Two red camellias 220



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I am travelling, driving through a small Victorian town, when bladder and stomach both cry out for service. I stop, find the facility for the first and then, before attempting the second, go for a walk with my camera.

It is one hour into the afternoon. I walk four or five hundred metres, making my way to a footbridge over the local river. Although barely out of winter and into spring – it is now two days beyond Father’s Day – the lack of rain in its headwaters means almost no water flow in the subsequently small stream.

A mere trickle weaves its gentle way across the sandy bottom, barely able to press past surprisingly lush reeds in their shallow flat bed. Silt, just below the point at which the bridge crosses, has created a mini dam. It backs up the water, barely millimetres deep, into a wind-rippled surface interspersed with the flat reed leaves now able to float gently into woven patterns. Ever on the lookout for a peaceful, reflective scene to snap, I stop and peer over the railing.

There, afloat by the shore, are two red camellias.

My heart stops for a moment, thinking of a loved one lost barely two years before, someone who dearly loved camellias, especially red. Through those thoughts, I conjure other images.

Two red camellias. Thrown onto the surface of the local stream. Thrown for whom? I know, in my heart of hearts they are symbols of love, care, remembrance, meaningful relationship.

Two red camellias. Thrown by whom?

A young man works away nearby, installing a bench seat close by the river bank. I ask him but he has no idea. A tiny little lady walks by. She senses I seek help but no, she knows ought of the beautiful flowers, nor their significance. She walks across to the bridge and stops to look. An old man (I can call him that, he is every bit my age) washes a car very much in keeping with his age. He is both interested and a little surprised but unable to advise.

Two red camellias. So soon after Father’s Day, there must be an association… but what is it? I can further my investigations, go to the shire office, for example, but I believe the throwing of those blooms was a personal matter and never meant to be in the public domain. I decide against it.

Two red camellias. Were they thrown by a widow and her sibling in memory of a husband and father lost to a farming accident? A breadwinner tragically taken in a road crash or, considering recent events, an air disaster? Do they represent the loss of a man sent off to fight in some distant land, Afghanistan perhaps? Are they a memorial to a man – hard as this is to say, it must be acknowledged – no longer able to see a future on the land that generations of his family had worked?

Two red camellias. I don’t know the facts but I do know, beyond doubt, their significance. Many possibilities come to mind and I consider each with empathy. I sit and think them through as I have a cup of tea and a sandwich, preparing for the next stage of my trip. And then I am assailed by a thought that my mind has so far refused to entertain.

Two red camellias. Pray God they don’t signify a wife, a mother, who has lost not only the mainstay of her life but the fruit of her womb in some tragic event…

Two red camellias…

You will have your own thoughts on this. You may also know at first hand what I have really only hinted at. I would like to hear your story.

John Reid

  1. Sorry, everyone. ‘A widow and her sibling’ was meant to be ‘a widow and her child’.

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