Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.
The old farmer painstakingly fitted the last plank of the new floor to his old farmhouse,
“Children need good light to learn by.”
Then he shuffled out, taking his modest belongings to an old caravan parked just outside the door. An old kelpie sat next to his dusty boots, wagging it's tail. The farmer looked down at it, smiling: “We've had a good life here, haven’t we? With the missus.” His gaze took in the empty chicken coop, the rabbit hutch and the paddock where their sheep, goats and bulls had roamed.
“We'll find a young family in need, who can raise their children here. And grow vegetables, like we used to do,” he smiled, as he walked slowly around the rows of silverbeet and rhubarb that he used to take in his truck to the market. Suddenly his kelpie started to bark and he noticed two kids running through the mandarin orchard, picking some on the go. He waved to them.
“Is this the right place? We got your details from the charity centre in town. They've checked our credentials and said that they sent all of our information to you. So we decided to introduce ourselves to our saviour,” the young man stepped from one foot to the other, unsure of the farmer’s reaction. He spoke in heavily accented English, as he held the hand of a five year old boy, to restrain him from chasing the old kelpie around.
The old farmer chuckled, pushing his broad hat back to wipe his sweaty brow:
My kids have successful lives overseas now and they're not coming back.
This place needs loving and caring hands.” He ruffled the ears of his old dog who was panting heavily. He pointed with his other hand to the windmill next to the house and the solar panels covering the roof: “Electricity won't cost you much and you have your own water from the artesian well.”
The young wife started to cry, wiping her big dark eyes with the hem of her shirt: “You don’t even know us. We're so grateful to you. My husband lost his job at the mine. I still have my cleaning job at the local shopping centre, thank God,” she smiled suddenly: “We used to have a farm back in Venezuela when I was a child.”
“That's a long way away,” the old farmer whistled, surprised. The young man chuckled, more at ease now: “I'm from Guatemala. We met while we were both on the run, just after I finished my engineering degree.”
“On the run?” The farmer looked up to see that it was the wife’s turn to smile, as she picked up her four year old daughter who was munching on a sweet mandarin, fresh from the tree: “Wow, that smells so good! So fresh! I couldn't believe our luck when we were offered this paradise, after years of struggling, and looking for a safe place to lie our heads for the night.” The young man put an arm around her shoulders: “We moved across South America for years, running away from poverty and drug lords. Then I applied for a mining job here in Australia. That was a dream come true for us.”
The farmer led them into the house,
He offered them Anzac biscuits from an old tin.
The young man fetched a guitar from his beat up Ford and played a few sweet South American tunes, while the little kids danced on his newly laid floor. It made the old farmer’s heart beat fast with joy. The young wife came back from the truck with homemade beans and chili pastries which the farmer had never tasted before. Without even knowing it, it was he who'd found family, not the other way around.
“The landlord wasn't supposed to kick us out until March, because of the pandemic that protects renters now, so people don't end up on the street. But there were too many South American families sharing that run down house,” the young woman sighed: “We were the latest arrivals and my husband lost his job, so we had to go.” The old farmer noticed that the more upset she was, the more pronounced her South American accent became. But was very pleasing to his ears and he listened carefully to understand her singing tilt as she spoke.
“As I said to the charity, find me some good people who'll love and take care of my place. Someone who won't mind me parking my caravan for a month or so at the back, once a year. So that I can breathe in my old life for a while again.” The young woman took hold of his arm as she pushed a plate of deliciously scented flatbread, stuffed with peppers, in front of him: “You're our grandpa now. Our kids have no grandparents as our parents are long gone. This is your home. We're just guardians of your paradise.”
The old farmer smiled, saying to himself more than to her: "To know someone here or there, with whom you can feel that there's understanding, in spite of distances or thoughts expressed... That can make life a garden."
“What does that mean? I'm sorry, my English is not so good,” she smiled shyly and the old farmer chuckled. Goethe said it, not me. It was a favourite saying of my wife. Her father was German, you see. All of us here down under came from somewhere else. Except for our Indigenous people, of course.”
The young man put his guitar down to walk with his daughter in his arms, after she started to cry when she fell while skipping around. He stopped in front of an old papyrus written in ancient Latin, that had been framed and hung on a brick wall.
He slowly read the English translation underneath:
Love is a respectful object. It is, but to suffer and enjoy. Love is a great and wealthy object.
Mountains fall and ashes remain.
It becomes a fire for the heart. It makes kings servants.
Love is a confident object. Love hits people with arrows, but there is no pain without true love.
There are too many curses with self and pleasure obsessed love that most people are searching for, but not us.
Love is a different object. It boils the seas and makes them dance.
It causes stones to talk, as love is a strong object. It surprises people too. It causes us to drop into the ocean.
It makes people suffer.
Love is a difficult object. What can poor me or you do? Whom am I or you, to tell their troubles to? Still, love is a delicious object.
Written by Yunus Emre
Translated from Turkish to Latin in 1290
by Hungarian Dervish Casimo
“That is so beautiful,” the young wife breathed in: “Like our South American love songs. And it's nearly a thousand years old?” She looked at the old farmer who nodded, wiping his tears: “It was a wedding present to my wife from Hungary. Casimo was her ancestor from way back. It's been passed down through her family for generations,” he stopped to take hold of her smooth, tanned hand with his wrinkled, sunburnt one: “If you don’t mind, please keep that on the wall. It's been there since this house was built. It protects the house with love.
That's what my wife and I believed, anyway.”
The young family watched with their eyes full of unspoken love
as the old farmer eased his battered body into his old Holden ute, his dog sitting on the passenger’s seat and his deceased wife’s photo swinging from the rear view mirror. They waved him goodbye: “Where are you going?”
He shrugged, smiling at them as he pointed to the old caravan behind him: “There's a farm with horses where I'll give a hand. They've got a paddock that I can put my caravan in. I'll be just fine.” The young wife presented him with a neat parcel of leftover guacamole: “For the road! See you soon Grandfather. We'll wait for you.”
“See you in a few months kids,” he called back delightedly as he watched them blow kisses and wave goodbye. Looking in the mirror, he said to his wife's picture: “I know that you'd be happy now, just as I am. Love never ends. And as you always said, we're born to share.”