Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

The Long Journey Home

I was in Nyngan this week when I received news of Jane Lambert’s death. The call came just as wide bands of colour flared in the sky, marking sunset over Nyngan’s slow moving river. Nyngan is the mid way point on the almost twelve hundred-kilometre drive from Broken Hill to Sydney, and for the remainder of the journey Jane was never far from my thoughts.

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Driving gave Jane independence and freedom, two things she craved after nearly a decade in hospital and rehabilitation centres. When she moved to France Jane loved nothing more than getting in her car to explore, not knowing where she was heading or where she might end up. The journey mattered more than the destination.

“I love a sunburnt country
A land of sweeping plains…”

Dorothea McKellar’s “wide brown land” couldn’t be more different to the “green and pleasant land” of William Blake where Jane grew up, or the rich French countryside she grew to love, but I’d like to think Jane would have enjoyed driving in Australia.

The parched landscape of central New South Wales is locked into a fearsome drought right now, paddocks full of dry brittle grass, but Jane would have found beauty in it. She had a knack of finding beauty wherever she looked, so I looked for it as we drove from Dubbo to Orange, sweeping past distant hills crowned with thorn bushes and pale eucalyptus trees, shimmering in the heat. Were it not for the blue sky above we could have been driving through a sepia toned photograph from long ago – great slabs of landscape in muted hues of brown and ochre, straw coloured fields slowly fading to burnt orange.

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We stopped near Bathurst to buy peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots ready for Christmas and I remembered with joy the last trip we took to see Jane in France a few short months ago. She was on top form, relishing our three-hour lunch and insisting we stay for afternoon tea, which somehow slipped into a six o’clock aperitif.

The road bucked and climbed towards Lithgow, where the glorious sight of mountain ranges in smoky blue stepped into the distance, then it was hard fierce driving through the Blue Mountains, concentrating all the way, until finally, two days after we set off, we reached Sydney and our new home.

Twenty years ago Jane embarked on an adventure to make a new home for herself in France. It needed far more work than our new home will require and Jane did it alone, at the age of sixty-four, in a wheelchair. Her story is the subject of Dream Wheeler.

When Jane left London she left behind people and places that were dear to her and she battled the odds to create a new life for herself, not knowing how it would turn out. She embarked on her adventure with grace, guts and a remarkably good spirit. I hope we can do the same with our new life in Sydney.

We all have to take the journey from life to death, some of us tragically far too soon. Jane’s passing reminds me to enjoy that journey.

RIP Jane Lambert       17 Aug 1929 – 17 Dec 2013

12 comments on “The Long Journey Home

  1. wendylockyer
    December 19, 2013

    So sorry to hear the sad news that Jane had died. An amazing woman whose strength and determination is an inspiration. We could all do with a bit more of it at times. Thanks to you Deb her story will live on in your wonderful book. I urge everyone to read all about Jane and her journey.

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  2. debhuntinbrokenhill
    December 19, 2013

    Thanks Wendy, she was an inspiration to me and I’m sure to many others x

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  3. helenthis51
    December 19, 2013

    My thoughts are with you Deb. It is not easy losing a close friend. In death as in life, I am sure Jane will break all the rules as she settles into her new world. HT

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  4. debhuntinbrokenhill
    December 19, 2013

    Thank you Helen, I’m sure you are right about that!

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  5. Lisa McFayden
    December 19, 2013

    So sad to hear of Jane’s passing Deb, but what a remarkable life and how wonderful for you that you were able to be such an important part of it. And how lovely for her family that you’ve captured so much of her life and character in your fabulous book.

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  6. debhuntinbrokenhill
    December 19, 2013

    Thanks Lisa, I’m so glad Jane had the chance to see the book in print x

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  7. nantubre
    December 20, 2013

    Isn’t it wonderful how our lives are peppered with people from whom we are blessed with special and meaningful life lessons! It is no accident, you know. It part of the path God has laid before us for our benefit that we might learn to live loudly and with love. Every day is a marvelous gift. May she rest in peace and may her heart still beat vibrantly within our memories. Thank you for introducing her to us.

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    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      December 21, 2013

      Hello Nan, thank you for your comments about Jane, if we could all live loudly with love the world would be a much better place. Jane will live on in the memories of many people. Blessings on you.

      Like

  8. Wendy Moore
    December 20, 2013

    Darling Deb, so much love to you. Because of your writing, I feel like I have lost a friend too.Thank you for sharing this special woman. We are all richer for having “known” her even a tiny bit!

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    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      December 21, 2013

      What a lovely comment Wendy, I’m sad that Jane’s journey in this life is over, but so happy to know that her story has been shared, she had lessons for us all x

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  9. Django Zazou
    January 1, 2014

    Very saddened to hear that Jane has gone, Deb, but through you she will always be alive to so many people and she’ll continue to be an inspiration. I was privileged to have met such a remarkable woman and her legacy is in the model she created for a life properly lived. I shall always aspire to that model, and always be grateful to her for it.

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  10. debhuntinbrokenhill
    January 4, 2014

    What a lovely message Django, Jane always asked after you every time I saw her. She was an inspiration to us all and you more than most of us are following her lead. Hope the music is going well x

    Like

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This entry was posted on December 19, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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