Max is outside, there is much to do. He pushes his baby wheelbarrow, leaning forward into hard work, inside it a pair of secateurs that he isn’t allowed to have, a bone, some gum leaves, an iris blade, a bottle top and a feather; a heavy load of world treasure all of which needs to be banked. He pulls at fragrant plants releasing startled beads of mint, lavender, lemon balm into his senses and Masie, the good kelpie, follows behind, a dignified butler, hoping for the ball which is also in the wheelbarrow, taking stalks and leaves in her mouth from him, as delicate as a surgeon. Max gets caught on hot bricks, cries for rescue, he becomes tangled in ants and cannot move, he knows they sting and he watches them swarm, all 2 of them, across his feet and cries for rescue again. He likes the bees which talk to him at head height, he likes the cat who watches him humourless and hidden. He likes water, grass seeds and old bones. It is early summer and the garden must be a thousand miles deep, yields a mixture of prickles, snails, pea straw, charcoal, an old chain, a tub full of strawberries that must be dug over vigorously and quite ruined, Pa’s boots large enough to fall into. Max tracks around and around and around pursuing the work of ten men, attended by one sheepdog, herding her young.
Max can roll a tennis ball, a monumental effort that will roll the ball about ten cm away. Maisie, the honourable kelpie is not dismayed. She will retrieve the ball from its small distance with enthusiasm, it is proper work, it will do for now. Max is just 11 months old and Maisie knows that puppies take time.
The tennis ball is no longer clean but Max is not dismayed, he has no interest in orderliness – irrelevant to the growing life. He will lean over and urge the ball away with all of his 11 months of mobility and strength. When it rolls the correct and tiny distance he and Maisie are pleased. She gently noses it back again. They are tremendous to each other. He will do it again and again. Each repeat is a repeat of life, brilliant, wealthy and exact.
This evening we took the pram down the dirt road, way out the back, away from all the houses.
Running down the dirt road, Max and his family and the dog, running through the ribbons of late sunlight, running away from the winter.
Masie, the brown kelpie runs alongside the pram on her small truthful feet. She never swerves, never stumbles. She avoids neatly every pothole and rock in her path.
Max’s nose is streaming in the cold wind. Still he sits up straight, hanging onto each side of the pram, facing the cold, riding the evening. He sways with the pram, rides over the rocks and his eyes are fixed on the front, watching the things that only babies see. He turns to watch Masie still running quietly alongside, he holds out his hand toward her trotting ears. She acknowledges him kindly, noses his hand, continues to run. He calls out a baby tune which is tuneless but important. The pram vibrates his voice box, plays in his throat, he allows a stream of sound that goes on and on, pebbly and bouncing, he sings more loudly, delighted with his jogging voice, the humming sounds, both hands in the air, swaying and singing and the cold wind blowing and Masie running patiently, gently alongside the pram and the family.