I said to a friend the other day, ‘I’m really happy. I’m happy here where I live. Right now I want to stay here forever, or at least until next year. I'm happy within myself.’
Saying it out loud solidified something. Does this mean I’ll grow round and fat? Women I’ve talked to recently show me selfies on their phone when they were party girls. ‘But I’m happy now,’ they say, plumping at their thighs.
I’ve undergone a period in my life of condensed striving, of working to attain certain goals. Buying land, building something, writing a book, producing a serious academic work,
having lots of
sex. These plans, dreams or yearnings that began about a decade ago when I
returned from Otago University, (having dragged my kids over there so I could
complete a student exchange) are being actualised now. A year ago I paid off my
block of land. I’ve written the doctorate and two books. These were always
exterior goals but the act of bringing them to realisation make me feel clearer
Years ago my partner told me that I didn’t finish anything I started. This was an unfair observation, I think now. I was in the midst of childbearing and what woman ever finishes that project? Let alone all the other things she’d planned. But it stuck in my mind, it stuck in my craw. It bugged me so much that I was determined from that day on that I’d finish everything I committed myself to.
(Hemingway said, commit to the things you said you’d do when you were drunk. This is a good maxim. Ended badly for him unfortunately.)
I am happy. Saying it out loud last week made me realise how messed up I was last year. I was so out of touch with how I felt that I had no idea I was falling apart. Maybe everyone else saw me going down. Not sure. I certainly didn’t see myself going down.
I moved out here to Brooks’. It’s beautiful but sometimes it is hard at the inlet. There is no internet, no electricity, no mains water, no phone line, no mobile signal and no neighbours (except for the occasional resident Meadow Man). For the first few months I struggled with things like my broken brakes/starter motor/phone/solar power inverter, and a rather scary lack of a job or regular income. I also had to deal with that woman Sarah Toa every night on my own.
Then there is the ten kilometres of track that is either so corrugated that it shakes bits off my car, or clay so wet that it ushers my car sideways, slowly, into the gutter.
There was a few months of catastrophizing: I freaked about all sorts of things. About the pig shooters, about a sunspot on my hand that suddenly changed colour, about the changed locks on the chain gate, noises in the night. One day I walked the whole track in my town clothes when I couldn’t start the car. It was ten kilometres. (Have I mentioned that the track is ten kilometres?) I wore crocs. Don’t ever wear crocs when you have to walk a long way over gravel. It’s a shit gig. It was hot. It took me two hours and a litre of water, without a hat. My aim was to hail a traveller and ask them for a lift to the highway but no one came on the track where I almost hit holiday-makers in my car most days; and the caravan family on the highway had their car too full of home-schooled kids, dogs and ferrets (yes! ferrets!) to give me a lift. They filled my water bottle and wished me good luck.
Gradually, the people in town began to know about that woman who’d moved out to the inlet. The information spread via the Meadow Man, that gambolling mob, the local mechanic (who saves me from time to time), Sophie’s Place and a few other kind folk who recognised a kindred soul. I found work at the petrol station which has changed my world too.I love that job!
The inlet's water is the cleanest in the world because her catchment comes from three national parks threaded with karris, tingles and marris. I go fishing. I row out my boat at night and see phosphorescence. I catch sea mullet and luck in on the occasional KG whiting. I am creating new work. My income is finally equalising into something dependable. My kids are okay. I hear amazing stories every day.
I’m happy being in this strange, kooky place where the local copper resigns to become an undertaker, where the pub’s cook knocks off to play the best funk guitar you’ve ever heard, where there are still girlie calendars from the hardware shop and where that bloke sitting up top the fire-spotting tower at Mt Franklin reminds me of Jack Kerouac when he was writing Dharma Bums on top of a fire-spotting tower in California.
It’s a beautiful place, the rain water is sweet, the striving-pressure is off … and the other day Fremantle Press emailed me the cover of my next book – and it is breath taking. I’ll show you soon, once they've tweaked it. Promise.