MY FIRST teaching position was up the bush. I was 23 and I got a phone call from the Education Department which ran along these lines.
Them: We have a job for you
Me: Great! Where?
Me: Where the hell is that!!!
Well, I went. I took all my worldly possessions – a suitcase, a ghetto blaster and a fern – threw them into my EJ Holden station wagon and took off.
I kid you not, it was like driving into the film ‘Wake in Fright’. The road north of Bendigo is dead straight, punctuated by a few towns identifiable by large wheat silos gradually appearing on the horizon.
I could not have asked for a more wonderful introduction to a teaching career.
I loved the kids, the dairy farming community and the Murray river.
I loved the fact that you saw the kids working the checkout in the local IGA after school.
I loved the fact that the guy who serviced my car knew me because I taught his kids.
Everybody knew everybody and, even though I didn’t play football, I quickly realised that as long as you weren’t a complete nong, country people would just accept you.
After three years I moved back to the city but Cohuna taught me that I loved living in the bush. I always felt that I’d return to it somewhere, sometime.
My wife and I have been coming to Cape Paterson for more than 25 years, renting or staying with friends. In 2017 we managed to purchase a property. Although my wife is still working in the city, I decided to take all my long service leave and come and live permanently at the coast to see if this sea change thing was all it was cracked up to be.
It actually worked out rather well, as it turned out in this year of COVID – it gave my wife a legitimate reason to escape from the city.
I turned my hand to painting and drawing (landscapes) but soon realised that my great love was photography. The pleasure I get from driving up in the hills and taking my daily walks on the beach has no bounds.
I’ve taken to driving through the hills and turning down those dead end roads, just to see what’s there. You know – the ones you see all the time in your travels but never ever turn down.
You find the most extraordinary scenes and things that only the local farmers know about. A clump of gnarled old trees, a ruined house with stone chimneys still reaching skyward, a pond with a family of ducks and views over rolling green hills all the way to Venus Bay and Cape Liptrap.
Retirement for me is about having the time to stop when you see something wonderful –clouds peeking over a green hill, or an interested cow staring at you through a fence – and actually get out of the car and take that photo.
Our lives, especially as teachers, are ruled by bells, periods, deadlines, assignments and outcomes. We have been conditioned and indeed told to see as wasteful every minute of our lives, especially our working lives, that isn’t being used to do something.
Well, now I see this requirement to be meaningfully employed every minute of the day as quite dehumanising. Mindfulness was really starting to be the new ‘thing’ at the end of my career and now I find the very act of wandering a quiet country lane or a long beach walk the ultimate in being human.
I have become the most mindful person I know!
How lucky are we to have the hills and the coast of South Gippsland as our work and playground.
I hope it is the joy of a feeling and seeing a moment in time that comes across in my photography.
Contact Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0433 663 547.