~ Naked Ladies and Parsnips ~
I’d spent the day showing my American visitors, Pete and Carrie, some of the sights of Sydney, and they’d obviously enjoyed it all. Though for Pete the supreme moment had clearly been his discovery of passion-fruit ice cream. ‘Now that,’ he said, ‘is truly magnificent!’
I asked them what else they’d like to see while they were here. Pete wanted to see Australia’s goldfields country, and Carrie was just happy to look at plants anywhere.
I had an idea. Many years ago I used to go on fossicking trips with a few friends around the old goldfields. There was one beautiful spot where I knew we could enjoy being in the bush and also win a few specks of the precious metal itself.
‘We can even pan for gold,’ I said. ‘I’ve got a pan in the toolshed.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ said Pete.
The site I remembered had hardly changed. I dug out a panful of gravelly earth from a likely spot beside the creek and showed Pete how to wash it.
Then Carrie suddenly said ‘Oh, just look at those flowers!’
We left Pete to it and walked up the grassy bank. A display of lovely pale blue-pinkish blooms on long stems were enjoying the sun just as I’d seen them years before. ‘Aren’t they lovely?’ I said. ‘They’re called Naked Ladies. I suppose because their leaves don’t come up until next Spring. There must have been a house right here.’
‘How do you know that?’ asked Carrie.
I explained. They were not native flowers, but from South Africa. So someone must have brought them here. And once here they kept coming up every year, long after the house had vanished.
‘Goodness,’ she said, looking round. ‘And now you wouldn’t know anyone had ever lived here.’
‘And,’ I added, ‘just downstream there are parsnips all along the riverbank. Probably grown from kitchen scraps thrown out by a pioneer settler perhaps a century ago. Maybe from this very spot.’
An excited shout came from Pete. ‘Hey! Just come and see this!’
Later, in the motel, after Pete’s second helping of his now favourite dessert, he said to me ‘You should write a story about this place. You could call it “Backyard Gold and Passion-Fruit ice cream.”
Carrie said ‘Or how about “Naked Ladies and Parsnips”?’
‘Now that,’ said Pete, ‘would be a great title.’
I thought so, too.
(Naked ladies, Amaryllis belladonna)