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COMING TO GRIPS
Still half asleep I roll over, feel the bed beside me:
A cow roars urgently in the valley. Somewhere a bull hiccups a reply. The clock on the dressing table shows 2:30 a.m. Next time I wake the sun has been shining for hours, the bed beside me empty. I rise, go into the kitchen. My husband grunts his disapproval. I refuse food. I claim to be a country girl. We have lived on this banana plantation for many years. Years of struggle, heart break, budgeting bank loans, of baby nappies hanging limply in the January heat. When rain breaks through it produces a stinging sweaty heat. In a more humorous moment I wrote:
Today I don't feel funny. The wide kitchen window brings the valley close. Across the valley Mt. Warning, Wollumbin to indigenous people, rises into a seething patch of low cloud. The tourist brochure claims the rays of the sun touch Wollumbin first, before any other part of Australia. Not this morning. The sight is magnificent. Banana plantations drop away, huge patchwork quilts on the lesser hills. I slip out the back door, through the fence, into the valley. Giant paspalum reaches to my shoulders. I push my way through the overgrown pathway.
sun high --
I am a dreamer. Not lazy as my husband thinks. Time simply gets away from me. The whine of a motor penetrates my thinking. I have to run to get back before my husband comes in for lunch. Noon and the humidity is high. Cicadas are deafening.
the cicada's shrill
Day time cicadas, night time frogs, mosquitoes and flying ants -- ants which leave their wings in the house. The buzz of activity endless. Country folk look up thoughtfully and say: 'it must be going to rain', when flying ants appear. The fact that it does rain seems to make it an even less intelligent observation each time it happens! But what do I know? A quick salad takes care of lunch.
A short rest then work until it is dark. A man of the land my husband would not be happy anywhere else. On the other hand I'm not so sure that we made the right move. Until, out of boredom I began to write things down. Problems tumble into place, human qualities of country folk glow with warmth. Our tropical plantation is mysterious and glamorous. We have one of the most magnificent views on earth right in our own front yard. As usual the afternoon has slipped away, evening too. I am daydreaming.
Midday. The temperature 108 degrees. In every direction the countryside a Namatjira . . . red, yellow, desert, old as time.
Somewhere between Alice Springs and Darwin. Sand ridges sweep on and on. Monotony broken only by clumps of spinifex and occasional stark white gums.
creeping on --
The road follows a dried river bed. Shimmering heat quivers over distant salt pans like pools of cool water. How easily we might be tricked!
Off to one side, hills rise to a small plateau. Large boulders spill down its side. Dried pools show how much water they would contain in the wet season. Now dust lies feet deep, rising in red wind-whipped clouds. We follow the deep gully around to the far side. Here a billabong is left.
Wild ducks, egrets, plovers and jacanas, as well as many small animals live here. Larger animals come only for water.
Could man survive in this desert, we wonder? Quickly we set out once more, hoping . . .
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GETTING OFF THE ROUND-ABOUT
Autumn. A hint of summer lingers in the shortening days, a reminder that nothing is ever really gone, even when we thick it has. At our age a relationship should be more mellowed and comfortable. No need for wild passion and the intense disagreements we still experience.
The house becomes familiar . . . closing the bedroom door consolidates the grey within my mind. Closing my eyes the doubts flood back. Flinging myself face down on the bed begins a slow revolution of the room. His voice, his angry words, taunt me again and again.
under the eaves
An outdoor light snaps on. A branch shadow-patches: curtains, walls, and ceiling. Another slow revolution, then:
Memories tap at my consciousness. There was a time when we were impassioned by youth and excited by learning. We were hungry for every morsel of knowledge and recognition in each other . . . appetites insatiable.
a car door slams
A thin sliver of bright yellow light from the other room enters under the door. If he enters will I pretend to be asleep? Will I forgive his heated words? Will I . . .
his body weight
I wake to the sounds of surf, for a moment not knowing where I am. Then I remember. 5 a.m. Cold light enters through the hoary window. The Pacific Ocean at full tide laps the frontage to the cottage. Fog clings to distant cliffs. Today will be
An old man bending against the weather searches for shelter under the jetty. I shiver, it reminds me to set a match to the prepared fire. Soon the flicker roars to a comfortable size.
The sea is the reason I have come, the source of inspiration. Family left behind, I am
While many abhor the winter beach, I enjoy the solitude, the magnitude, the reassuring rhythm. Walking on an empty beach teaches me humility, perspective, as a small speck in the universe included in nature's plan.
along the beach
Further back near the dunes evidence of life everywhere, but no human intrudes.
a gull screams
Like little old men they waddle ahead of me, squabbling over the crumbs I throw. Soon the evening fog begins to build. All day on the beach! Ahead the cottage's
Ashes still warm, a log brings the fire loudly to life. Soup and hot buttered toast feed the body, but the soul has been feasting.
POST CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION
Christmas is cancelled. No hot dinner. No presents. No joyful or triumphant feeling for either of us.
Days of 40 degree celsius heat. It may be cooler at the beach. He won't come. I go with my daughter, grandson, feel guilty all afternoon.
The past six months weigh heavily on us, particularly him. Surgery, radiation therapy, burns and peeling skin. He unaccepting of my help. I withdraw into myself.
I still need him, want him, he shuts me out, a little more each day. We become strangers, polite, careful not to offend.
i was sure
Another medical checkup. The doctor is pleased, says 'you could live to be an old man!'
come to bed
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