Painting: Wood for the Fire, Glen Helen


2013 T-Team Next Generation


The next generation of the T-Team converged on Glen Helen, MacDonnell Ranges. My family, brother’s family and my mum had planned this gathering in memory of Dad who’d passed from this life to the next the previous year.

The day before the memorial event, we settled in the Glen Helen camping ground where we set up our tents. Mum opted for the luxury of a cabin. No tents for her.

The T-children wanted a campfire. My brother had promised them a campfire. But bushfires in the past year had made campfires, even in the middle of winter in the middle of Australia, almost extinct. On our trip up north this time, each camping ground up until Glen Helen, had restricted fires, and denied the children the pleasure of a campfire. That’s not to say the T-Team Next Generation missed out entirely of some sort of fire to cook our food. We did spend one night in one of those free-parking “camps” 30 kilometres south of Marla where we attempted to make a campfire. However, the area was so well picked-over for firewood, the few sticks we did scrounge together barely made enough flames to boil a billy. So no satisfaction regarding campfires. That is, until Glen Helen.

Even way out in the bush, the Glen Helen camping grounds had strict conditions and regulations controlling the operation of campfires. In the Glen Helen camping grounds there was a designated place for the fire and we had to provide our own wood. Again, dead wood around the immediate camping site was scarce.

So as the sun sank towards the Western horizon, golden rays blessing the cliffs in hues of pink and scarlet, and the humps of spinifex glowing like lumps of gold, my son and I set out in Mum’s Ford station wagon, down the road in search of a creek offering dead branches for firewood.

As the setting sun deepened the walls of the gorge into hues of crimson, I hobbled down the dry creek filled with smooth rounded river stones. Hard to imagine the creek gushing with water in flood, rushing over those stones, smoothing them to the size and consistency of bocci balls threatening to twist my ankles.

With my camera, a constant companion and permanent fixture hanging from my neck, my focus was not only on dry sticks and logs, but on the scenery. While my son snapped off armfuls of tinder from uprooted river gums that had become casualties of former flooding, I collected snapshots in time of the setting sun, blood-red cliffs, ancient eucalypts towering above the banks and the dry river-bed of stones.

Night stole the thin grey-blue light of dusk. With the station wagon stacked full of wood for the fire, and my camera’s memory card full of brilliant photos for my art, we returned to camp.

What joy the T-Team Next Generation family had. We gathered around the fire. The fire that cooked our dinner, then warmed us and the conversation late into the cloud-free night frozen with a sky packed full of stars.

In the past, a fire would burn slowly all night, keeping animals away from camp. The rules of the camping ground forbade that strategy. Conscious that the local fauna may come foraging, my husband packed away all the foodstuffs and loose items back in Mum’s station wagon.

Some of the members of this new generation of T’s were not so concerned about the threat of such animals. During the night, though, a half-full cereal packet proved fair game for a roving dingo.

So stories told, marshmallows burnt and eaten, most of the T-Team Next Gen retreated to their tents and snuggled into their sleeping bags. Mum had gone to her cabin way before the rest of us. She hoped to rise early, with my help, to catch the sunrise on Mt. Sonder.

My brother and son stayed chatting around the campfire. A dingo howled. Freaky. An eerie haunting cry. My nephew was sure he’d come face-to-face with the dingo when he’d taken a trip to the toilets.

I left my brother and his son to their conversation around the fire and with the responsibility of waking mum before dawn, I headed to the tent to join my husband and sleep.


© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016

Painting: Wood for the Fire, Glen Helen © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2015

[View this painting at the Sala Festival Exhibition, Celebration of Life at the Corner Church. Corner Oaklands & Diagonal Roads, Warradale. Exhibition runs until August 27, 2016.]




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