Recently, I went searching for a railway museum but all I found was a dead peacock. On the same day I visited a cemetery to photograph one plaque and ended up spending an hour fascinated by lichen-decorated headstones. Yesterday, I hoped to catch sight of an elusive platypus. Instead, I came face to face with the biggest spider I’ve ever seen. I often head out searching for one thing only to discover something entirely different. I’m a planner by nature but over the years I have come to accept that life is often unpredictable. I think I am finally starting to embrace these surprises – well, at least some of the time!
This week I’m taking you on a little journey involving life and death. The main setting will be Tallegalla cemetery near Rosewood in Queensland. My first visit to this location involved quite a few surprises.
Perhaps I am a little weird but since childhood I’ve been drawn to old graveyards. Except for when I am attending the funerals of loved ones, I find these settings interesting and calming. They’re peaceful places where you’re often assured of having the silence needed for quiet contemplation. Unlike the real world, the departed are not suffering and in pain. They don’t need help.
Graveyards are also places full of history with reminders of events such as wars and natural disasters. They also show how our lives have been changed by medical discoveries such as antibiotics, vaccinations and scanning technology.
Tallegalla cemetery is a very scenic rural location. The only sounds to be heard are usually those of birds and the occasional farm tractor and passing car.
While examining gravestones of the departed, I found much life in the form of lichen. I hope some of you enjoy their strange patterns, unlike my daughter who has trypophobia – ( from the Greek “trypo” meaning holes. ) Accumulations of small holes/circles cause her to feel revulsion. Actually, this reaction is now being regarded by some as not a learned phobia but a natural revulsion born from an inbuilt sense of danger because the images are similar to some things in nature which are associated with harm. If you want to cause suffering to someone with trypophobia, show them lotus seed heads!
It is likely that most readers will be familiar with the author Ian Fleming’s character, 007 – James Bond, British spy. However, perhaps many of you do not know that it is probable that James Bond was based on the author’s close friend, Australian aviator, adventurer, inventor and spy, Sidney Cotton. It is in Tallegalla Cemetery that a small memorial exists for this man, along with the plaques of family members. He was known for his maverick attitude and often flouted the rules. Apparently, when he was in the airforce he had a badge made with the initials “CC-11” which signified the 11th commandment – “Thou shalt not be found out.” He really had a very colourful life and I don’t think it is at all an exaggeration to suggest he was the real James Bond.
Cotton’s invention of the Sidcot suit solved many of the problems of temperature control for pilots. Some of you will remember this picture from my Hiking through History post. I sent this picture of an aviator relative to history buff, Greg, creator of the highly entertaining Australian blog Hiking Fiasco and he kindly identified the outfit as a Sidcot suit. Greg is having a break from blogging at the moment but by coincidence his last post features a photo of a cemetery at night. It is interesting to think that Sid Cotton’s wartime inventions resulted in both life and death.
Now to the headstones of a few less glamorous, but no less special individuals in the grand scheme of life…
Near to Sid’s memorial lie the graves of little 3 year old Leila and her parents. The headstones don’t reveal the tragedy, bravery and inspiration surrounding her death. Little Leila and her parents are actually the great, great aunt and great-great grandparents of my children. A relative kindly gave me a copy of a diary entry which described Leila’s early death.
In those days, kerosene lanterns were used for lighting. One of these started a fire in the family home. Leila was sleeping on her bed and by the time the rest of the family were alerted, her room was in flames. Her mother, Ethel, ran into the blazing room and grabbed the child, however Leila’s body was already blackened by burns. When fire broke out the church bells rang to alert the townsfolk. There was no fire station, so the men broke open the house water tanks to put out the fire. Most of the house was saved but sadly Leila died while being transported to distant Ipswich hospital. Though grief-stricken, Ethel was spurred on by the incident to start fund-raising for an ambulance station to be established in Rosewood. So Leila’s death resulted in more chance at life for others in the district.
Next door to the cemetery I discovered a few more surprises. This old pump would have been life-giving in the past but now stands unused and just a curiosity for some. An old café, “Country Perks,” may have been frequented by some of those buried in the cemetery.
The view across the road is quite pretty but the light area towards the foreground is evidence of a mine still in use. Rosewood mines employed many people in the past. Mines provided income to survive but the effects of hard work and the polluted environment often led to an early grave.
On my way home I noticed a railway museum sign and knowing that some of my readers like old trains I swung right and followed the narrow, winding road. I couldn’t find the mystery museum but did come across a dead peacock on the road. I will spare you the gory pictures and just share its colourful feathers with you. The peacock also represented life and death as it was being feasted on by thousands of wriggling creatures.
I also passed this “living-dead” tree.
A “slight” detour to Marburg Cemetery led me past an emu farm. These animals won’t live to old age. They will be used for arthritis creams/oils and a variety of other products.
The last surprise of the day was this giant hay teddy bear which I found quite distracting. I couldn’t work out whether it had a friendly or slightly crazy, sinister expression. I think I am still affected by a creepy clown movie I watched many years ago!
And to finish this life and death post a few pictures of another cemetery I visited one sunrise last year during a heavy mist. If you look closely you may see the silhouettes of kangaroos feeding.
It’s not often you come across James Bond, lichen, a dead peacock, headstones, an emu farm and a giant teddy bear made of hay in one blog post. Welcome to my sometimes odd and surprising life.
Thanks for reading!