Now that sounds a wee bit melodramatic doesn’t it … and a bit like something dreadful must be happening. But it isn’t at all. The sun rises and sets. We potter along. We now have the complete set of matching Famous Five with original artwork – very important. Our tickets have arrived for the opera in July – I haven’t been to the opera in almost thirty years. The rats eat the almond meal in the pantry. It’s just everyday life in late autumn and I know I should be filled with gratitude … and mostly I am.
Following on from my musings last week about those magical times in life where nothing happens and the days drift slowly by in lovely, simple ordinariness … this week has been nothing like that. Nope – not a skerrick of lovely simple ordinariness in sight. First up there was the excitement of visiting Sydney with Noah. Then Aunty Anne’s High Tea and a bicycling picnic to Tuross Heads – hardly hardships I know, but busy nevertheless. Then three night shifts. Then, on the last day of night shift, instead of sleeping I spent the day with Julian in the garden because he left for three weeks in London, New York and Melbourne the next morning and I wanted to have at least a little bit of civilised time with him before he left. Then Monday was for catching up on chores and driving Noah to town for university classes – do the shopping – race back home, put away said shopping, put away animals, then back into town to collect Noah from university classes. Then Tuesday was for driving Noah to town for work – he obligingly went in six hours early so I could then drive Aunty Anne to Canberra to catch her plane, before turning straight around and driving home again – these autumn days are so short there’s no time for niceties – pick up Noah from work and then home to do the animals before dark.
Yesterday, farm chores, town for Noah’s work, home again … and then I hit the wall. I was tired, cranky and glum. The air was horribly thick with smoke from a nearby burn – house? grass? bush? who knows but it sure was horrible and I simply could not look at the lurid red sunrise and see beauty. All it spookily whispered of was crisp dead grass, dams that have been reduced to cracked mud, almost empty tanks, and compacted, colour-leached soil, that when disturbed rises up into the air like powdery cinnamon. Add to that late autumn days that are still topping the high 20s and my spirits were lower than the pigs’ wallow.
There is probably a good dose of hormones playing its part too. There’s lately been a bit of attention in the media granted to women who have lived with debilitating endometriosis and an acknowledgement by the health authorities that it really is well and truly past the time we should be devoting attention and funding to thorough research into and treatment for this condition rather than just a wink, a sly grin, a pat on the shoulder and a reminder that this is just our lot in life as women. These stories were finally the push I needed to start addressing my longtime cranky uterus and I discovered that my breathlessness was not a sign that I was super unfit but that I was dreadfully anaemic (hello, iron infusions), that my regular abdominal pain and bloating could well be the result of possessing a uterus stuffed full of fibroids, one of which is bigger than most women’s uteruses, my ovaries are crushed under cysts that are bigger than the ovaries, and that having a two week period every two weeks where the blood literally runs down my legs despite all my best efforts at containing it, is not only not normal – but it’s NOT something that women should just have to put up with or that is intrinsically funny.
Yep, I reckon that when days such as yesterday roll around once or twice a month, when my spirits sink so low that I have to brush away the tears, that it’s probably a huge rush of a really unhelpful hormone and I’ve had enough of that thanks. So I’ll be seeing the gynaecologist soon and we’ll hopefully be whipping that uterus out thanks very much.
All of which is a rambling way of repeating that nope, yesterday was not a great day. I couldn’t bring myself to plant the ten roses and 40 buxus because of the dreary, smoky, overly warm atmosphere. I was too tired to assemble the Adirondack chairs for the under the applegum – and besides it was smoky and hot, remember. To sit and knit felt like giving up. I read three pages of my book and the characters were looking out at rain washed streets … so I chucked that back on the bedside table in envy. And by the time I hauled out the quilting sewing machine and set up on the table, it would almost be time to drive back into town to pick up Noah.
So I painted a little round wooden board I bought at Eckersleys back in January. Inspired by the lovely illustrations and descriptions in my current novel (The Dollmaker of Krakow), and whose shape came from the flower on my Orla Kiely bath towel. I painted the background, then washed up, then painted the face, then hung out the washing, then painted the huge hat, then fed the guinea pigs, and so it went. But it didn’t make me happy.
The colours seemed twee and the whole composition pointless. But to give up and shove that canvas into a dark corner of the shed would have only squeezed the last bit of air out of my already deflated balloon. Remember – hormones. No rational thought here. No ability to stand back and give thanks for my incredible privilege and the love, security and contentment with which I live. So I kept painting til it was time to collect Noah.
Once home we discovered one of our Plymouth chicks dead in the field. And all the male turkeys were strutting around the house yard and despite our best efforts, we could not corall them back into their safe field so I went to bed convinced my sleep would be punctured with foxy screams of delight and turkey torture. And that painting? Far out, what a stupid way to spend my precious day.
Then this morning … the male turkeys were now on the porch. The maremmas had chewed up the watering trough hose into little pieces and punctured the remaining length so that when turned on it looked like one of those sprinkling hoses. And I have work this afternoon. All I wanted was to get up, make coffee, hop back into bed with that coffee and knit. And some other mythical person could attend to everything else. Strangely enough that didn’t happen.
But thankfully, those hormones of yesterday had retreated and I was able to wryly shake my head and call out to Noah for help. We rounded up the turkeys – took some time but we finally managed it. We refreshed the straw in the chicken and turkey houses and set up the turkey house so that the remaining chicks could not wander off and die. I patiently felt along the watering hose and patched up several tears with duck tape, then put it through the fence, out of maremma reach, and threaded it back in at the other end of the field and into the watering trough – it still leaks, but it is enough to fill the pony and alpaca’s trough until I buy a new one.
And now it is time to get ready for work. There’s been no rose and buxus planting. No knitting. No sewing. No sitting on the terrace with my cross stitch. The painting is not quite finished and is still pointless. Most importantly, there’s been NO RAIN. It’s been the classic morning of one step forward and three steps back.
But thankfully enough, I have remembered that there doesn’t need to be a point. Small farm life will always be a strange, awkward dance that some weeks whirls and twirls with magic and delight, and other weeks just sees us falling over our feet into the mud. Happiness and the ideal way of being will never arrive with bulging suitcases and settle on in for ever more. And yes, there will be chaotic busyness, but when I remember to look, there are plenty of opportunities for just being – I just need to recognise them when they arrive – throw off my shoes with pleasure and settle into them with gratitude. And paintings don’t need to have a point when I am just starting out with dreams of creating my own picture books and art. I will never improve and be able to render with brush and paint what I see in my mind and before me unless I just do it – put aside time everyday and just experiment and practice.
There is no measurable, defined point. There’s just bumbling on. Sometimes with grace and success. Sometimes with a cranky uterus, rampaging turkeys, a torn up hose, and the appearance of strange little painted flower girls. Maybe I should make this into a poster and stick it up in the kitchen to remind me. And Noah’s just read out to me, from an article on the lived experience of South East Asian refugees in Bendigo, that one participant in the study expressed their gratitude that there were no soldiers in Bendigo.
Well there you go. If there has to be a significant point to our every day experiences that we notice and give thanks for, I think that person just nailed it. I’ll shut up now.