Sunday, December 29, 2013

Call me Lisa Douglas

No sooner have I booted up my computer and sat down to write this blog, I can hear a loud croaking sound coming from the dining room fireplace. What the hell is that?, I think to myself and I get up and pad down the hallway to investigate the sound. It grows louder as I approach and seems to be coming from somewhere to the left of the hearth but I am not sure and so rather than find myself having to confront some large slimy reptile, I turn back and try to ignore the racket it is making. Maybe if I just pretend and hope it is actually outside the fireplace wall, I can relax.

Call me bloody Lisa Douglas. It is not far off. And right now, my Oliver (who is actually more like Mick Dundee) is not home to rescue me from what is surely a killer frog with a croak that loud. Is there a such thing?, I actually wonder to myself. I suppose if it were to ambush me in the hallway by jumping near me it could be considered a death threat as I would surely have a heart attack if any bit of it's slimy body scathed past my skin.  It has quieted down now for which I am grateful.

I am living in Green Acres. No joke. Spiders as big as my palm, geckos surprising me when I least expect it, the moan of cows in the paddock, cane toads as big as small rats, skinks (there is a new one for ya) that are apparently snake food which means snakes are surely hovering in the grass and I am on constant alert for any slithering around me as I walk across the lawn. I have not come face to fork-tongued face with one yet, but I am ready.

Just a few short months ago, the closest I ever came to a snake was in the handbag department at Holt Renfrew and the hardest part about that was swallowing the price tags. My, my, how life has changed.  I have since learned that if I do get bitten by a snake, I am to apply pressure to the wound, then wrap above and below it with a tensor bandage or some facsimile. If I am faced with an angry farm dog, I am supposed to face it, not run from it, and if I ever encounter a wild boar or pig, I am to climb a tree...they are not very good climbers apparently. 

Now, armed with all this new found knowledge, I feel prepared for anything. Yeah, right! I have however braved whacking and killing a March fly with my bare hand...better than being bitten I concluded and I now acknowledge that gecko poops are something that commonly appear on the kitchen windowsill in the  morning and sometimes even in your clean dishes in the cupboard, so I never use any plate or bowl without examining it first and giving it a cursory wipe just in case. 

Country living is new to me. And country living in the semi-tropics is even newer. The other day as I stood at the kitchen sink, a large goanna slowly made his way across the drive along the Bromeliad garden log edging. Just a few minutes ago, as I poured myself a glass of ice cold green tea, a spectacular Australian King Parrot did a low fly by past the kitchen window and across the front yard, a blaze of red and green so vivid against the overcast sky and drought burnished lawn, it took my breath away. It is as though there is a price to pay for the moments of awe.

Like yesterday when the mercury rose to 38 degrees and I wondered if I could stand it any longer. But, a drive to the ocean and a frolic in the waves at Rainbow Beach for some relief created a similar contrast. A cold seaside outdoor shower awaited as we scurried across the hot sand and again found something pleasurable to extinguish the heat and wash away the drying coating of salt on our skin.

This is Australia. A land of harsh contrasts. Not unlike my own personal contrasts. City gal to country gal. Holt Renfrew to Big W. (don't ask!) Dry cleaners to clotheslines. High heels to wellies. CBC to ABC...not all that different!  

There is one difference between me and Lisa Douglas though. I don't really long for Park Avenue, or Bloor Street or Rodeo Drive or The Magnificent Mile or any of those streets any more.  

You don't need designer clothes or shoes or handbags here. 

Just balls. And I am working on growing a set of those. 

Got one of these Kangaroo Scrotum pouches for Christmas! 
Fair Dinkum!
Try finding one of these beauties at Holts!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Cracked Open

If someone had told me I would be driving past a signpost that reads Jumpo Creek on my way home everyday a year ago, I would have laughed and said, "yeah, right, very funny", so when I see this now familiar marker along the roadside as I cruise past on what still feels like the "wrong" side of the road,  I still shake my head in disbelief.

I think back to just one short year ago, living in Toronto, working in the interior design world, wondering where my  life was headed and the internal angst that had a grip on me as I knew change was coming but was still uncertain as to exactly which path I was going to take and now as things have begun to fall into place, I feel a tremendous sense of relief that I chose this new road that allows me to pass Jumpo Creek each day.

So many people thought I was crazy. It was hard to block out the naysayers at times. They could not imagine me living in the country. I was a city gal. No way could I do it they said. It's not you Deb. I often wondered if maybe they were right. Maybe they knew me better than I knew myself. But a little voice inside me kept telling me they were wrong. I had longed my whole life for this sort of peaceful simple existence. The city was wonderful in many ways, but it never offered me the serenity of country life. There was an anxiety attached to city living that was like a constant underlying current I could not turn off. 

Out here now, as I drive out of town along the winding country road, past sugar cane farms and modest country homes. up and over the rise in the road that reveals Bauple Mountain off in the distance, a calm and peace flows over me like a deep breath of fresh air filling my lungs and leaves me knowing I am on the right road. The current is switched off.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, as I squatted down, hammer in hand, taking aim at a rock hard freshly picked macadamia nut on the concrete patio, after three good hits on the sweet spot, I watched the hard shell crack and break away. The goal is to do this without breaking the nut inside and peeling off the shell to reveal the most perfect creamy white, buttery tasting treat. I disposed of the bits of shell and examined the prize inside each time before popping it in my mouth and marveling at the texture and subtle sweet taste of this unaltered nut. No salt added, no sugary coating, just fresh, raw, nut meat. 

Funny I thought, this macadamia metaphor. I too have been cracked open. The life I held on to so tight for so long is gone and what has emerged is a fresh new version. 

And it tastes delicious.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This Old House...she ain't what she used to be...

Montgomery House Renovated

On October 10 of this year, I wrote a blog about saying goodbye and leaving Toronto and revisiting my old house and how I reckoned the house was a metaphor for my life. I returned from a week of island bliss this past weekend to a note from an old friend who sent me a current photo of the house. 

On the drive home from my holiday, I had been contemplating my new life here down under and felt an obvious shift in myself. It felt like it had taken a few weeks to settle here, and like a mixing bowl full of batter being poured into a new cake tin, I had finally filled all the crevices and leveled out.  It was a peaceful satisfied feeling. All traces of anxiety had vanished. Any lingering doubts had evaporated. It was astonishing really. So, it almost came as no surprise at all when I saw the transformed house photo. 

Yes, I thought to myself, there it is. Here I am. We had both been reconstructed. And we were both better than before. Since no house project is ever 100% finished, no human evolution is ever complete either. The house still needs some final touches, a bit of landscaping and likely the interior needs some decorating as well. Similarly, I too am imperfect.  There is and always will be some room for improvement. To state otherwise would be untrue. There has been some clear progress made however, perhaps inside a little more than out in my case, but I am OK with that as I find the internal changes generally lead the way to the external ones. 

I am happy that the house did not fall into disrepair after my departure. It could have gone that way, for the house or for me. There is always a risk involved with change. The leap requires you to trust your intuition even when so many outside influences are distracting your vision.  Just as I could not see the destination of the old house last October, I was grappling with my own life vision at that time. The house has turned out way better than I imagined it would as the photos here can attest. I present three photos of the house. One is from pre-construction.  One is mid-construction. The third is present day. 

Montgomery House Pre-Construction

Montgomery House Under Construction

Like me, the pre-construction looked OK on the outside and I spent a lot of time maintaining the gardens and at times it felt I could barely keep up. As I was busy trying to keep up the outside appearance of the house, the inside was deteriorating faster than I could keep up with it. At times it felt like the house was eating me alive. I knew I had to leave it behind. It meant walking away from the life I once lived and knew without knowing where I was going or how I would get there. It was the most frightening and difficult journey of my life so far. There were obstacles at every juncture, negative voices all around me, agonizing decisions and as many mis-steps as there were victories, but I survived it all and life moved on.

My new life has begun. The old house is new again. 

And this time the focus for the new house is starting with the inside.

Ain't that kinda apropos?