Last post, first post (trumpets, fanfare) Anzac Day 2020
This is a story shaped, like most human stories, by fear. This year, more than most, has roiled with it. January began shrouded in thick smoke, ringed by fire. Easter, the season of sacrifice, death and rebirth, took on a whole new meaning from our fearful solitude, terrified into aloneness by things far too small to see. And now Anzac Day day, the day when so many of our ancestors were pushed, terrified, over the top, has been rifled by this selfsame fear.
I was teetering on the edge when pandemic hit. For almost two years I’d been tootling off to the country every second week, watering trees, feeding cattle. So it was a real project, but still I was unsure. Did I actually have the courage for this? Was I prepared for either part of it – either to live remotely, as a city-person or to leave Sydney, the city I’d loved, explored and written about in all its endless intricacy for thirty years? Leaving Sydney feels permanent. And rural solitude, to a lifetime city-phile, looks temptingly beautiful but also terrifying. So yes, I teetered.
Then, quite suddenly, the world changed shape. Just before Easter 2020 everything started to feel like some weird Dr Who ep, where the very furniture of life begins to shift and close in. Countries were closing borders, flights were ceasing. Maternal instinct took over. I insisted my 21 year old return, however heartbroken, from what was meant to be a year’s exchange in the UK. Her uni had already closed so there wasn’t much to miss but when she arrived, midnight one Wednesday, we had to self-isolate. My inner-city abode, in lovely Newtown, was a rental shared with friends the only real option was our half-built, no plumbing or wiring eco-shed in the country.
So there we were, pushed over the edge and into it. Our long-held dream of making a tiny regenerative farm was suddenly kick-started by pandemic; two world crises – virus and climate change – rolled together by fate.
In a way we were lucky. We’d already bought the piece of land. That was a story in itself, involving selling the house and some 35 country property inspections, from Gulgong to Bathurst to Cooma. We’d fallen for Braidwood, made the decision and settled on this tiny pocket-handkerchief of a farm with nothing on it but a lot of overworked grasses and some rumpty perimeter fencing, exactly two years ago today.
The story of what happened then, and what happens next – and how all of this is shaped by what happens in Sydney and in the big virus-ridden world – will be my narrative.
Run Towards Your Fear. In a world so shaped by fears, small and large, it struck me as worth hanging onto. My mental image is of Harry Potter, forcing himself to run full-tilt at the implacable brick wall of St Pancras Station, in order to be magicked to Hogwarts. So here it is. The fearful, literally awesome magic of nature and our part in her story. Broken Creek; Diary of a Plague Year 2020.