The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Two Christmas Days
Two Christmas Days.
"Going to be hot as blazes", said Bill, as he stepped from the hut into the tranqil air of the December morn. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I followed him through the orchard and down to the creek, which greeted us with a song, rippling round a bend thick with ferns and shadowed by hazel boughs. Dawn light coloured the water in mid-stream, but it gleamed with gold where the wattles hung over it. A creek in the hills, coming from the heart of untamed wildness and flowing through our valley to a river far away.
The dawn was cool and fragrant, as if Summer had donned for this Christmas morn a robe of rose leaves and dew. It was an exhiliration to feel the touch of the wind, coming softly from the hills. Stripped for the plunge into our swimming pool, we stood on the bank for a while, to watch a water-rat slip from a log strewn with empty mussel shells. The air was laden with forest scents: wattle and sassafras and musk and the sweetness of untilled earth. Dew pearled the grass; and all the leaves of the trees and the dogwood scrub and the ferns bending over the creek, gleamed as they do after rain. On the crest of the hill, dark against a sky of pale crimson and gold, like trees in some rich tapestry, bluegums kept guard over the valley, and magpies among the branches carolled in Christmas morning. Down by the creek grey thrushes sang.
So we bathed, and, fresh for the day whose heat would be burdensome before the dew melted, walked back to the old bark hut on the rise. Bird voices sounded faintly now, and our music became a murmur of bees in convolvulus bells and little blue flowers in the grass.
"Going to be a bonzer day", said Bill, as he stepped from the tent into the cool dawn, and gazed across the Desert. I tumbled out of the blankets and followed my mate through barren sand to the hollow where our water-bucket stood. We washed the night off, then strolled back to our bivvy. After breakfast we lay on the sand in winter sunshine, smoking and spinning yarns. Wagtails, spruce and handsome in black and white plumage, ran about us fearlessly, with now and then a spray of song—their Xmas hymn.
"Like a little magpie, isn'the?" said Bill, pointing the stem of his pipe at one of the birds.
"Yes", I assented. And my thoughts went racing through past time to that other Christmas morn, when we two, who were mates still, walked in the dawn from our hut to Olinda Creek, The sand became dewy grass, and, faint and far away, magpies carolled among tall gums on the crest of a hill.
We were both silent for a space. Then Bill lauehed, and looking up, I saw a white vulture drop down from the sky.
"A camp follower", remarked Bill. And my thoughts returned from the Bushland to Reality.