Now we chat, our tiny community of 3, each morning to figure out what’s ahead. It gives a purpose to the days. The hope of renting a house for the cold months died with reports of strangers in towns met with hostile reactions. Strangers are dangerous for what they may bring, even in towns where because of the bushfires, they were desperately needed a month ago. But what will we do in darkest winter?
The obvious becomes obvious: stay here. Make it warmer. GG texted N, our builder with the shock of golden hair and no immunity, now locked at home after his call. He texted back that our problem is not battery power, but solar panels. We have currently 8 x 250 watt panels which gives a total of 2000 watts- that translates to 2kw, at any one time. On a bright sunny day, that’s enough. But in the shivering baleful desolate quivering winter, beside the pot belly stove for all its ironbark wood, we’ll need a heater, even a low power one, for K’s strangely cold body, or she’ll get flu. But to run it for a night, say 6 hours, you’d use 3kwh.
If we have half as many panels again, he says, that might get us over the hump. We ask him to let us pay for him to pave our way with his contacts, and now we wait on him.
Then comes a blow. S and F ring to say they must go home. It’s got too hard here- they love it, but their solar power keeps crashing their fridge, and crashing the sump pump that takes their grey water up behind the house to the new veggie garden they’ve just started. All the houses here use for the gardens grey water, the water just from baths and the basin, never the toilet, but ours runs downhill, so we have no pump problems. And they’ve got a self-composting toilet with a fan to take the smell away, but that depends on electricity, whereas because this is an old house, built originally in 1930 in the Depression and added to over the years and never completely renovated, we still have an old-fashioned septic tank that only occasionally gets smelly, cured by tossing into it a cup of milk. A woman visitor from a downriver bay taught me that years ago, and many a time, I’ve wished I could hug her. Enough information. Besides, F says, there’s a new rule: people have been asked to stay home over Easter, not to go to their holiday house. Unless they are already there, as we are. So they must take off before the roads are policed.
I hear their boat starting up, and rush too late to the door- they’ve been waving and are now turning away towards the future. My heart thumps and seems to draw away my breath with its sadness. We are alone in the bay.
Have we made a terrible mistake?
But we’re here, and no one wants to go back to the city. So we must make it work.
Throw ourselves into the next job. Keep busy.
This has been such a holiday house, we haven’t had a kitchen counter. All we ate was BBQs and salads, and the occasional frozen takeaway. So we’ve made do with two little butcher’s blocks from Aldi. In our new life, cooking’s serious. There’s no where to cut up vegetables, pile dirty dishes, ladle out food, make K’s flat bread, put your elbows on the counter and sob.
But – under the cabin, that treasure trove- why have we ever thrown anything out?-perhaps I should go through the bags of rubbish now blocking the jetty for the barge still hasn’t come – we’ve long known there was a piece of pink marble, once a long piece, but when we bought the house it was broken in two. We bought the house 2 decades ago for just over $100,000 from an fisherman who’d got too old and stiff to manage it. No one else wanted it- it’s the sort of place only artists and writers would want. He’d been trying to sell it for years, but he wept as he sailed away.
It’s that sort of place. You weep as you leave.
Anyway, the marble was too pretty to throw out. There’s a metal stand under the house as well, which might hold it up.
GG conceives a plan to glue the two bits to a piece of plywood, fitting them together during the gluing, and somehow attach them to the top of the metal stand. Because it’ll be too heavy to lift, once it’s a whole piece, he’ll do that on the deck of the big house, on the table we eat at.
First we have to carry the two bits of marble up the 40 steps. Marble is very heavy. Thank god it was broken! If it wasn’t, we’d have had to break it, to manage the weight! As it is, we giggle as we walk ponderously with the two separate pieces, GG backwards to set the pace, and me shuffling forward, saying that if we drop them, we’ll have a much shorter working board. Or maybe several.
“Do you mind doing this?” I ask him.
“It makes me feel useful,” he says, though he’s groaning in pain.
GG needs to take pain killers and lie down. Now the two bits of marble wait on the deck table for him. I do my last NIDA zoom lecture on the marble, (I discuss with the students how creative thinking feels different from ordinary thinking : it often begins with a vague, confused excitement, a hunch or a yearning, then it speaks back and resists the writer, imposing its own rules, tossing the writer into a sea of chaos, with only a tiny, transitory glimpse of the whole). After the lecture’s over, a student asks me to stay back, and I talk leaning on it. She wants my help for a paper tomorrow about the feminist answer to Freud and Lacan for she can’t accept that women have a fear of castration, as Freud claimed- it might ring true for men but not for her. I give her a potted version of Cixous and Irigaray and their refutation of this for women, especially Irigaray who pointed out that women have no such castration fear for we with labia have two lips, not one phallus, and furthermore, the whole of a women’s body is a phallus. She’s delighted.
“Why didn’t Freud realize this?”
“He blindly assumed that in saying what was true for him, it was true for the other half of humanity. He had no experience of our half. But he didn’t realize that. I tried very hard to believe Freud when I was young, even to the point of sensing the sadness of the absence of my penis! But I was just making it up! Irigaray’s realization was one of the great realizations of the 20thcentury, don’t you think?”
She can’t nod enough.
Back to the marble: we eat dinner on it- the daunting turkey legs – why was I ever daunted by insignificant turkey legs? – for we’re eating to the bottom of the freezer. And then I do an online shopping order on it, and discover that Woolworths won’t deliver to Brooklyn, but all the way off at Berowra. And they’re almost as expensive as the marina shop, though it’s a wider choice. And we have to give Woolworths a window of 5 hours, as if we were sitting at home, rather than in a car reading books, listening to the radio, arguing, napping; and worse, their only times of delivery that suit the tides are between 2pm and 7 pm on Saturday. Summer time is just ending, so if the delivery truck comes to Berowra at anything later than 6, we’ll be 45 minutes on the river in utter blackness. Once in the dark we found ourselves in an unknown bay, but surely that won’t happen: once we ran aground, not seeing where the ground was; once we ran out of petrol and had to wait for a passing boat and a tow; once the engine burst into flames and we needed the police rescue but that was at midday and by 8 at night, police rescue will be safe and cosy at home…..… We’ll text k to put on all the lights, and once we’re in our bay, the lights will guide us home.
“Is it too hard?” I ask him.
“We’ll manage,” he says.
He’s a stoic. The perfect person for this adventure. As I am not, but must learn to be.