Hello honey bunches, or as Miss Pepper would call you if she were here - totally terrifically tempting toasted in the toaster twice pieces of toast. That's how she described my warm skin against her icy cold toes this morning as she climbed into bed with me for a cuddle. After that she stuck a feather in the back of her shorts and with one in each hand proceeded to spend the rest of the hour before school running around the house shrieking like the peacock whose feathers she carried. Goodness what a lot of fun and craziness a nine year old adds to a household. Not to mention the noise!
So here we are again on a Friday morning. The big girls are on their long drive to school with my mum, the peacock is already sitting in class in Daylesford, farmer Bren is either on his tractor or on his pole lathe and I'm sitting up in bed with my computer on my lap thinking of all of the places I've been over the past seven days, in my body and in my head. Where do I start? What do I include? Where do I go?
I guess the most obvious place to start is at the top. Late yesterday afternoon I clambered through the nets of an apple tree and dragged my basket in behind me. And there I sat for a while, still. Lately my gym teacher has been trying to encourage me and Bren to meditate together but we always forget. And the one time we did remember he said he floated away, but he left me behind panicking about my breathing and unable to stop itching and rearranging myself and my thoughts. I know meditation would help me immensely but so far, not so good.
But yesterday once my basket and I were safely enclosed in the folds of the bird netting, I decided to try it again on my own terms. I leaned up against the tree's trunk and closed my eyes. I listened and tried to identify all the different sounds I could hear. Over and over I had to shift my mind away from the wetness of a smooshed apple I was sitting on, and away from thoughts of the march flies buzzing around my head trying to bite me, but I got there in the end. I heard the wind through the trees, I heard bird song, dogs barking, roosters crowing and I heard our pump far across the paddock.
And then my mind wandered to the apples on the ground around me, dangling from the branches of the tree and smooshed under my bum. In most seasons, once the harvest starts it's go, go, go for a few months; checking and protecting and picking and selling. Not to mention the eating and preserving. The fact that this year's crop is small and spotty means that each apple feels a bit more precious. It gives me the time to sit under a tree for a few minutes to admire them and consider them. And it allows me to appreciate each bite, savouring the juicy flavours, remembering how lucky we are to have the opportunity to eat warm fruit straight off the tree, and to think and wonder and hope for next season.
We wear overalls and men's shirts and hats to protect us from the sun as we go about our farm jobs all day, we come in when the girls get home and go out again after dinner in tee-shirts without the layers, until the sun goes down and it's too dark to see. Autumn is when farming makes the most sense in my mind. There is fruit on the trees in the orchards, vegetables in the rows of the gardens, and wherever there is room new stuff is being planted for winter. The best feeling in the whole world is sending a hungry child outside to pick whatever she feels like eating.
During the week one of the girls was telling us about her friend who was grounded for misbehaving. When Miss Pepper asked for the definition of grounded she was told it's when you're not allowed to go out at all and have to spend all your time at home. "So you can't even go out to pick stuff from the garden!?' she cried incredulous, 'that sounds like the worst punishment ever'. Totally.
The result is my recent baby steps. First I took a train to the city and spent an entire day doing exactly as I pleased. I skipped the school's Chinese New Year celebration in the morning, even though Pepper was at the head of the dragon, and came home after dinner, but just in time for bed. Then we left the girls at home and went to a party. I know it doesn't sound like much, but living on a farm in the middle of the forest, well mostly it's just easier if one of us stays home with the girls. And then I went away from home for three days and two nights.
Last Sunday one of my sisters, my mum and I, flew out of the mainland and down to Hobart for a few days. We stayed somewhere incredibly beautiful, we did so many of the things that three girls away from home do, and it was amazing.
On each of the three days we visited Mona. On the first day we walked all the way to the bottom level of the cave and I felt so giddy about my freedom and about the fact that I was finally at the gallery I had wanted to visit for the last couple of years, that I moved from exhibit to exhibit with a huge smile on my face sucking up all that I could and loving everything. I loved being in the ground surrounded by the sandstone walls, I loved the labyrinth feeling of it all and I loved the juxtaposition of the old next to the new, the religious art next to the art made from rubbish, and the themes of humanity and death and sex that seemed to come at you from all angles. I felt like I was being filled to the brim.
The second day was more difficult for me. For some reason on my second trip to the museum I took it all personally. I looked at exhibits and wondered about what specifically made them worthy of hanging and being called art. I thought a lot about the processes the artists would have gone through on their way to creating their works. Did they suffer self doubt? How did they justify their costs, and their time and their focus? Did they get stuck in their process? Were they worried about their reception? Were they so deeply involved they couldn't see out? How did they know? How did they get to the stage where they could identify as artists? And most importantly, how on earth did they balance their art with all the demands of the real world?
As I wondered and wandered, I watched and considered my process. I studied and made art all through my childhood and my schooling, I made and studied art at university, and I honestly believed I would create art for the rest of my life. And yet here I am an artless adult.
When this realisation hit me hard I was staring at an enormous wall covered in small artworks. I was moving from piece to piece studying it and thinking about its process, when all of a sudden I had to stop and sit and think about mine. I felt overwhelmed by emotion. The combination of being surrounded by art yet unable to create art made me feel claustrophobic and like I wanted to cry and hide and get out of there immediately. The feelings were immense, intense and I feared I'd never get out from under them.
We spent that afternoon swimming, eating last night's pizza for lunch and drinking champagne in the spa and I felt better. Like things shifted back to almost normal. But I felt like the realisation was an important one that should sit uncomfortably inside me until I really examined it properly.
On the last day we toured the gallery with its director. I was slightly hesitant to begin with but he moved and spoke fast and covered ground quickly. He filled in the gaps we'd missed and we were back up out in the sunshine before we knew it.
It occurred to me lying in my own bed that night that part of my fear of separating from the girls is what I'm bound to discover underneath that I've neglected all these years. It's scary and confronting and uneasy. I wondered how I could balance being a present mother of emotional girls with my own personal archaeological dig.
And honestly I'm not sure I can. In the three days I've been back I've worked so hard on the farm and I've been so present and involved in the girls and Bren and this is the first time I've allowed myself the time to bring this up again.
I do feel the need to express myself creatively, I do need to ask myself some hard questions and yet I also need to stay present and focused on life on our farm in our family. I'm scared to write this down because it feels a bit like a commitment to honesty and forward movement, but I guess the truth of it is I'll either do something with it or I'll read about it in my archives sometime in the future and feel a twinge. Time will tell.
Oh and do let me know how you're travelling, I do love to read your thoughts, ideas and suggestions.
Are you enjoying the weather where you are? Are you up to date with your laundry? Do you have a burning desire to write a book? Record an album? Make an ice sculpture? Study Egyptian burial techniques? Brew your own beer? Start a flower farm? Go to Mona? Are you scared to discover who you really are? Do you meditate? Have you got anything fun planned for the weekend?
See you later alligator!
Love Kate xx