Monday, August 24, 2015

The hanging tree

Last week while walking in the forest I smelled that first scent of spring.

What is it that makes that scent? The new-flowering wattle? The warm bark of trees no longer wet through all over? The earth itself? I don't know. But I smelled it again a few days later. Perhaps it's something growing in the forest that surrounds the town. Or perhaps it's the farmland exhaling after a long and waterlogged winter.

On a walk with a friend that week I found myself on the top of the tallest hill here, looking out over the forest and farmland through the mesh of trees. We found a memorial wired to one of those trees: a picture of a man and some solar garden lights.

"That must be for that young guy who killed himself," my friend said. She's on the town's cemetery committee, so she hears about everything.

"What?" I asked. "When did this happen?"

"Not long ago. He hung himself up here," she said, gazing out across our little outcrop of hills. The sun was setting and the distant forest was blue. "His dad lives in that house down there. He just wanted a small funeral. His mum lives in town, and she wanted a big deal with lots of people. I gave them the price schedule and never heard back from them."

The leaves above us whispered in the wind. I'd been up here after dusk not long before and I'd seen the lights glowing in the tree. I hadn't known why they were there, though.

Looking out over the countryside now, I thought now that this would be a very good place to die. Peaceful. But I also wondered how, cleansed by this view, washed clean by the eucalyptus wind, a person couldn't find enough peace to give the world one more day. And tomorrow, another.

We started down the hillside toward home, the empty spring evening rising up, green and scented, all around us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sunny side up

Today, in a rush, my birds started laying.

Five hens' eggs; two ducks', although I think one of them had been kicked around the run since yesterday. I believe, though I can't be sure, that the layer of both duck eggs is a new female, one I hatched in the summer.

The fruition of a dream.

I've had hens' eggs off and on for a few weeks now. But it was a surprise to have five in the box at sundown. All around here, new calves are lurching up on knobbly legs and tiny shadows of lambs are bleating at their mums.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Apple pie for breakfast

This morning I had apple pie for breakfast. In bed. With coffee. Somewhere around 11.

I made the pie using apples from a tree I'd found on the side of a backroad. It's drooping with fruit, so I took a shopping bag's worth, and made some shortcrust and custard, and there we were.

On my way through the forest to pick the apples, I discovered an entirely new view that I've never seen before. Nearly eight years in this place, and I'm still stumbling across new surprises.

The bottom line here—of this post, of this blog?

Enjoy your life. Make sure you do.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Of the earth

My refrigerator smells of the earth.

Despite what happens in our lives, the seasons roll on, and now's potato time. I spent today digging potatoes and baby Jerusalem artichokes in between trying to catch up on the things I'm endlessly putting off to make trips to the hospital.

I hadn't planted any potatoes or artichokes in the vegetable garden. They came up of their own accord. A gift from the soil itself.

A gift now graded for size and stacked in plastic bags in my fridge. Which smells exactly like a nighttime garden bed, opening its pores to the dew the darkness brings.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Strange country

When abroad
and in strange country
I wonder:

What of the men here?

I am from the hills—
know only mountain men—
and so I wonder:
What of a man whose gaze
stretches to a dim horizon
across grey paddocks
scar-cut by creeks?
Whose crop is sparse
beneath skies
calamitous with cloud?
Whose soil is dust
and whose nearest tree
is yet so very far?
He must squint,
the plainsman,
And grit his teeth
and curse the rains
—as thin as they must be.
For isn't it the black soil
that gives the mountain man
his smile?
The green clearings
that keep him
fed and strong?
The fuzzy forests, thick and damp,
that save him from winds,
and from worry?

If it is place that makes a man
then what of the men
in this strange country?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dear diary

Two journal entries, three days apart.

"[Name] and [Name] lost [their son] yesterday. I can’t write about that."

"[Name] in the hospital after ordeal. I can’t write about it. I can’t write it."

I mentioned earlier that I need to make sense to write. There's not enough sense to tell you about anything just yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How the weather works

This weekend I was invited to stay with some friends on the coast for a two-night birthday party.

But this is fire season, and when the invitation was extended I had no idea how dry it would be. So I committed to stay for the Saturday night only.

It's turned out to be a wet summer, though, and there were storms on Friday night. On Saturday I left the goats on gorse in the forest (without shelter, since it's too hard to get the house to the spot they're in), chickens and ducks in their runs, and two ducklings of different ages in the living room with heat, water, and food.

On Sunday we'd planned a birthday lunch at a cafe, but on Saturday night someone had mentioned it was supposed to get to 37 degrees in Melbourne. I quizzed the others, but I began to feel uncomfortable about all my weird questions, which, understandably, no one knew the answers to. We were on the coast! If it got hot, we'd get in the sea! Who cared about the change? It wouldn't get that hot down here anyway...

So on Sunday morning I borrowed the phone of a lucky soul who had mobile coverage and checked the Bureau of Meteorology. The forecast was for 34 degrees in my area, but 25 tomorrow. When would the change come through? Would it be wet or dry? Windy? Stormy? I tapped around until I found the right page. The change wouldn't come till late in the day. I could guarantee the goats would have kicked their water over already, and the newest duckling was under heat in the living room.

I left the beach house just before 11am, and got home to goats and a duckling without water, and another duckling melting in its brooder. No fires, though. And the car didn't overheat on the trip home, which was a bonus.

When you have livestock or a fire threat, the weather ceases to be a frivolity. It becomes a real, live entity that affects what you do—or don't. Peak temperatures matter, but so do wind speeds, humidity, and change conditions.

This is how the weather works.