A family bout of hideous gastro luckily ended just in time for me to head to the Bendigo Sheep Show a few weeks ago. I dutifully waited my 48 hours - ending Saturday night - which meant that I got to head up to Benders on the Sunday with two of my smalls on the quietest day of the show. We were chuffed to get to go this year, as we have missed the last few years, and it is a total treat. Making that drive up the Calder is like stepping back into my childhood. All ironbarks and rocky ground.
I spent my formative years in a variety of towns in country Victoria. A few of those years were spent in a little town called Numurkah. My dad* was the local ambulance officer, and part of his ambulance job was to attend the local agricultural show. We kids got to go with him. Now, he is a friendly guy who loves a chat, which meant much chatting and hand shaking. It was a day that I looked forward to. Full of people and conversation. I remember the joy of being there and feeling like we were a part of something. Part of a group of people that had come together to share their year. It was community grounded in place.
As an aside I also remember that the best part of that special day was that one year we all got to ride home in the back of the ambulance totally freestyle. Ahhh the 80s. So unsafe but totally thrilling for a small kid.
Being at the Bendigo Sheep Show a few weeks ago reminded me of the feeling of being part of a country community. I felt the contrast between the life of my childhood and my life in the city. In a way there is less diversity in my city community in terms of age group, personality, values and type of people. Now don't get me wrong. I'm incredibly grateful for my community. They are generous, present and supportive, but these days my community has been created through friendships that have occurred by choice around shared values. We aren't thrust together in the same way that you are when you live in a small country town.
But being at the Sheep Show reminded me that there is something glorious to be said for a broader community. One that is more diverse and includes greater difference maybe? I can't put my finger on exactly what the difference is but I felt the richness in it. It was nice to be reminded of it and feel a part of it.
Now all that said, at the Sheep Show there were two distinct groups of people; the fibre lovers and the farmers. The outfits were totally different. Farmers wore polar fleece and the fibre lovers wore wool. It was like a uniform for both teams.
I took the kids in to watch the shearing for a bit, and the kind of community I was part of on that day long ago in Numurkah was clearly visible, farming families of multiple generations. Then we headed into the sheds selling the yarn and could clearly see the broader crafting community feeling the joy of being surrounded by likeminded souls.
I wore my Riddari so a couple of kind people recognised the sweater, and came up and said hi which I totally loved. I don't get to meet you lot very often, and so really I have no idea who it is that reads my rambles. It was a total treat for me, so thanks to you brave souls who introduced yourselves. x
Being at the sheep show on the weekend reminded me of how grateful I am to be part of this crafting community because in a way it is similar to the country community I grew up in. It's diversity is part of the joy; all ages and all types. There is space for our quirks and our crazy. Having a passion around craft means being able to strike up a conversation with women I don't know, who are decades older than me, in the queue and know that we share a connection.
This is something I love about the retreat as well. I never know who will be there and I can't wait to meet them. It's a group of women coming together around a simple shared understanding of the meaning, and the joy, of using our hands to create.
* not the photographer dad but my other dad - I'm lucky enough to have two.