THE rain has been falling and everything is green.
The air is fresh now and the water at the pool is fresh. I confess it is my favourite kind of weather, this turning into autumn, the coolness, impending winter.
It reminds me of a magical weekend in Condobolin more than 10 years ago, when I found myself at the Condobolin Arts Centre (old pub) with a collection of highly literary, eccentric, well-educated and rural folk who were all absolutely passionate about writing and literature and stories.
Almost as much as about the first big rain in a long time.
All weekend people talked about the rain, watching the heavy horizon.
It was like being lost in a different era, like a congregation from a long-ago English village, but with their unique Australian outback version of cultured, some in their farm clothes, many in gumboots due to the rain, come in from the farms, in one of the most remote parts of the state, quietly and earnestly questing for that magical connection with the sacred creative.
The main attraction? Australian poetry giant, Les Murray himself.
My poetry hero, my darling and god - there in the flesh, the size of a Mallee Bull, dishevelled, awkward and magnificent, towering over the humble raincoated crowd in the old art centre hall, reading his work, and then suddenly talking to me.
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It was like a dream.
I, in my newly-minted identity as "a writer".
Nervous, profoundly moved, a young mother, raw from a tumultuous relationship breakdown, I stepped into the light of this beautiful old fashioned cultured, murmuring gentle group of rural folk - writers and lovers of literature, farmers, women of the land, brave, sturdy people.
And Les Murray himself, sipping tea with me, giving me feedback on my poetry, commending this, recommending that, and then suggesting we drive out to the farm where I was staying for the weekend in his wrecked up little Datsun. And so we did.
While we drove he told me stories, about being bullied at school, about his youth on the dairy farm, his views on life, his love of gossip - the never ending Australian novel, he called it - his love of the company of tradesmen and farmers and workers, his distaste for the academic literary world.
And then we had afternoon tea in the majestic old farmhouse on the property, with rain drumming on the roof, and did some paddock bashing round the farm, inspecting the huge behemoths that were the big black Angus stud bulls, beneath the great ancient River Redgums that lined the mighty Lachlan River running through the farm, as it gurgled up, swollen with all the rain.
What an afternoon. What a weekend.
From that weekend, so many things - and the impact of meeting Les and spending time with him was hard to explain. It was life-changing. He was my friend. We corresponded.
He published some of my poems in the magazines where he was poetry editor. We did readings together, notably at the Wagga Wagga library, after which we had beers at Romanos and I dropped him home to his hotel and he kissed my cheek goodbye.
I wrote a poem, called Rain Event in the Whispering Country from that weekend - and eventually a book full of poems about that country, those people, that time, and about Les himself.
The rain last week made me think of all that. Because the rain fell that weekend long ago too - and it made it a genuinely magic and secret time - to move through the grey mohair of that rain while sipping tea and chatting to my friend and mentor, Les Murray.
Such a privilege. When I heard he had died, 29 April 2019, I cried and cried.
Two poems to honour him will be in my new book of poetry, launching soon. Australia has such a wonderful canon of literature, we should read it all. But Les was the best.
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