Monday, 30 July 2012

winter sunshine

My sister came down to visit us on the weekend. Our first guest in our new home - and the only one who will comfortably fit in my study without crowding me out of my writing space. We shared a room ourselves for many years, so she doesn't mind me wandering in and out. It feels suddenly terribly spacious in here now that the sofa bed is folded away again. The boys loved having their Aunty Jen here to play with and shower them with attention. We walked around the river and into town for coffee, had long leisurely meals and drank red wine while the boys kicked a ball around and the sun dipped behind the karri trees. On Sunday we headed for an inlet a little way along the coast. Clambering down the sand dunes the boys charged straight for the water, stomping through the foam. Aunty Jen kicked the football with Lewis while I headed out for a surf. Then we picnicked in the clear, bright winter sunshine.


I met Tim back in January when I was studying for my Permaculture Design Certificate up the road at Living Waters. He was a writer and teacher from Victoria traveling around Australia in his van. He and his partner Lily are now living a little further up the road, acting as live-in caretakers at The Origins Centre in Balingup. Together they have created a space for local writers to come and work on their craft and help the town's youth with their writing. They have also launched an online magazine, and asked me to contribute to the first edition. Metta is a Buddhist concept that encompasses loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill and non-violence. Metta. magazine is a collection of writing inspired by observation without judgement that hopes to instil compassion. The quarterly magazine is crowd funded - you can download it for free and make a donation if you like what you read. The first edition is, appropriately enough, about beginnings. My contribution grew from a blog post about learning how to surf. There is some beautiful writing and you can find it here.

Image by Genevieve Nolan, 15.

Friday, 27 July 2012


It took us almost two years but we have finally found home again. A little weatherboard cottage overlooking the paddocks, and the hills and forest beyond, on the edge of town where we can sink our hands into the earth and put down roots once more. It already feels like home, with all its quirks and endearing old world charm, in a way that our rented house never could. There are 20 fruit trees beginning to bud, vegetable beds to be turned and planted, chook runs to be repaired and extended. Life is full, and good. I feel so much happier here. The house and garden's spaces flow so beautifully. I have little people lined up along the kitchen bench helping me to shape the bread each morning, and willing hands pulling weeds beside me in the garden. We crawl into bed each night tired and content, and wake with plans for all that waits to be done.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Gifts from Grandma's shed

Our life here is now mostly packed away in boxes. And while I am loving the simplicity of it all, I know that we will need somewhere to unpack it all when moving day has come and gone. I have been haunting the op shops and secondhand furniture stores, the auction house and garage sales. I have found nothing worth taking home.

We need wardrobes and cupboards, for our new weatherboard cottage is somewhat lacking when it comes to storage. We also need tables - to write and draw at and also to eat from. The veneer is lifting from our old dining table after many years of soggy weetbix encrusting its corners, and I am looking forward to not having to battle bowls of cereal and craft supplies every time I try to sit down to write (in a room of my own at last!).

Funnily enough, we have found most of what we are looking for in Grandma's shed. And it is so nice to know the history of the pieces we will be taking home. The old green wardrobe from Grant's childhood bedroom, which his Dad fitted with shelves for his mechanic workshop, will now hold our craft supplies. The rickety old linoleum covered garden table will be a place to paint and drink tea on our verandah. And the old wooden tray which was used to hold crates of apples harvested from our boys' great grandad's orchard will become our new dining table. Lewis and Darcy spent some time climbing around on it today, as their Grandad would have done when he was a boy. It will be cut to size once we are all moved in and know the dimensions of our new dining space, and assembled back home in our shed. And then those memories of days gone by shall be our companions at every meal.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The urchin family

We move into our new home in just over a week. I should be busy packing boxes and sorting through stuff. So naturally I feel like doing anything but. I told Darcy about the winter tide of sea urchins we had seen washed up on the beach on our walk and he wanted to get down there straight away. So we abandoned the packing for the day and made straight for the beach. Deciding which ones to bring home was hard. He counted them, then sorted them by size. And settled on five - his urchin family - a Dad, a Mum, a Lewis, a Darcy and a baby Quinn.

I emptied the bookshelves today, packing our well loved books into banana and sweet potato boxes pilfered from the supermarket's stockpile. With the shelves bare this house suddenly feels less like home. Their presence seemed to anchor us here in this room. Now they are stacked by the back door I know that we will soon follow.

It has been a source of unending anxiety for Darcy, the impermanence of our life in a rented house. He was born in the bathroom of our house in the city and, while he was only two when we moved to the south coast, he has worried about moving again and what will come with us when we do. Now he can see the books and the toys being boxed up and packaged for the short ride up the hill he can stop worrying.

Quinn smashed the urchin family today - the baby first, before he put a big hole in Lewis. Darcy is the only one still sitting, whole and untouched, out on the balcony.  Boxing all the stuff that fills our lives away, if only for a week, is a reminder of how little of it we really need. A small pile of books. A handful of sea urchins. A family. And we will all be following the truck up the hill on moving day.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Walking with my boy

He packed his compass, torch, sketchbook and his new tin of coloured pencils. I packed everything else. We waved goodbye to his Dad and his brothers and set off together into the bush at the edge of town, taking the trail up the side of the mountain where the red, yellow and orange fungi burst like sunshine from the dank, damp forest floor. We stopped to draw on a rock, then clambered through the trees and over massive granite boulders to the farmland that divides the forest from the beach. The black cows watched us as we crossed the paddock and back into the woodland, dodging the cow pats amongst the banksias and grasstrees before we climbed another stile and found ourselves in the coastal heath, purple and pink wildflowers dotting the dunes. We spotted some friends as we skirted the beach, Lewis reading his compass as we walked "west, west, west."

I stopped to look at every toadstool, ant nest and caterpillar that caught his eye, and lifted him aloft to search for treasure at the end of the rainbow that plunged into the sea as showers swept the coast. "I like being with you most of all Mum," he said to me, "without my brothers making noise and getting into trouble, or any jobs for you to do." There have been hours alone together here and there - a trip to the movies or a ride into town - but he has had to share me with a demanding younger brother ever since Darcy was born when he was just two. We started planning this hike more than a year ago when he wistfully watched me packing for a hike with Quinn, who was then still a babe in arms suckling all night long. We settled on seven as the milestone to reach. Quinn would by then be two; old enough for a night away from me. And Lewis' legs would be long and strong enough to walk the 12km to the nearest hut on the long distance walking trail that traverses our town.

The sun was sinking by the time we trudged up the hill to where the hut sat nestled beneath the towering granite monoliths. We were the only walkers on the trail and had the shelter to ourselves. Lewis laid out our mattresses and sleeping bags on the wooden platform while I cooked his favourite meal - tuna muck - for dinner. After a quick game of spotlight (which proved a bit scary alone in the bush with me hiding in the dark) we climbed into bed and read by torchlight, eating thick slices of leftover birthday cake and talking about what would be happening back home while we lay there watching the clouds flit past the moon.

He had hot chocolate and leftover muck for breakfast then gathered his pencils to walk back up the hill and draw beneath the biggest rock of all. We shared the sketchbook; I drew the stunted casuarina trees dotted around the boulders; he drew a chest of golden treasure. Two whales cruised past, rolling over and over, their flippers waving lazily to us high on the hill and their bellies flashing white against the grey sea. I lifted Lewis up to get a better view and we watched as they blew great plumes of spray from their blowholes. It was time to leave, but I promised we would return. He understands now what it is about being alone out in the bush that feeds my soul. "There is no house to clean, nothing I have to be doing," I explained. "You feel free," he said simply. He did not want to come home - would have liked for our time out there together to never end. It is all there still, waiting on our doorstep. And now he is seven it is ours to explore.