I am feeling fond of rural life at the moment. This is a state of being that comes and goes, depending on the weather, where I am working and whether or not I have had any fights with right-wing long-term residents about matters political in the previous day. I should be talking myself into moving to a city, or at least a regional centre, where I can get work that might stimulate my brain, but at the moment I feel springtime lazy and content.
In 2006, encouraged by my late best friend, Andrew, I accidentally bought a house. A little pale green witches cottage, where you can’t bash the walls in a temper or renovate because of all the asbestos, with a garden that my father claims is pure Horticulture 1. The house caught on fire two days after I signed the preliminary contract. Andrew pointed out that it was a pre-fire, designed to statistically decrease the chances of our pyromaniacal tendencies causing another fire too soon. It took eight months for the place to be rendered habitable again. One of the problems in regional Australia is the speed at which tradies work.
The house is in a tiny village, where weekend tourist traffic can sometimes be seen circling the one block slowly, looking in vain for a shop. There are line-dancing classes at the village hall on a Friday night. The local member spends his time on the hustings stirring jam for little old ladies while listening to complaints about the state of the main road, which spans two states, apparently relieving either state of any obligation to maintain the bitumen. The biggest excitement this August is a heated debate about the role of the local tip.
We are in the middle of a circle formed by five National Parks. The circle is filled in with wineries and local-food type businesses – a boutique jam maker, olive growers who import their olive products from Spain and sell them at an exorbitant mark-up, chocolate makers, small cafes. The winters are bleak but short and the night skies are beautiful.
It is always easy to get someone to feed our animals if we need to go away, and since acquiring a rescue mastiff I haven’t had to lock the doors. The arguments about the ‘future of the tip’ amuse me. If I run out of reading material I walk to a friends place and borrow some more. When my family visit they camp on the nature strip, a quieter option than Girraween National Park over Easter, but still within striking distance.
I think about where I will go and live if I want a ‘real’ job. I try and see myself living somewhere else. An urban centre with lots of free live music, and bookshops and markets. I’d like to live somewhere where there is a cinema for a change and I covet public transport, although everyone I know in Brisbane snorts at this. The dogs are big, lazy dogs. They’d be fine if we walked them every day. We probably won’t be able to take the alpacas, though.
There is a problem with this idea of urban bliss. I can’t actually see it in my mind. You have to be able to stand somewhere and look around and see yourself stepping out of a dwelling and going about your day. The only place lately where this has happened lately was a wildly impractical village in Poland, so little it is only on the most detailed of local maps. Kruhlik is close to the Belarus border, snuggled on the edge of a dam that was supposed to provide water for a large area of North-eastern Poland, until engineers discovered a geological problem with transporting the water. By Australian standards it is an enormous dam. Twitchers, Nordic walkers and families with fifty children and large dogs seem to be the main visitors, and it is difficult to see one side from the other. It has the kind of winters where elderly people and children die suddenly. I bet they have arguments about which community group should be maintaining the bird hide.
There are blueberries and raspberries growing wild in the woods in the summer, and, a little later in the year, mushrooms. There are rumoured to be elk, and there are definitely red deer, because I surprised one chomping happily away in a clearing in the forest. There are bicycle trails everywhere, looking sandy and quiet and covered in a chiaroscuro of shifting light and shade. If I lived there I could learn the names of all the wildflowers that blanket hollows and spill out of crevasses in the middle of summer.
Actually, I was supposed to be talking myself into living somewhere else where I could get a ‘real’ job. Clearly I am not ready for a move somewhere urban just yet.