having a little black dog see you and turn into one wagging tail. Of course she remembers you. She lays her head on your lap all the way home. The van still smells the same as it did the day you left. Somehow it brings tears to your eyes. The silly stink of the van named Queen Mary brings tears to your eyes.

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On the coast of New Zealand near Napier.

Coming home means falling back into your place, like a piano key that’s just been played.

It means checking again and again, to make sure that you even left.

Coming home means coming into your grandfather’s neighborhood, into his house, while he’s away in Florida, and finding all your sisters passed out on the living room floor. It’s feeling relief because you’re standing in your home state. It’s finding your next sister down, the one who has stopped at seven airports on the way home because she was too cheap to buy a continuous ticket, who has been to every airport in New Zealand in one day, visibly drooping as she gets a drink of water.

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Being those “big kids” who use playgrounds. Wellington, NZ

 

It means waking up all your sisters, even though it’s three o’ clock a.m, just to say hello. The second youngest has peirced ears, and you have to look at her a few times to get over it. Coming home is sleeping in a familiar place, on the same futon couch that you and your sisters slept on many times. Coming home is finding that it’s still bad.

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The Pahsimeroi Valley.

It means doing the various shopping trips that it takes to run a ranch five hours from anywhere. It’s driving the curving roads and somehow not remembering a thing you see, even though you promised yourself you would pay close attention.

Coming home means you are immersed into your old life, just like putting on an old pair of sneakers. It means work and frost on the grass and last year’s gloves. Coming home is soup on Mondays and shipping orders. It means the miracle of being in the same time zone. It is green grass shoots starting to show. Coming home is jumping your truck with cables. It means hunting for keys and silverware and books.
It means sitting quietly in the morning, among your own things. It’s talking of the things you will do and build and what life you want to have. It is holding hands across your own kitchen table.

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Places we have been. Wellington, NZ

 

It means a year of catching up, of wondering where everyone’s lives went. It means that people are missing. It means that the pages have turned while you weren’t looking. Coming home means seeing all the things that have and haven’t happened. It means that you will be astonished that everyone remembers you.

It means taxes and registration and mail and guns that need cleaned. Coming home means sorting and cleaning and washing and repairing. It means planning and tea and cooking four meals at a time. It means swearing at mice. Coming home is checking to make sure your trees are still alive. It means driving five over because you’re a citizen of the United States.

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Narrow escape from Queensland.

 

It means wool socks and and a burning cold wind from the North. It means ice on the windscreen. Coming home means lights in the house at night, a cat on the front steps. It means screeching stairs as you go up to bed. It means the Mouse Olympics in the ceiling above your head at night.
Coming home is branding and tagging, slogging through mud. It’s driving gooseneck trailers and waiting for glow plugs. It means that your clothes smell like dogs and cats, manure and 90-weight. It is unpacking brown cardboard boxes.

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Our home.

Coming home is watching the clouds as they wash down into the valley. It is standing out in the snow because it’s been over a year. It’s seeing bluebirds and redwing blackbirds, sandhill cranes and killdeer.
Coming home means moonlight like daylight, willows as red as roses. Coming home means the ocean of mountains around you. Coming home means belonging.

Fun at Cape Tribulation

Well folks, this has been a long time in coming. It happened while we were in Queensland, and was written in Waipawa, New Zealand. By the time I catch up with my blog we should be home at last.

In December we drove up north along the Australian coast for a “holiday”, which is Aussie for a vacation. Two weeks was long enough for two people who would go down to wade in the Lemhi River with a pint of Haagen-Dazs and call it an “expensive date”.
Despite our expenditures on this holiday, which mostly consisted of food (we foundered on tropical fruit until I got eczema because it happens that perhaps Dutch genes can’t handle that much mango) and camping gear (we consoled ourselves with the fact that we had saved our money by not buying pillows and so instead would suffer neck and back pains when we became middle-aged) and petrol ( a fancy name for the shiny, pricey stuff that you feed your car), we still managed to have a good time.

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My mother will be relieved to hear that we heeded the signs reading “Achtung, Crocodiles!” and “Danger, marine stingers.” We did not swim, except in a stinger net.
By the way, swimming in a stinger net is about as exciting as cod with nothing on it. On the northeastern shore there was A. No waves. B. Water that stung like vinegar in your eyes because it was so salty. C. Hot, hot sand with nothing to look at on it.
The only interesting things on this beach with the stinger net on it were: A. The Aboriginal-looking people swimming outside the net. B. The little crabs that worked so hard to dig holes for themselves while the tide was still out. C. A strange, prehistoric bird the size of an emu (ee-mew) called a Cassowary, who stole fruit from frightened tourists.
IMG_7803So We swam in the stinger net, ate tropical fruit, and put our Subaru to the test on the dirt road from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown (four wheel drive only). We didn’t see a single crocodile, even though we wandered up the coast in search of one. Not even a drag mark in the sand was to be found.
We only got rained out of our tent once, which is saying a lot, considering we did go on a holiday to the rain forest.
On this particular occasion I woke up at 3 a.m. to find water dripping on my face. This was quite obnoxious, since the idea of a tent is to keep the outside outside. Unfortunately, these two same people who took the Lemhi-River-Haagen-Dazs date had bought a ninety dollar tent. IMG_7905While ninety dollar tents might be fine for dry and balmy nights, they aren’t so great after rain has been dripping on them for five hours.
We left. We left our wet tent after emptying it, hopped in our car and drove away to the city of Cairns.
There we spent a morning sitting in our car in the rain watching people jog in the rain and trying to persuade ourselves that we were having the time of our lives. Shopping perked us up, at least me. Even when I don’t buy anything, I still like shopping.
May I recommend, on stormy days in the city, that you buy an umbrella?
If only for one reason, buy an umbrella because there is not a feeling like it in the world. Imagine you have come from the desert. Imagine that you grew up in a place where you only get 14 inches (or is it 12?) of precipitation a year. Imagine now being somewhere where going to buy an umbrella is a useful excursion. It’s quite thrilling, actually. You should try it sometime.
The next day, in higher spirits, we returned to get our tent.
It was gone.
Here is what you say in Australia when someone has stolen your tent: “What bloody person has stolen my tent?” I’m not sure what it means, all I know is that it isn’t very flattering.
While we were saying that bit about the–ahem–person who’d stolen our tent, a man jumped out of his bus and ran toward us, shirtless.
Now these people we had seen. They were camping in a bus, which amused Ethan and I until the night of the Exodus. At that time we reckoned that this bloke and his family were actually quite brilliant to camp in a bus.
“Are you missing a tent?” The shirtless man asked. He looked rather like he could have been a viking, with his bright eyes, beard and long hair. I could easily picture him decapitating someone with a broad sword.
“Yes.”
“It’s over here.” He seemed quite embarrassed. I would have been, too.
We followed him over to his bus, and there was our tent, nicely dried after a day and a half, laid out on the grass. He helped us pick it up, apologizing the whole time.
“I thought you just left it there,” he went on, “I didn’t think you’d come back–.”
He said his name was Macca, and he seemed like a nice enough bloke. He even gave us an extra tent peg, though I think it was by mistake.
Anyway, now we’re in New Zealand, and the tent wouldn’t fit in our switch between countries. We gave it, and Ethan’s axe handle (his weapon of choice in a country without guns) to St.Vincents.
There were countless other places to visit on our journey. Our tent (though returned to us in good nick) was not the best for ventilation, and sleeping in the jungle in a pool of your own sweat is not the most delightful feeling in the world. Did I mention that during all this tent-camping along the northern coast of Queensland, there was not a breeze?
Not one breeze, to stir the rivers of sweat running down us as we slept. It was like being slow-cooked. Boiled, more like. Now I know how oysters feel.
In that mucky, sticky weather, swimming was the only relief we could find
At one of our last camping places, near Cape Tribulation, there was a popular swimming-hole owned by a pub. Owned by the owner of the pub, that is. It was free, except for a little box saying “Gold coin donation”, which means you pop in an Aussie $1 or $2 piece and that saves the pub from being liable.
Ethan gave them the $1 dollar piece and we followed the path down into the shady creek bottom.
A sign said, “There are no crocs in our swimming hole. They are in our burgers!” and we were happy with that.
All across Australia, we have heard people say that you are meant to throw your dog in before you swim, and if he’s still swimming there after a few minutes, it’s safe. Well, we didn’t have a dog, but there were other tourists and we didn’t see any crocs.
The next swimming was actually a paid trip, and it included snorkel gear and a boat ride out to Mackay Reef. It’s a 30 minute ride from Cape Tribulation out into the ocean. Our north Queenslander guides strode right out through the water to get to the boat, so they apparently weren’t concerned about the crocs.
Maybe they didn’t understand what ‘Achtung’ meant? IMG_8058IMG_7768
Our boat was driven by a short dark and handsome captain, who would have said “dude”, except he was an Aussie. Our guide looked like he belonged on the set of Braveheart. His hair was wild and long, with a few dreads in it (I always wonder if guys with long hair have the same questions in the morning as girls when they look in the mirror: “Is my hair oily?” “How should I style it today?” “Is there anything I can put on it to get rid of the frizz?”) and one long tiny braid which wasn’t his hair but was somehow attached to his hair.
When I first jumped in, it was hard to breathe through a tube, and I kept coming up choking on the seawater. The “dude” Aussie kept on calling from the boat (he was meant to keep a watch on us tourists, but I think he was putting more effort into his tan) to make sure I was okay.
It took a long time for someone born in Hamilton, MT to get the the hang of snorkeling. The trick is you can’t breathe normally, you have to take slow, even breaths. The salt water was salty enough to support our weight even when we weren’t swimming.
I lost Ethan for awhile, everyone looked the same in their gear. I swam really close to a few guys before realizing that they weren’t Ethan.
When my head was above water, I could see: the boat, a small, crescent shaped beach which we weren’t allowed to set foot on (we had to pay a reef tax just to come out and snorkel), snorkel tubes sticking up like periscopes around the boat, and a blue, blue ocean stretching in all directions. I can’t remember if we could see the coast or not.
When I ducked my head down, it was as if I had stepped through a portal. Many-colored fish swam under me, hiding in the reef. I could hear the parrot-fish crunch on the reef, the sound amplified under water.
The sand was white, the light from above making patterns in it like the patterns of wind over grass. Then there was the reef: Colored coral, with secret places, dark openings. Mountains, ridges and valleys with fish swimming through them. Coral like castles and battlements.
There were clams, water streaming from their jets, their shells bright colors. The empty shells were the strangest. Some of them would be up to six feet long, and empty, like a house.
Ethan, when he found me, showed me a ray he saw who had buried itself in the sand. We saw sea turtles who didn’t seem to be afraid of us, but just drifted past. I watched in awe, motionless in the water, as the fish went about their business not six feet below the surface.
The spell was broken whenever my snorkeling tube malfunctioned (which it did a lot) and I had to return to the surface, spluttering. But I always wanted to go back, to get closer. It seemed to me like flying. Perhaps snorkeling is a better feeling even than buying an umbrella.
Although the intent of our trip up north was to get to the Atherton Tablelands, we didn’t make it until the last few days of our trip. You see, on our first night (in Eungella, near Mackay)we had been invited by our campsite neighbors to join them at their fire. IMG_7704
They happened to be a fit couple in their fifties from Byron Bay (well, Paul was originally from England, but he was now an Aussie. Ethan made the mistake of calling the Brits “poms” while he was talking to them, until the second he realized Paul was from England!). Paul and Robin had been traveling for the past three months around the area.
They were gobsmacked that we’d come all the way from Longreach to Mackay in one day. Paul said they tended to “drive for an hour and then look around for someplace to stop.”
They weren’t the only ones at their fire. They’d become quite good friends with an Indian family from Germany. This couple, Frank and Guri, spoke with a strong Indian accent, yet spoke fluent German to their two children. Their children were beautiful, dark-skinned and blond, with bright eyes. They spoke German to each other, yet the older girl spoke English to us with almost perfect pronunciation.
Paul had a guitar and a good voice. He’d been playing for 40-odd years. Ethan brought over his guitar and they ran through every Johnny Cash song they knew. Unfortunately, we didn’t know enough of “Jackson” to pull off the duet. Ethan also played several John Denver songs, which Paul didn’t know but was keen to have a go at anyway.
The German girl, no older than my sister Annie, stumped Ethan by asking for a Beatles song. He attempted something of the first verse of “Yellow Submarine” before giving up entirely. Fancy us not knowing any Beatles.
These two families gave us ideas about where to go, and it was through Paul and Robin’s suggestion that we found our way to a dairy called Mungali Dairy in the Atherton Tablelands.
When we drove up to the dairy, it was pouring rain.
We found it along a back road. It was only a little building, but it had a verandah with tables and chairs on it, and there were a fair few people there. Ethan was sold the moment we walked through the door. Actually we had been sold on it before we even made it there, because they made cheesecake.
A good cheesecake is hard to find, but the clean glass case was full of them. We settled on one peanut butter and one chocolate. We thought fondly of Ethan’s brother Luke, who would not get any, but who would have loved some. Ethan and I had come a long way for this.
They were huge pieces. I don’t think my sister Linnaea has ever cut cheesecake that big.
The chocolate one was drizzled over with chocolate and topped with a strawberry. They were heavenly, though a bit sweet. We thought about bringing a whole one back for George and Anna, but of course there were excuses: “They’ll probably have plenty of sweet things for Christmas,” and “What if cheesecake isn’t something they do at Christmas?” and “Where will we keep it cold?”
Anyway, it was a dangerous place to linger.
Somehow, the week wrapped up too quickly. We spent a lot of time driving, just seeing the Atherton Tablelands. It rained a lot. We went out for breakfast a few times. We went to a movie at an old movie theatre in Malanda, where we managed to buy two movie tickets for $200.00 before the cashier noticed the problem.
We went to a market in Malanda, and one in Youngaburra. I’m a real sucker for soap, especially when it smells like heaven. Ethan dragged me away from the book-sellers–somehow. I had to drag him away from a place that sold wooden cutting boards. After all, we were leaving the country in a week and a half.
We went swimming in Ellonga Falls, even though it was freezing cold outside. I made my husband kiss me underneath the waterfall–just because. We cooked beans, potatoes, peas, eggs and mince on a small butane stove. We talked to a young German couple who had driven all the way from Perth. IMG_7843
On the last day, as we headed south out of the Atherton Tablelands, we watched the green fade from the land.
In Mereeba, after following twisty directions to a camping site, we met the Crazy Bird Woman in real life.
As we tried to book our cabin for the night, she handed Ethan a baby galah that had been perched on her arm.
“Here, hold him.”
There were peacocks running about outside, along with turkeys, parrots, chooks and ducks. She didn’t quite have feathers in her hair, though she seemed quite distracted.
“Do you want a bag of wallaby food?” she asked, after taking our credit details, “It’s one dollar.”
As we were unloading our car, we saw what it was for. A wallaby, no larger than a cat, came hopping toward us expectantly. Ethan would have used up the entire $1 bag if I hadn’t stopped him. Several other wallabies joined the first one. They were so tame, you could pet them and most of them didn’t mind. Their fur was as soft as a cat’s.
We heard from our bird lady that they were rock wallabies, and Granite Gorge (the name of the campground that she owned) was pretty much the only place they could be found. They were quite tame. IMG_8282
When we left Mereeba to head back to Longreach, we left our last bit of green. Soon we found ourselves in the Outback again. On the back road from Hughendon to Muttaburra (Muttaburra being about as exciting as May, Idaho) we drove for almost 200 kms without seeing another car. We passed approximately four driveways.
There were places that you could not see a tree, only the fence. This fence, straight as an arrow, stretched on into oblivion until it the ripples of heat swallowed it. IMG_7504

In the Shearing Shed

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I am writing this from a hard plastic chair in South Australia. It’s night here, though only just. The sun sets around 5:00. It’s winter. We’re still wide awake, while all you folks in America are snug in your beds in summer.untitled (3 of 4)

Ethan is reading a book (imagine), and the only sound besides the creaking of his chair as he shifts is the eternal hum of the refrigerator.
We’ve been having a bit of rain lately, though not enough to make the Aussies happy. We live in our irrigation boots, which may or may not be the reason that my arches are shot so I feel like a crippled old woman. When it rains, the roads on the farm turn to slippery clay, impossible to drive on. Ethan was building fence recently and got the clay all over his pliers. It was like someone had greased them with 10w-30.

On Monday we assembled all the sheep on the farm into the yards (corrals, for all you yankees) and weaned the lambs off. Last month, we spent a good two days marking all the lambs, which entails ear-tagging, drenching, castrating the males, vaccinating, and putting a ring on the tail. By now, all but a few of the lambs have dropped their tails, except for the smallest.

One of the smallest ones is one that Phil and Michele have named Idaho, after we found him alone in a paddock. Ethan and I, unable to manage something as complicated as the name, “Idaho,” have resorted to simply calling him “Lambie”. Brilliant, I know. “Lambie” we first met when Ethan was out feeding the sheep and saw a lamb on the ground. He couldn’t stand or walk. His mum had left him when she realized that he couldn’t keep up, and he looked like he hadn’t had anything to eat for awhile.

Life immediately improved for Lambie after that first meeting. He was brought to the main house and wrapped in a towel with a hot water bottle. Michele taught us how to talk to him like his mother would, which is an odd sort of humming. Phil and Michele’s toddler, galloping into the kitchen, was enchanted at the sight of Lambie and wanted to let him know by poking at his eyes.

“At other farms,” Phil explained, “The sheep farmers don’t pick up the lambs they see by themselves. They just leave them out there.”

They explained how in previous years, they picked up all the lambs they found (sometimes as many as 100 in one year). When those lambs grew up, Phil and Michele noticed a marked difference in how flighty the entire flock was. Apparently, the bottle-fed lambs had been teaching all the others not to fear humans.

That was several weeks ago. Now “Lambie” is of substantial size, eating grass, barley, and a litre of milk a day.
“You’ll have to be out by 7:15,” Phil had told us, the day before the shearing, “The shearers will be here at 7:30 on the dot. The New Zealand boys are always on time.”

This meant that Ethan got a terrible night’s sleep because of me. The reason is this: When my routine wake-up time is messed with at all (even by fifteen minutes), it means that all night my brain is constantly going, “Is it time? It must be time by now! You’ve slept in, darn it!”
I woke Ethan up several times:

“It’s time to get up,” I said.
“No, it’s not time to get up. It’s the middle of the night. Look, it’s dark outside,” he said, very patiently.

Three hours later:
“It’s time to get up. It’s got to be past 6:00.”
“It’s still dark outside. Go back to sleep.”
The end result was that Ethan and I both got terrible sleep.

The shearers did not arrive at 7:30 “on the dot”. Turns out that their manager had totally forgotten about Phil’s sheep. He’d remembered every year for the past three years, so Phil didn’t see the need to remind him. It was 9:30 before a dusty station wagon pulled up to the shearing shed.

I’d expected buff, bearded kiwis, wearing wife beaters (do Kiwis wear wife-beaters?). They were nothing like I’d expected.untitled (1 of 4)

One of them looked to be a New Zealand islander. The other was an old man who looked very British, had no beard and hardly any hair to boot. They were wearing sweat pants and sweaters and flip flops (out here they call flip flops thongs. You can laugh if you like. The Aussies have to be real careful when they go to the States.). Both of them looked very tired.

America, do you know those thermals you’re wearing? Those socks? I know that you try to forget that they came from sheep…
It turns out, Merino isn’t just one breed but a collection of different strains. Peppin Merino, Saxon Merino, South Australian Merino, Spanish Merino. Each Merino strain is specifically suited to one of Australia’s varied climates. Being in South Australia, I’d imagine that we’d have the South Australian Merino. Yep, that wouldn’t surprise me.

A Merino ewe is fully shorn twice a year. Once shorn, the fleece is graded according to the diameter and length of the fibre. The best wool, added to cashmere and silk for fine clothing, has a diameter of 12.5 microns (0.0125 millimeters). The most coarse wool (remember that hat your Mom put on your head in the ’90s that gave you a rash?) has a diameter of 22.5 microns. It is an infinitesimal difference, but the difference could mean that you’d either wrap it around your infant, or scratch the rash on your forehead. Currently, wool with a 16.5 micron fibre diameter is selling for 1471 cents a kilo.

Because some might regard shearing as an unnecessary evil, I’ll shed a little light on what would happen without it.
The first thing to happen to a Merino ewe left without shearing would be fly strike. Fly strike normally starts under the tail, where there is a lot of excess moisture. Flies land and lay their eggs there. The eggs hatch, and maggots begin to work their way into the sheep, under the wool. If the maggots don’t first kill the sheep from the outside in, the wool will eventually grow over the sheep’s eyes, leaving it quite susceptible to predators.

Ethan and I have been thinking about the possibility of adding lamb to the Alderspring menu. However, we’ll try to avoid Merinos. While a professional Aussie shearer could do 240 sheep before six o’clock, it would take us a week.
Also, a Merino ewe is often a lousy mother, which is another reason that if Ethan and I decide to do sheep, we will definitely choose another breed. Wilty Poll, anyone?
The shearers were crutching today, which meant shearing around the backside of the sheep to prevent that first stage of fly strike from happening. Currently, wool with a 16.5 micron fibre diameter is selling for 1471 cents a kilo. Crutchings, needless to say, aren’t worth $14.71 a kilo.

Phil’s shearing shed is separated into two parts, part wood-slatted floor part solid wood floor. The sheep yards are over the slotted floor.
When the shearer wants a sheep, he goes through a swinging door into the yard, fetches out a sheep and drags it back to where his powered shears are waiting. Then he goes to town, following the contours of the sheep’s rear end. He has to hold the sheep still, and maintain control of his shears, which resemble a giant razor with a comb on it.

A few days earlier, while he was crutching one of his sheep, Phil had warned us about the dangers of shears. “They can rip your arm off,” he said. There is a rope that hangs right beside the shearer, that stops the shears, but if he can’t grab it in time, then he’s in trouble. Phil said, “There was one bloke who died from shears,” And I’m sure he wasn’t the only one, “Lost control, hit him right in the jugular. He bled to death in a shearing shed on a station in the middle of no where.”

Thankfully, neither Ethan and I were shearing. I was the rousebout, which means I was using a broom to sweep the crutchings away when the shearer headed back through the swinging door. Once I had it away from the shearer’s station, I had to sort it, which meant picking out all the crap with my fingers. I had gloves, thankfully. Some of it was mighty sticky. Don’t worry, I don’t think your yoga pants were made from crutchings. I don’t think.

I had to fly to keep up. Several times, I did not manage to get the picking and the fetching done before the shearer came back out of those swinging doors. The British-looking guy, Blackie, would just pull his new sheep through the last sheep’s wool and keep on trucking. Sometimes he’d even kick the wool toward me before he headed to get the next one, so it would be a little closer. Not as an insult, I hope.

But the other fellow, Max. Whew. He was a lot quieter than Blackie, and while during smoko (smoke-break, morning tea, et cetera) we managed to get a few words out of Blackie about where he lived in NZ and whether he missed home, Max never said two words. If he did, I didn’t understand them.

Blackie didn’t seem to mind my being a little late, but Max, on the other hand… There were a couple times that I didn’t quite get the old wool out of the way before he dragged his new sheep through the swinging door, and he never said anything. He never really waited. He never kicked the wool toward me. But I somehow got a very strong feeling that by not having that wool gone by the time he got there, I was violating some ancient Code of the Shearing Shed.

We took several breaks throughout the day. First there was smoko, where both the shearer’s sat down and had a cigarette and some tea. I can’t imagine those two go down well together, really. Then we stopped for lunch about two hours later, and the shearer’s had lunch and another cigarette. About two hours after that was another break, wherein it seemed time for another smoke. During those two breaks no one said a word, and Ethan and I laid back in two chairs and almost went to sleep. Man, it felt good to sit down.

I wondered what everyone was thinking, while it was quiet. Were the shearers thinking about NZ, and how cold it would be when they got back? From what Blackie said, it sounded like they’d almost rather be in Australia than New Zealand.
I watched them, wondering if their backs were hurting them (they both had slings suspended from the ceiling, so they could rest the majority of their weight in them). I thought that Blackie, sitting in a chair, wearing shearing shoes and smoking a cigarette, would be a good Norman Rockwell painting.

It would be called, The Shearer, and would be printed in the Saturday Evening Post, hung up on the wall in blue collar homes, and in the 21st century it would be in a memorial calendar like the kind friends of mine hang on their wall. Nobody would mind the cigarette. In Normal Rockwell paintings, everybody smokes.

By the time we finished the last ewe, my knees felt fossilized from crouching down. Ethan, who had been working the yards and helping me pick and fetch in turn, was worrying about whether he would get carpet-layers’ knee again.

Towards the end the shearers had been moving faster, maybe a little too fast. There were a few more nicks on the ewes from the shears. I felt bad for them, but Ethan said it probably doesn’t happen that often. Considering the number of ewes, they probably get nicked only once every few years.
Ned, the kelpie (did anyone know that kelpies are part dingo?), had been watching the sheep being crutched all day. He seemed very pleased that they were being put in such a submissive position. He helped himself to some select delicacies from the crap pile, then went to sleep on some fleeces in a corner of the shearing shed.

Ethan and I loaded up the “clean” wool–the wool that will someday be horse blankets and carpets–into the wool press. The shearers packed up all their gear and put their flip-flops back on and went out to their car. Phil had to give them some motor oil so they could get home. It turned out they had had none in their car. Ethan turned out the lights in the shearing shed.

There is more to learn. There’s terminology: who is the bloke that runs the yards? What are the shearing shoes called? Is there a different name for a sheep that’s been shorn vs. one that hasn’t? What do you call the sling? Is keeping the wool away the rousebout’s only task (no, Phil mentioned the rousebout is supposed to shut off the shears if anything goes wrong)? How much are the crutchings worth?

There’s technique: How does one shear a sheep? How do you keep the wool in one neat pile instead of spreading it all around? How do you keep your back straight so it doesn’t kill you? How do you grab the sheep out of the yards and drag it right so it doesn’t move?

There’s practice: How many years does it take before your hands know when to turn the shears? How do you find that shut-off rope whenever you need it? How do your muscles memorize the practice of pushing the button on the adder each time you walk through the swinging door? If you’re from New Zealand, how do you know the quickest way through customs (because you know that you’ll get your shearing stuff quarantined before they’ll let you into Australia)?

I thought about asking the British-looking bloke if there were any women who were shearers. I can picture her now: Mid-sized and muscled, skin browned by sun and old tattoos. Voice husky from cigarettes. Hair pulled away, away, and forgotten. Back bent beyond return. Hands large and skillful, fingernails painted to try to remember what it’s like to be a girl. Quiet, and tired.

Not that I’d want to be a shearer.

Market, Turkish Delight, and the Whereabouts of Idaho

From Boxgum Grazing, Young, NSW. Owned by Sam and Claire and their son, Sid–

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Today we woke up at 3:15 a.m. We were going to Market. That’s right, Market with a capital M, because it’s not worth getting up at 3:15 for just plain market. The situation involved Ethan saying, “You can’t sleep in this morning.”

Usually I’ll sleep a bit longer and he’ll get up and make some breakfast. He’s a morning person, I’m not. He’s also very kind. We ate a breakfast of scrambled eggs. My stomach felt queasy, like it does on ski mornings.
There was not a hint of light on the horizon.
Claire pulled up at the gate in the Market truck at 3:45. She looked bright, chipper and wide awake by the light of the headlights. I envy such people. She said (and this is for real), “I like being up so early! We have the whole place to ourselves.”

As I climbed into the passenger seat of our Subaru, I muttered to Ethan, “Well, you can have it.”
I had said I would go to Market, so I was going. You must get me to promise to go the night before. My sister Linnaea almost made a fatal mistake when she woke me up early in the morning for a surprise bachelorette road trip. I was not the most enthusiastic bride-to-be.
Driving in the morning in Australia is like driving in the morning anywhere else. We were quiet, following the taillights in front of us, keeping our eyes peeled for roos. Only two weeks ago, we’d been following Sid down this same stretch of road when the morning came to a grinding halt.

On that mornng, a roo came leaping over the fence just in front of Sid, who was driving the Market truck. He slammed on the brakes. Ethan and I, driving just behind him, thought he’d managed to avoid it, but when we saw him get out we knew there was a problem.
The three of us met at the front of the Market truck. The front had been totally shattered. The joey, in the pouch of the kangaroo, had been killed in the collision. The big kangaroo was nowhere to be seen.

We picked the peices of plastic and chrome grill off of the front of the truck. The radiator was dented, and we soon found that it was leaking. The Market Truck would not be driving the two hours to Canberra’s Market.
Sid, oddly enough, did not seem panicked. All of us hopped in the Subaru and raced back to the Farm (only a couple of miles away), keeping a close watch for roos.

Sam, as it happened, was not a morning person either. We quickly contrived a plan to move the cool box with all the meat from the Market truck to one of the farm trucks. When it was decided, there was a great deal of chaos of running around in the dark and in the work shop. There was a fair bit of panic and general shouting. After all, there were several thousand dollars of fresh pork and beef sitting in the bingled market truck.

Sam and Claire roared off in the farm truck and we followed in our Subaru.
Once we arrived, there was a frantic process of unloading all the meat and stacking it on the edge of the road.
Ethan and Sid were there to do the heavy lifting, and miraculously no one had their fingers crushed as we transferred the cool box to the farm truck. It was an intense half hour, with flashlights, commands, and running feet.
All was done and loaded, the cool box firmly strapped on, by 4:40 am.

On the contrary, everything this morning ran according to schedule. Ethan and I were able to participate in the normal Market Day.
We arrived at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra) at around 6. The sky was still completely dark, yet everywhere there were people. We joined the other stallholders, setting up tables and hanging up Boxgum’s banners. We unloaded meat and laid tablecloths.
Astonishingly, at 6:00 there were shoppers. They had their recycleable bags and wallets with them. They were shopping while everyone else was still setting up! Ethan thought it was quite rude of them, because the early early shoppers make everything move earlier, and make the stallholders have to come earlier.

I was still waking up.

At 7:00, the place was bustling. Here is how someone buys from Boxgum:
1. Approach the counter, please.
2. Select your peices of meat.
3. Stand for several minutes trying to catch the eye of one of the people inside the stall. Don’t try to get the ding-y blond girl to notice you. She’s had coffee for breakfast and she’s still asleep. Oh, wait, she woke up!
4. Hand her the money and the meat. Let her know if you want it wrapped in paper (Newspaper, recycled, very green indeed!) and taped. Needless to say taped, she’ll probably tape it anyway. They tape everything at America and she probably still has residue. She won’t ask you if you want a bag, you’ll have to tell her, because she only has time to ask you if you want paper before she rushes away again.
5. Don’t expect her to do math in her head, even if it’s 2.50 plus 2.25.
6. Take your wrapped meat, your change, and say “Cheers”

The hardest part about being in the stall was the same as it was the last time we came to Market: counting the change. If someone handed me a handful of foreign coins and monopoly money (that’s what Australian currency looks like), I had to first recognize what they gave me, then I had to figure out what to give them back. And I had to remember what they look like, so the right meat and the right change goes to the right person.

It was even harder if they moved. If I turned around for one instant to wrap the meat, they’d move down the counter. I’d scan faces until I saw the costumer I was serving waving their arms.

There were so many people, so many faces I’ll never see again. My American accent slurred into an Australian one on certain words. I found myself saying “Cheers” and “G’day” with the best of them.
I saw such a variety of people. Tall, short. Scandinavian, Indian. Several women who looked like models came to buy the meat. I told one girl that it was good to see someone who was my height. A woman in a leather jacket came up to buy pork medallions and forgot to pay. Claire said it was all right, that I shouldn’t chase her down or anything.

A man came­ with his toddler perched high above his head. The little boy was grinning down at me. Some parents let their children pay, then told them to take the change and say “thank-you”. The kids seemed overwhelmed with the prospect of such responsibility. I guess I would’ve felt the same in their shoes.

There was an excitement, a whir of activity, when we dealt with customers. It was as if every interaction gave us a shock of energy. We talked to them, we made eye contact, we smiled at them. If I saw them later, I’d recognize them. The world was made smaller.
When things slowed down, Claire let us head for the market stalls. Such a variety of smells and colors! So many things to do if you have money.

I bought three macaroons. One of them was nasty, the other two were delicious. Each cost a dollar and was the size of a quarter. Ethan headed for the gluten and bought something with pears and sugar in it.
There were stall-holders selling cheese, bread, honey, jam, vegetables and fruit, juice, meat pies (an Australian thing), flowers. I would have loved to have a basket and the money and need to fill it. Going to Market with a basket on my arm seems like it would be a very romantic excursion.

They also sold food: Sandwiches, crepes, sausages with sauerkraut, gozleme and milkshakes.
I stopped at a place selling Turkish Delight and talked to the stallholder. He was from Greece, with a heavy accent and an apron that said, “I don’t need a recipe, I’m Greek” on it. I was from Idaho, with a work-and-holiday visa and a need to try Turkish Delight. You see, I’ve read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, among C.S. Lewis’s other works.
Ethan sauntered over when he saw me talking.

Turkish Delight proved to be a fruity, chewy sort of cube with corn flour on it. It wasn’t amazing. Certainly nothing to sell your siblings for. In the end, the only thing we left with was his quip, “You can survive anything when you’re young.”

We started to grow hungry. At Market, the Johnsons could subsist on a cup of coffee, but Ethan and I were famished. Besides, there’s hardly anything to a Australian cup of coffee. It’s about 7 ounces.
Ethan went hunting for a stall that sells meat pies, and I headed for the sausage place. They have big bratwursts served with hot sauerkraut. It’s gluten free. It’s eight dollars. Funny how they don’t give you any discount for being gluten free and not eating their bun.

Two men asked if they could join us at the picnic table we were sitting. As soon as they sat down, they started laughing and conversing in a language that sounded something like French, German or Russian. Apparently they could speak English too (I heard a few English words), and when there was a break in the conversation I asked them we’re they were from.

They were from Austria, which they loved. They came to Australia, which they love. “What is Idaho like? It’s wet there, isn’t it?”
They seemed surprised to learn that where we live is a high desert. I guess they didn’t know where Idaho was in the first place. I don’t mind, most people don’t know. Australians know of three places in America: California, Las Vegas, and New York City. Fair enough: all I knew about Australia before I came here was that Sydney was the place where Nemo was kept in a fish tank.

On our way back to Boxgum’s stall, I stopped to get some more Macaroons. They are like a pavlova (or a meringue) around a soft paste. This time it was someone else who served me. He was Indian, as was the young man who served me before.
From a few minutes of talking to him, I learned that half of his family lived in the United States and Canada. Funny that we don’t hear people saying, “The States”, when we’re over here. It’s simply, “America” or “Americar” as the Aussies are fond of pronouncing it. He also had no idea where Idaho was. I felt like I was giving road directions as I said, “Follow the coast up from California, it’s up North, one state away from the coast.”
He gave me a quarter-sized macaroon for free. It was delicious.

As we packed up Boxgum’s market stall, we were surrounded by other stall-holders doing exactly the same thing. Australian markets are, after all, no different than American ones. It had been cold that morning in Canberra, NSW, but the sun was starting to come out. It felt like an Idaho summer.

Some photos from Australia

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Abby’s first post!

 

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NOTE: This is actually not a real post written by me. This was written my little sister Linnaea.

Here’s abby’s first exciting travel post about Australia! Take it away, Abby…

“Australia is like the most fun everguys, Imean, like, totally. We love watching the kangaroos. I evenmadeup a poem about kangaroos:

“Hey diddle diddle,

Ethan won’t play the fiddle,

The roo jumped over the moon.

Abby just laughed,

to see such warts,

and the captain sang a mistune.”

Thanks all.