So here I am on New Years Eve 2012, in the caterwauling bird-loud dusk at 9pm. With mozzies eating me alive. A gorgeous afternoon, wonderful friends and food, a tire-swing hanging from a gum, a tepee in the yard, guitars and singing Beatles songs. Wine and more songs and new friends and old. Kids in bare feet with sticky hands playing wars with big sticks. My little angel in amongst it hooting like a demon, loving this land he has inherited into his cellular self, sneaking lie-downs under a rug, and then bounding up again at the call for icy-poles. Goodbye everyone, lovely!
I leave the party fulfilled and take my tired little guy in arms and walk the short road to the caravan. We tussle over bed and there are some tears and then the days' joys, seated heavy in his bones, drag him under the thick doona and into the syrupy- sweetness of a justified sleep.
Me on the grass surrounded by the somnolent hum of other talkers, their smoke so strong in the still air, the birds crazy- loud. And ah, after the pressured heat now a breeze flutters the leaves in soft relief and as the sky darkens bugs climb the screen and the sounds drop to a mere whisper and scuttle of small creatures drawing in or heading out.
And there is no mobile reception, no free wi-fi anywhere; this becomes the blessed and blissed tech-less break. Timely, a good and timely reminder that people used to wait 6 months for letters, years for news of loved ones off to war or other countries.
At seven a.m. I run the old soft gravel along the river-bank and road. Cows meander the banks and mellow gold sunlight streams in between trees of gum and scribbly-bark. It is the first day of the new year and no-one is awake. The world is mine and the animals' and I am running, doing lamp-post intervals to learn how. Seven posts at run, one post to breathe slower, seven posts to run. In the rhythm of my feet and blood-pumping mantras always begin. Today it is some good Doctor Seuss; "I like to run, I like to run, I like to run in the morning sun!"
The road is wide and elm- lined when I reach town, an arrow-road that leads to the beautiful red and white church, over which a dusty morning moon peers.
AS I learn this running business my shoulders today find their natural order in the run, they like to move just a little, my hands are loose and clasp their fingertips to form light circles. My spine is learning to lengthen when running instead of bunch. It all feels good, just the breathing still to master.
There are awakenings on the way home from the town. Each time I pass a flowering- wattle drunken bees hum at me in warning to not crash their party. Bull-ants are starting the days' work under my feet, little red bodies walking perfect straight lines. In the houses behind huge gardens full of old roses I hear showers start up, occasionally a car slides by, so slow, nothing to do, its bush-time, old time.
As I write I am in the bakery holding a fairly good coffee but a better bacon and egg roll. Happy New Year to me! Four kilometres then today. I will get fit in temperament and actions, feelings and deeds. I will learn to pace myself in life.
Back at the friend's house early and I magicked the kitchen. Dreamily, dozily, dazily washed and put to drain, dried and put away. In the yard the overnight campers begin to emerge. I have no hangover, so help pour the tea, make the coffee as they drift back outside to the warming morning. The kids get icy-poles for breakfast and I return to the house. At the skink huge windows overlook a front yard full of bicycles and my friends beautiful garden, she is so gifted in her gardening. Finally the peace swells over me, soft as the dust-chalky and grey-green land.
I wash and dry, then she emerges, my gorgeous glowing friend of almost twenty years. She is sorely hung-over and delighted at her emerging kitchen benches! I convince her towards a sangria for breakfast, and she fires up and we play music and shoot the shit oh so gently. My little boy gets hit in the head by a big boy on a swing, there are tears and cuddles and special toys bought out to distract. Then the whisper in my ear 'I love you mum but can we go back now please?’
Our friends need their break too, we'll be together again all arvo, beers drunk slow as the yard now empty of all save their kids and ours begins again its crawl into shade and the flies dip lazily into the chip-bowl. There will be pool- runs and the preparing of dinner. Old-fashioned and unembarrassed us women will sip cool wine in the kitchen with salad-making and the men will yap out in the yard.
Peace. Quiet joy. Natural rhythms. All possible.
My friend G finally goes to bed, it doesn't take much urging come 4pm, she's had a round of guests arriving and leaving around her sleeplessness and hangover. I sit the kids left in front of a movie, they're tired and happy to zone out in beanbags in a darkened room. We scrabble together a cheats dinner of nachos made from loads of leftovers, the kids pick at it and spaghetti as we pick and sip coronas and tiny shots of good tequila. In a wash of flies and gold light I traipse the property with camera in hand and click the minutiae that appeals: dropped bikes, swing-set, a blue-dressed doll, sunshine/ rainbow/haloes over the old shed, the tire swing. Capturing those images of my own childhood and my husbands, and what will become our little boys flicking movie- reels of road trips. A seasoned traveller now he has partied hard, learned to do a dog-paddle in the wonderful old local pool, killed lots of flies, eaten like a feral cat finding scraps and treats aplenty, and slept deep on a straight hard road that arrowed through the blonde grass and harsh noon light.
I walk him home again on my hip and he clasps my neck with damp and limp hands that twine for comfort.
It makes a simple kind of sense to me that G has ended up here, living an elegantly simple life in a quiet river town.
When I first knew her long years ago her beauty almost intimidated me. She is tall, statuesque with a swimmers shoulders. She has breasts that bounce and sway, a tiny high waist above straight hips and long strong legs. She has a classic pre-Raphaelite profile, truly pretty, and a tumble of dark blonde wavy hair. She used to nude-model for life-classes. Once she came to a ‘deviants and debauchery’ party with a punk-haired Lesbian friend on a dog leash at her heels. She has done the uni-days alongside me, and the dancing days alongside me and now does the mothering and working days, and she was and is good at all of them. She has high standards, makes a beautiful home, cooks well and gardens well. She is well-read and a feminist, who shrugs her shoulders, creates ease about her, listens to reggae and loves getting giggly.
Her children are raised slow, good kids with sparky attitudes and polite manners too. Their mum and dad are local teachers and locally liked, the kids tumble in the yard, play at the pool and eat all meals at the table.
In the late afternoon I creep into her and his room. I hold a big glass-full of the deepest yellow aged and oaked chardonnay, a really good wine, and super-cold. She is dozing on the bed but had wanted to be woken by five so we could pull the evening's meal together.
The room is in her beautiful style, pale muted parchment colours against strong teak and oak furniture, groupings of Japanese ink-sketches and Chinoiserie objects displayed against hung silks, the window full of dark green movements from the tree outside. A cool, dim, country- room. I pull into the bed and tuck my knees under the sheet and in slow sotto voice the delicious lazy chat begins, women's chat. We dip and circle, touch on subjects, mutual friends, books read, our kids, our husbands, back to each other and our own selves and wants. The room breathes softly around us, it is creakingly hot outside and the wine is cold and lovely, the sheet rumpled and crisp.
We leave the bedroom, and soon we begin again the dance of meal-time, placing food, dragging the kids from the lounge where they are watching a film with their little bodies tangled together in a tired heap.
We pour champagne and murmur, two tired but happy couples, as in the distance gum-trees crackle, their sap too hot for the limbs to bear anymore. Soon it will be dark and my little family will traipse back to the caravan, to play a tight round of chasey with the son, then to fall into bed in contented and bone-weary heaps…