Written March 26, 2020.
A baby goanna takes a lively interest in our untidy deck.
For my life as a farmer: There’s a line of 3 or 4 green spikes, like little tweezers. Perhaps they are spinach-lings. To be sure, I plant 6 seeds in the damp soil of one of the pots I keep under the stairs, and set it on the deck so I’ll remember to watch over it.
Our lives as fisher people : Yesterday, GG installed his fish net at the jetty, with the white mesh that we can pull up and down like a blind. Hopefully fish will get caught in it as they swim by. We’ve hung two crab nets over jetty poles, each with a little parcel of chicken bones wrapped in a blue-checked chux. We got inspired by our neighbours’ cries of joy when they caught not one but two mud crabs, from their own jetty and their friend’s jetty next door. F and S are expert fisher people, often filling their freezer with fish, and they’ve offered to teach us. But weekends are never long enough. They’re planning to stay here more often, so maybe the lessons will happen.
Just before dinner, I row the birthday boat (a birthday present, the best present ever, a very stable, light, moulded white dinghy with blue seats for a nautical touch and shiny varnished oars) across the creek to the oyster leases with a witch’s hat net holding another chicken bones parcel to tempt blue swimmer crabs- though we don’t know if they’re running.We’ll soon see. I lower the contraption carefully into the creek near an oyster post- crabs and fish are supposed to like wooden structures- net first and the empty milk bottle float last, then I row on for almost an hour, leaning into the oars and pulling back, for I’m going against the tide. As a child, I’d had two or three school holidays at the river home of an aunt. Those holidays rescued me from a violent home, and I delighted in lolling around all day on the river in a little row boat and gazing at the shining space all around and the blue infinite space above me. I’d row home only in time for tea. Decades later, a boyfriend of K’s who’d been to a private school told me I rowed as if I was spooning the river, and give me a lesson on leaning into the oars. I’ve delighted in doing that ever since. I feel as speedy as if I was falling through the water, though I’m’ sure bystanders would laugh. But there are no bystanders here. A salmon-barked angophera near the last house upstream in the bay seems to have blossomed with big white flowers, but as I row near to take a closer look, the flowers all take screeching flight and soar above me, a cacophony of white sulphur crested cockatoos. Their cries float upwards into the evening sky.
GG”s at the jetty to meet me. He’s found an email from the Darlinghurst post office reminding him that a parcel was waiting, a parcel of K’s meds. It had arrived from overseas on the very day we’d run away.
“I don’t know how I missed it”, he says, steadying my boat while I clamber out on all fours, clumsy because I haven’t got back my sea legs. In a summer of bushfires, there’d been no rowing: we were far too busy clearing the land, keeping leaves, brances and undergrowth away, while huge fires ranged around us. One terrible hot night, when the tide was low at 2AM and there’d have been no chance of evacuation, a fire had suddenly come within 20 kms. I’d had no sleep that night. i’d looked at the “Fires Near Me” app this summer more often than I looked at my watch.
“I’ll have to go back for those meds”, he said. “Or else the post office might send them back to the US.”
We gaze at each other in a sort of terror in the stream of light from the torch. We’re two tiny, fragile shapes in this vast black night.
“Just down tomorrow, sleep there and up the next afternoon”, he says. He’d checked the tides.
He has the new mask and K’s hand sanitizer- he and K has peered together at the year faintly printed on the bottle’s bottom and decided it couldn’t be 2010, so it must be 2020. And we always have plastic gloves here.
I make him put his hand on his heart and swear he’d wear the mask and gloves in the city.
“I swear, he said, putting his palm somewhere on his grey jumper, in the region of his chest, his fingers so pressed together, they whiten. He’s like a schoolboy earnestly promising allegiance to the queen. We both grew up in the days when we did that at school assemblies.
I’ll be able to go to Bunnings,pick up another gas bottle or two, he says. And get you some seedlings for your farm.
No, don’t, I say, fearfully. Then -Oh, ok.
I’ll be careful.
In the big house, K has cooked a chicken stew, the sort she did every night at home in her former life, spiced with cloves, cinnamon and star anise, and big rounds of sweet potatoes.
“There’s hardly any greens, except avocados and cucumber. What’ll I do?”
She’s used to opening packets of frozen vegetables.
I run down to the warrigal green patch, grab a bunch, pick off the leaves, wash them, boil them for 3 minutes, drain out all the water down the sink, and throw them into the pot.
We sleep another uneasy night.