Written 8 September, 2020
Daniel Andrews announced the releasing of restrictions in Victoria, to prevent a third wave, and all businesses are up in arms. the federal government is up in arms. Health must not take so long. All sorts of arguments are shouted against it. They’d like to strangle him. But the modelling showed him that any other way, there’s be a 63% chance of a third wave. This way, only a 3% chance. But the people of Victoria love him- he has 70% approval. He’s right – the country deserves a proper Christmas. It’s been too hard a year to miss out on Christmas. I’m desperate for Carols by Candlelight, though i’ve sneered at it for years. I dream of standing together on a balmy evening with people holding a candle, singing all those dear carols I thought I was sick of. Now I’d give anything to do it. The belonging together, a puny but resolute little crowd with quivering candles, under the stars of this immense universe.
And Kitty has little cousins in Melbourne she’s come to love, after being scared of little children all her life. When we die, they’ll be her only family. Their parents, GG’s neice and nephew-in-law, and therefore mine, are front line health workers in Melbourne pathology labs, day by day testing for the virus. We must be together, we need to be together, along with their mother, GG’s lovely sister, who’s struggling to recover from cancer. We must go to them. it’s become our annual family pilgrimage, and now we need it more than ever.
Meanwhile, we cleared the land all yesterday, and all today, for here terror is double- the virus, and summer fires. I’m taking out only the dead ferns, leaving the others, for though a fire will instantly suck the life out of them, until it comes- here’s hoping it won’t!!! – little animals may call the ferns home.
We must clear the land before the end of the burning off-season – October 1st- less than 3 weeks away!
And yet I keep going back to the house, flopping on the sofa, out of breath, and napping, one nap for a wasteful two hours.
You’re just working toon hard, says GG, but his voice is worried.
Even though he’s working hard too, chopping down low-lying branches, he doesn’t take naps. He’s got a huge pile of branches from our neighbour’s block, piled up to dry out so we can burn them. You’d never know he’s one-armed. He’s using my new chain saw, too busy to let me use it. Besides, I don’t need it for ferns.
I work on the precipice, because I’m more sure-footed than him. Less likely to fall. Visitors joke that when they leave here, they’ve been walking on such a slope, that one leg has grown longer than the other.
Later, I crunch through leaves on my neighbour’s block. When i rake them,they’re knee-high. The land hasn’t been cleared in 15 years, and now that our neighbours are locked down in Melbourne, it’s up to us. They’re kind neighbours, and we often use their water tanks, with their permission. My footsteps, less assured than the lyre-bird that used to stride here, make the dry gum leaves shriek. The lyre bird, sadly has left or died. I only ever glimpsed it through the scrub, examined its mounds (always from a respectful distance) when it was gone, but i always listened to it intently. Lyre birds copy what they hear- other birds, cameras, chain saws…
(With all respect to David Attenborough, kookaburras are easily fooled by imitation – even I have done it!)
There’s a story of a flute player releasing his captive lyrebird into the bush in the 1930s, and the lyrebird’s great great great….. grand offspring still singing his music!
Ours seemed to sing, of all things, the first six notes of Mendelsohhn’s Hebrides Overture!
I could barely believe my ears- it was so startling, to hear a fragment of a European masterpiece in the depths of the Australian bush! Our bird sang it for five or so years and it became to me the call of our bay. It shows a tiny fragment of history, someone who once lived here, who loved that Overture as much as I do. As a child, Dad refused me music lessons, but somehow I got hold of the sheet music and tried to figure out how to play it on a battered, yellow-toothed piano that had come with our house. And of all things, much later in life, I was to come across a lyrebird who was taught it too.
But now I must clean up what the RFS calls dangerous “fuel on the ground”- leaving small piles of leaves, of course, in the hope that our Hebrides Overture lyre bird returns.
In the afternoon, Dy goes off to Berowra in his canoe, to drop his 27 year old black haired son, a musician, and pick up his wife, the gorgeous M, a joy to be with, with her ever-ready smile, empathetic ways, her thick, curly black and grey hair and her flawless creamy skin.
Anything you want from the shops? he asks.
A bottle of gin, and some tonic water.
At night, when it’s too dark to see to work, we drink it, gathering, socially distanced of course- in the pergola to watch the moon – at this time of the year, a huge orange ball hanging above the mountains till it bounces high in the sky. We chat about our days. M and Dy’s day has been far harder than ours. In cleaning out old cupboards crammed with old sheets in the tiny pink house- how far back do the old sheets go? they came upon a bush rat, decomposed. Knowing M works with fabrics, I ask if there were beautiful patterns amongst the sheets. I’m remembering ruefully that when grandma died, our family inherited a trunk full of doilies embroidered by her, all the same scene of a hatched house with a rose garden. They mouldered in that trunk, for there was bad blood between my mother and her mother – grandma abandoned my mother and her brothers in cruel orphanages, and never gave them a home.
Some pretty patterns from the seventies, she says. Not worth saving though.
We say farewell. Even though there’s a lot still to be done, GG insists we go back to the city, partly to see K- her days are now chock-a -block, for she’s now seeing NDIS carers, a psychologist, an a exercise therapist, and this week beginning an OC – but mainly to see why I’m compelled to have these nuisance naps.