I grew up on a farm by a river.
When I stop and feel that place I can smell the Eucalypts, and hear the sound of the wind whooshing through the Casurinas by the river. I remember the summer mornings (really early was the only time of day it was beautiful and possible to live there in summer. So even though we lived there and the heat and the flies made it impossible to love summer midday, the mornings, and sometimes late afternoons til sunset were magic) and the rustle of the grass underfoot, and the bugs and the birds calling, and the wonderful possibility of the day (which later melted).
I watched my Dad a lot on that farm, and drove around with him a lot being his “gate girl”. I watched how much he loved it, I listened to how well he knew the seasons and the soil and the landscapes and the bush. Sometimes I didn’t understand him, but I wanted to be just like him. My brother and sisters grew up there too, and they may tell a different story to me, but in that place was my home, and life was us, our family of six, my grandparents, my uncle and a menagerie of pets that came and went.
I realised today how a part of my identity is intertwined with that place, and although I no longer live there, and rarely visit, in a second I conjure up the vision of it and the feeling of home, and I smell the bush and the dryness, and hear the trees and the cockies. There is nowhere else in the world that feels like that kind of “home” for me. And I wonder how I connected so much with a place and my memories are steeped with images of the bush and the animals and the landscape, and yet the people aren’t always in the picture. Where did I go when I was with them but not with them?
I remember walking, for hours sometimes, on funny little bush tracks that a kangaroo made first, and picking up rocks and moss and sticks and talking to myself and pretending to be someone else (there were a variety of girls in my world with far more interesting and dramatic lives). Apart from them, the characters in my head, I was mostly alone. And although I know my family was there and there is a whole series of stories on my family (like how I teased my little sister, and tried to always get “clean the Basin” on Mum’s job list because it was the easiest, and Mum played ‘baby birds’ and got under the pool table with us and ate spaghetti without hands) and I see us in the photographs, what I connect with, about that place, are the solitary memories.
And I made myself alone, and I went on for a long time being alone with many more people around me, playing one of my much more interesting and dramatic characters. It took a long time for me to be open to coming back, and even now sometimes I disappear – it’s just I know when I do it, and I change it more quickly. I always said I hated being alone, but in reality I was happy to be connected at the level that was comfortable – in character, or more usually the phone, or a letter – but really bringing myself and staying open to that has taken a lot of work.
The time is coming for me to let the farm by a river go. To un-entwine myself from the story about the farm girl who doesn’t know who she is without it. Because if that’s the only place that feels like home, how do I create a home for my family now, and the girls who go with me? Once I’m out of that of story the opportunity opens to write the next one, to offer those girls and me and the person who’s with us, in whichever combination, for whatever period of time they are with us, a chance to have a place in our life that feels like home….