It all started when I had finally made the time to have an afternoon siesta in the reclining camp chair. As I almost drifted away to the sounds of the ocean and birds, the loud ‘CRACK’ of an axe splitting hardwood from a nearby camp, broke the serenity. Then another, and another and so on for what seemed an eternity. There was either something about the timing of the chops, or maybe it was the fact that it was the middle of the day and I was intrigued as to who the silly bugger was, but I just had to have a look. There behind the trees was a fit looking man well over 70 years of age, no shirt on, sweat pouring off his body, with his lady nearby reading a book. So I went over for a chat and over the next two days became enchanted with Harry’s stories of adventure, life, work and the importance of loving yourself and those around you.
You see Harry, now a young man of 77 years, had worked all over Australia as a stone mason up to 54 years of age, when he decided to pull the pin and do some things for himself. He had restored many heritage properties and also worked in indigenous communities coordinating the building of structures designed by the communities, not by the bureaucracies. Harry was often the only white fella in these communities and was able to use his incredible energy, as well as that of those around him, to create a very harmonious environment. All sugar was banned in this community and anyone who came in had to abstain for 36 hours before being accepted. Harry said that government agencies were so impressed with his buildings and incredible work with the communities that they started funding them, but of course they had to have a psychiatrist on site. Harry had incorporated afternoon ‘talking’ circles where the simple rule was you could say anything you wanted and nobody was to comment or react to it. Over time the more reserved members began opening up to the extent where one young man spoke of his sorrow for having killed his mother. The psychiatrist immediately jumped up, ran to the young man, embraced him and offered professional assistance. Harry and the members were incensed, tried to pacify the ‘professional’, but in Harry’s words they had to march him out of the camp for breaking the well established procedures.
Another sense of what Harry was like came when he described an environmental meeting on his 40 acres of bushland property. You see he was building a dome house at the time without a permit and there was only the frame with high windows in place at the time. When the local mayor asked about the structure, Harry explained it was a water tank. When pressed further about the windows Harry simply claimed it was to check the water levels.
At age 54 Harry had a change of life and so planned something eventful every five years. This included taking 16 months to cycle around Australia at age 65, buying a yacht and sailing single handedly up the east coast, at one stage running aground at Bowen and then later fitting out a canoe to paddle the Murray River. These adventures eventually caught the eye of the media and he was once interviewed by a young journalist. Harry became frustrated at inane questions like “Why did you do it?”, “Because I could”, “What was your goal?”, “None really, just wanted to”, with the clincher being the final question, “Did you find out anything profound?’ to which Harry answered, “I was surprised to be having wet dreams again”.
We parted company with a hand shake, a man hug and an inspirational view on life.
To answer last week’s question, the largest of the two most common species of mud crab caught in WA are green crabs. This week’s question is, “What native Kimberley plant is regarded as having the highest known quantity of vitamin C in the world?’
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