Monday, November 2, 2015


My first night camping was clear and warm. I was in a deserted campsite, so after dinner I lay on the road (the warmest spot) and looked at the stars.

I'd had the idea that I'd use my binoculars, but recently I've gone off cameras and binoculars and anything that distorts vision. Nothing is as good as the eye.

I just lay there, being as quiet and still and small as possible, in a galaxy that at such a great distance seems quiet and still, the stars and planets small as pin-pricks. I felt part of the earth, because I am. And one of the stars, because we're all made of the same matter. And like I didn't exist at all, a black spot on black tarmac in a black night.

I tried not to breathe, not to be a body, but to just observe: dark eyes in the darkness watching, and nothing more.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The hammock

The hammock is up.

The hammock means summer. It means naps at midday in the shade when it's too hot to do anything. It means cocktails drunk rocking to a gentle evening breeze. It means time to stop and listen to the birds, the wind, the silence. It means lounging outside with the hens and the goats nearby, with beetles buzzing past and ladybirds alighting on your ankle. It means lying in the warm shade and looking up through a holey puzzle of leaves to the broken blue sky above. It means dreams. It means presence. It means ease.

The hammock means happy days.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The poultry paradox

Since I went to Galapagos and swam with turtles bigger than I am (among other animals), I've become a vegetarian. While this was an emotion-based decision, and one I can't really describe in words ("Because science!?!"), I didn't think it was exactly out of character. However, others have been surprised for, I guess, the more obvious reasons.

If you kill your own table birds, you must love meat. Right? Well, no (although they were delicious). It was a choice, like growing a vegetable garden and an orchard, towards more conscious consumption.

A duck drains in the fridge
No one I know has ever admitted to killing an animal to eat themselves (except a few who like to fish), and everyone is visibly repulsed when we talk about killing chickens or ducks. Yet all of them, but for a handful, eat meat regularly.

Now that I'm no longer eating meat, this seems extraordinary to me.

In Australia we like to pride ourselves on knowing where our food comes from, but when it comes to meat, we all studiously avoid the processing that happens between the vaunted paddock and the venerated plate.

By "processing" I mean killing, evisceration and cleaning. Blood and gore. Sentient being becoming fresh-skun flesh. I know that made your skin crawl, but come on. That is the literal reality of it.

My position isn't that everyone should stop eating meat. It's that we should take responsibility for, face up to, and educate ourselves about, our choices—choices we should make consciously.

To that end, I can tell you one thing. A bird I raised and killed swiftly and with respect was much better off than the birds you're buying in the supermarket or from the butcher or off a menu. Which is why today I offered to show a friend how to do it, despite my being vegetarian. Despite being a person who loves to eat chicken, he declined.

Humans are complicated beings.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Insufficient wilderness

For the month of September I have housemates.

To get them, I left Farmette. I'm staying in the city, in a lush suburb whose houses are glossy with new paint. Here, green lawns lap straight-limbed fences. Citrus and magnolia trees glow with blooms and fruit. All the plants are pretty and carefully chosen for their locations. And everywhere there is paving.

Concrete paths and pavements. Grey gutters washed by Spring rains. Blacktop roads along which quiet cars sigh. Big trees might dot the manicured nature strips, but everything, all of it, is bound by perfect paving.

Too perfect.

There's no wilderness here, and no room for it. Everything is nice. Controlled. There's no margin for error, not even space to experiment. You cannot disappear here or forget yourself. There's no room to surrender, no place to vanish.

In the city, civilisation trumps animalism. Our deeper instincts, the internal wilderness, must remain submerged. We can be seen. And like the nice streets, the nice houses, we must remain nice and neat and perfect. We must keep to the paths.

It's constrictive. Restrictive. Suffocating. I love my housemates. But a few days in, and this adventure has already proven I couldn't live in a city permanently.

Monday, August 31, 2015


The mechanic told me to bring him a different car to service in six months' time. My old Landcruiser needs more work than he'll let me pay for. It's finally time for my motoring to accelerate if not into the current century, at least out of the 1980s.

Given the adventures I've had in that car, you might think I'm unhappy to see it go. I am. But I'm also excited about the thought of having a car that was manufactured in a decade of which I have at least some recollection.

There's a snag, though: the purchasing of this wonderous "new" car.

Ben, the mechanic, is helping me. He reviews ads I send him for cars and tells me what to look out for. He said, "if you can, bring it in and I'll have a look and tell you what problems you'll be buying." He sent me an email on the weekend that included this in his list of potential problems I should check on a truck I was going to test-drive:

"Oil or grease leakage around front swivel hubs. (The big ball looking things behind the front wheels.)"

He finished the email with his mobile number and the signoff, "if you have any questions, shoot me a txt."

Before you ask, the mechanic is well and truly taken. He's not expecting any favours in return for his kindness. But I have been taking my car to him for eight years. And I think he's pretty clear about the fact that there is not really anyone to help me buy a new car. No dad, no brother, no boyfriend—no females either—with any mechanical sense, and certainly no friends who have the time to scour car yards with me, online or otherwise.

Except him. So he is.

I suppose it really may be as effortless for him as it looks. But to me it's a miracle of the highest order, and an enormous relief—one for which I'm constantly thanking gods I don't believe in. Constantly.

I hope your mechanic is as good as mine.

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.