Not a very creative topic to write about, until you stop and think about it – which I did as I was gathering in today’s laundry effort. I don’t know why, but images of other places I’ve lived flashed into my mind, and for an instant I was taken back to another place, and another time.
The unit I live in is nestled amongst the trees, plants, and wildlife that abound in the 28 acres of bushland and units that I call home. Even though it is perfectly quiet and peaceful here, it isn’t as quiet as the ‘other place’ that popped into my head this afternoon. As I stood at the clothesline, I suddenly remembered gathering the clothes in just two years ago, from a clothesline with a view of – nothing. Apart from a school oval and buildings on one side, which were always deserted on weekends, there was nothing but bush on the other three sides, which was always deserted on any day. My only company on Saturdays and Sundays, unless I drove to the general store a few kilometres away, was the wildlife.
My routine on a Sunday morning, when I was home (and more about that later), was to sit on the back step with my morning coffee in hand, to watch the kangaroos. I discovered they have an interesting method of checking for safety – not foolproof I might add, given the number of flat ones on the road – but it seemed to work in the paddock. In the process of traversing the bush, one of the larger ‘roos would stop and appear to be scanning and listening, with head up and ears back. The rest of the mob would then hop a little further into the paddock, usually in single file, and usually with some distance between them. Eventually, they would congregate, but they were always on alert for the slightest sound or movement. Before too long they were comfortable with my presence, and although they were aware of my every movement, the mob grazed, and I watched and learned.
And that was my existence back then; work all week and watch the kangaroos graze on weekends, with usually a week’s worth of washing to hang out on at least one of those weekend days. It was staring at the bush from that clothesline that drove home the reality of isolation. When I wasn’t at the clothesline, or watching the kangaroos from the top step, I was inside, either sitting on my closed-in veranda, or on the sofa, planning for the next week at work. From inside the house, I couldn’t see the isolation – it was hidden. But outside – it was unavoidable – you just couldn’t escape the aloneness out there. Was it peaceful? Yes – in a crazy sort of way. But the isolation was stronger.
There were times, often, when the aloneness was too overpowering and I would drive for two hours, through more bush, to the nearest big town and check into a hotel for the night, just for the socialisation. I’d still have to take work with me, but it could be accomplished over a coffee in the hotel restaurant. The fact that my only social encounter for the weekend was the waiters didn’t bother me; they were still much better looking than the furry-faced kangaroos, and they communicated in a way that I understood. As much as I loved the ‘roos, they certainly didn’t compensate for a human to talk to.
So as I stood at my clothesline today, I secretly gave thanks for being here in paradise, having people around me that I can socialise with when I need people-time, and witnessing the beauty of the trees, the flowers, and the fabulous bird life, in my quiet times. Well, almost all the bird life – the ibises and the bush turkeys certainly take some getting used to. But the kookaburras and colourful parrots make up for the turkeys scratching the gardens to total destruction to build a nest, and the ibises?, well, I’m still wondering what purpose they serve.
I’m grateful for the quiet reflective times spent in that other place, but not the isolation. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned about strength and resilience, but not the aloneness. I’ve finally come home to where I want, and need to be. And my clothesline here in paradise is a symbol of my new reality; but even it might one day become a memory to be thought about, in another time, and another place.