My place, Tuesday, 5.40pm
Winter has come. I’m not ready.
I haven’t even got any firewood. And I still have a curtain across the main doorway, which creates a pretty serious draft situation. It’s on my list though – ‘Ring firewood woman’ and ‘Fix door’– but I haven’t done it.
Tonight fell early, like a unexpected blackout, just when my afternoon was getting some momentum. (I don’t actually have blackouts because my shack under the cliffs is solar powered. I mean, who wouldn’t be, this close to the sun?)
I was ready to do so much today. I have a list. I got out of bed, opened the curtain doors to a cool morning, hurried up the path to my toilet and strolled back, showered, made coffee and drank it while checking emails, poached an egg and ate it while reading about the inevitability of climate change, looked at my list of things to do, crossed off ‘get out of bed’ and went back to bed. (Climate change is exhausting. So are things-to-do lists.)
I woke to the noise of a neighbour’s brushcutting – he was brushcutting his yard, not mine. That’s a pity really, because his is already neat. He even has a line of rocks, equally spaced, marking the edge of his driveway, and tidy piles of freshly cut lantana marking a propensity for action that I so obviously lack.
My yard is not tidy. My yard is a refuge for immigrant life plant forms. Harassed weeds from every country flock here to live fruitful lives in their adopted yard, free from herbicidal or sharp-bladed persecution. A cocos palm stump stands at my entrance like a rotting statue of floral liberty proclaiming: ‘Give me your devil’s fig, your bana grass, your noxious weeds yearning to breed free…’
It’s on my list though: ‘Ring brushcutter bloke’.
Inspired by the noise of activity, I was contemplating lunch then maybe crossing something more off my list – like ringing the firewood woman or the brushcutter bloke or fixing the door – when suddenly the sun said ‘that’s me done’ and sped off over the Mackellar range leaving only fading silver skid marks and me sitting in a growing gloom holding a list yellowing with age.
Looking at my list (I see nothing in the dark but as the list has remained virtually unchanged for as long as I can remember I know what it says) I realise that though this paper lists what should be my aspirations – firewood pile, neat yard, proper door, weed-free garden, completed tax – I don’t really care about any of it. I should. But I don’t.
I won’t phone anyone or fix anything. It’s too late again; it’s night time. Here and now I sit, very still, in the winter darkness that has slid into the valley, into my shack, into my life, and just hang with the blind silence. Present. Proper living.
Soon, I will make lunch and call it dinner, but right now, I am momentarily released from mundane obligation. As the galaxies circle each other, as Sun burns its hydrogen powering the solar system, as the third planet in that system spins in a dizzy spell of development and destruction, I realise my list is a desperate attempt to protect myself from the great fear and joy of living. It’s a distraction from the awful but ultimately liberating reality of life’s transience.
Soon, when this magic moment in the dark dissolves in a flare of light (there is limited hydrogen and I’m getting hungry), dinner, movies and dreams of giant woodpiles will distract me through the long night.
Tomorrow, my list will still be there and I may, or may not, tick ‘get out of bed’ again.