Today is Australia Day. It's also Gemma-Rose's birthday. How are we going to celebrate? We're going to head into the great Australian bush!
"Let's run up the hill," someone shouts, and three girls disappear into the distance.
"Let's dance," someone suggests, and three girls leap through the air.
We jump from mossy rock to mossy rock, as we cross over the creek.
"Hands in the air," someone shouts, as we wade through the ferns which reach up to our chests.
"Hold onto my hand," says Charlotte as the girls descend a steep slope.
We head between skinny trees, reaching up towards the light. It feels like we're in a rainforest. Everything is damp and dark. The leaf litter is thick. There are fungi, lichen and mosses.
"Oh no!" Callum shouts. "There's a ladder."
"Nora is never going to climb a ladder!"
And she won't. Callum has to hoist our huge dog upon his shoulder. She looks wildly around as they go up and up and up.
When we get to the top, we discover a waterfall! We can see it through the trees. Can we get closer for a better look?
We climb this way and that, ducking under branches and hauling ourselves over fallen tree trunks. And then we are rewarded by the sight of falling water.
It's time to turn back.
Over the stepping stones...
and through the bush.
"How far have we walked?" I ask as our feet move from bush track to lake path.
"10 kilometres? 12 kilometres? 14 kilometres?" No one is sure. But we are certain we have walked a long way.
Sophie and Andy are the last ones to arrive back at the lake. Sophie is limping.
"How did you hurt your foot?"
"I don't know." Blood is pouring from her ankle.
Sophie is ready for a rest. We all are. It's time for our picnic by the lake.
"You're having an Angels birthday," I say to Gemma-Rose. "Celeste Angel went on a bushwalk to the waterfalls on her birthday too."
Yes, the Angel family in my children's novel, The Angels of Abbey Creek, head into the great Australian bush. They arrive at the lookout and admire the waterfalls. Mum snaps photo after photo. And then it begins to rain. By the time everyone arrives back at their van, they are all wet. Poor Mum. Her hair is sticking to her head. Normally that bothers her, but for once she doesn't mind. It's all part of the adventure.
It isn't raining today. We don't have to eat our picnic in a steamed-up car like the Angels. We can relax at a table by the lake. And we do relax until Andy jumps up. He's discovered something wriggling on his clothes.
"I bet that's a leech bite on your foot, Sophie," someone says.
"Do you remember the leeches in the Bush Boys book?" someone asks.
Suddenly Gemma-Rose's Angels of Abbey Creek birthday is turning into a Bush Boys birthday.
Have you read Father James Tierney's Bush Boys books? They are adventurous stories set in the Australian bush. You could visit the Bush Boys Online blog to find out more. The books are available from the Cardinal Newman Faith Resources bookshop as well as Catholic Heritage Curricula. And if you'd like to sample the delights of these living books before you buy, you could download the first book in the series for free. It's available as a PDF.
"Perhaps I could put some leeches into one of my future Angels stories," I say as we head home. "Yes, I must remember the leeches..."
|The Angels of Abbey Creek|
Have you ever been bitten by a leech?
Have you ever had a picnic in a steamed-up car?
Have you ever had a bush birthday?
And have you ever read any bush books?
Perhaps you'd like to read The Angels of Abbey Creek or The Bush Boys!
Happy birthday Gemma-Rose.
And Happy Australia Day!