On a warm Sunday morning I drive towards Willsons Downfall (a name commemorating a broken axle), and turn off to the old settlers cemetery. It’s unlike any other I’ve visited. It’s quite unkempt: the graves are scattered, and often hidden by tall grass. My only guide are slightly trodden paths through the grass: I keep a close watch, fearing snakes and the odd lurking tree root out to trip the unwary. On the Australian Cemeteries Index it’s listed in the category “Lonely graves”: it also fits into another class of cemeteries: the abandoned ones. I had to hunt for gravestones, as I hunt for native orchids, seeing more as my eye became attuned. Some of the gravestones are covered in lichen: the inscriptions and images on some are worn away; some lean.
As always in a graveyard one is left wondering. Why did Charlie die when he was only 19? Why couldn’t the family say goodbye to Patrick? What ended baby Troy’s short life? Did his grandmother really see the grave’s embrace of her husband William as tender? After all he was only 43: he should still have been in her tender embrace.
I’ve visited before, a long time ago. From that visit I remember an echidna burrowing down amongst the concrete surrounds of one grave; and a cluster of creamy white orchids curling round a tree bole. Today, only the bright unseasonal purple of hardenbergia.