The Goat.

Right now I am doing my usual sitting outside on the daybed under my nest of quilts. I am drinking a whiskey. Well, I’ve mixed it with coke but it’s a strong whiskey because I poured the coke in first and then eyeballed it. I have a black cat to my right. And some rogue stuffing from one of the cushions because when I was babysitting my ex husband’s dog this last week it discovered a hole and pulled the stuffing out and danced in it like it was snowing.

I am writing so I won’t think. Here I am brutally honest, raw as I can be but there is this one thing I cannot write about so instead I am sitting here, drinking a strong whiskey with a cat under a nest of quilts and rogue stuffing and missing my mother who is not in the country.

I want to write because it is cathartic but I can’t write about this one thing so I will write about something else instead. I flick through my memories, sifting them through my fingers and hold them to light trying to find one to dive into. Kind of like that basin in Dumbledore’s office where he can dunk his head like a weird wizard baptism and immerse himself in a memory.

What shall I write about? Pain? Joy? Confusion? Heartache? Love?

Okay, I am going to tell you about my goat.

So, a few years back I learnt to spin, I’ve probably told you about this before. I explained how I like to know exactly how to do something. So I use to knit and crochet and then I wanted to learn to spin, which I did, and then I needed to learn how to process raw fleece and I did. And then I decided I want to ‘grow’ the fleece.

So I find some dude selling baby angora goats and I arrange to pick two up. I didn’t realise until I got these babies that they were literally babies. I was actually pretty devastated thinking about it. I brought them home in a crate and when I took them out I realised they still had little dried umbilical cords on. I judged them to be a few days old. My heart just bled thinking of them missing their mamas and the mamas missing their babies but I knew if I took them back he would just sell them to someone else and that most people would think me some kind of bleeding heart, too soft for the country. Which in some ways I am.

image

So I decided I was going to be the best mama to these babies ever. They needed to be fed 6 times a day in the beginning and I warmed their bottles diligently and squatted over them, pressing the nipple of the bottle to their mouth. One of them would nurse immediately. The other refused. Even if I opened her mouth and closed it around the nipple she would not suckle. I dribbled as much as I could into her, rhythmically squeezing the nipple and allowing it to build up in her mouth before she would swallow instinctively…but she wouldn’t suckle. It would take me an hour to get a feed into her, milk clotting her fleece near her jaw and running down my arm and leg. I would have to change my clothes after and wash the sour milk smell from my skin. She wasn’t gaining weight like her sister though and she was so timid that when she saw anyone come to her she would hide in a corner and turn her face to the wall. She refused to make eye contact, her beautiful sweet green eyes staring to my side or behind me. I was distraught and worried she would die.

I went to the vets and asked advice. They said that some babies just won’t drink. I could keep doing what I was doing or wait until she got hungry enough to work it out. They warned me that she may not gain weight and would one day not wake up. I tried to wait. But after half a day I felt so bad for this baby, this shy little timid creature I gave up and lay her back on my lap; went back to steadily squeezing milk into her. She never learnt to suck. For 8 weeks I sat with her, day after day, the first feed of the morning at 5am, and got that bottle into her. However long it took. I kept this baby goat alive by sheer stubbornness and determination. You will not die. You will not die on my watch. I am going to show you how to live. By the time she weaned she was eating just fine, the tamest, most beautiful little goat you have ever seen who would run up to me in the yard and nuzzle my hand, snuffle at my face if I was sitting down.

image

There are few times in my life that I refused to concede defeat. I’ll put up a good fight, man, but at the end of the day? I know when I’m pushing shit uphill. Only a few times in my whole life have I stood up and said, “This is happening. I am MAKING this happen.” Not letting that baby goat starve herself to death, that was one of those times. And I realised while I was writing this – I have never done that for myself. Anytime I’ve done that it’s been because someone else was at stake. Those times I saw that shit I was pushing uphill and thought, “Screw it. I’ll move the mountain, because this? THIS is moving, damn it.” But never for me. For me, I lie down and take it. But when there is shit to be moved – you want me to have your back. Because God fucking damnit…I will fight until I’m bloody for you.

Aren’t I worth as much as a goat? Can’t I fight for me? Get up. Move the goddamn mountain.

Also? I’m out of whiskey.

Fire and Ice.

image

It was cold in Queensland this week. Some antarctic shit blew up from down south and made everything nippy – I’m pretty sure that was the technical explanation from the weather people.

When you live in Queensland you’re not allowed to complain that you’re cold because some southern bastard will remind you how much colder they are. I keep trying to tell them that Queensland actually does get cold, and they always say something like, “Oh yeah, maybe in Stanthorpe” because for some reason all southerners seem to think that Stanthorpe is the only place in Queensland that ever drops below 24 degrees.

Out west it gets cold, you snowmen. I’ve suffered through minus 10 degrees a measly 200ks from Brisbane. We get frost, we needed to scrape the ice off our windscreens, the diesel froze at the petrol station, it was a problem.

But the real issues is – Queenslanders aren’t equipped to deal with the cold. Our houses are built for summer. Full tiled floors, air con, ceiling fans in all the bedrooms, no heating to speak of so we are left with tiny little air heaters. Do you know how much space a tiny air heater warms? About 50cm in front of it. And the cat is sitting there. It does jackshit. We don’t own proper winter attire. Women throw a cardi over their maxi dress, men might pair their shorts with a hoodie because none of them can bear to put on pants. Queensland men would wear shorts in the snow. No pants is a rule they have. Jacket? Coat? No one even owns a jacket or coat. I’m not even sure you buy one. Maybe Myer, I don’t know.

Oh yes, when the mercury falls, we are helpless.

But we own the summer. Queenslanders could stroll through Hell itself and barely notice. We were raised running on bitumen that melted beneath our feet and peeling our bodies off vinyl ‘leather look’ chairs. Zooper Doopers are a bona fide food group in the summer. There is so much moisture in the air thanks to the humidity that we can practically breath underwater. Poke fun at us now, southerners…but beware, the North remembers.

Grafted.

image

I long for the quiet of the country sometimes. I remember when I moved out there feeling this true excitement at the fresh start. The country was beautiful and I had moved at the best possible time of year, September – the beginning of Spring. When the worst of the cold is over and the wildflowers line the sides of the roads. The flocks of galahs greeted me. The drive out was always soothing, acres of fields in a patchwork of green and gold and brown, dotted with gumtrees. The sign into town signified home. The old buildings unassuming and friendly.

I didn’t realise until I fled to the city two years ago how much of my photography lay in that town. I knew every inch of it. The light was different out there, more golden when it isn’t filtered through street after street of suburban houses. The city was the same thing after the same thing. Anonymous. Without character. All the lawns the same, the housing estates were the same handful of houses duplicated one after another like they had been xeroxed. Where was the beauty? I would kill for a dirt road, for a lopsided fence, for a crumbling brick wall, a rusted piece of corrugated iron. Give me a weed, an unintentional dandelion – some wildness – and keep your polite gardens of plants that never changed.

In the country when I felt overwhelmed I would take my camera into my backyard, only a 1/2 an acre on the edge of town and spend some time shooting. The chickens would cluck around me curiously as I shot them scratching beneath the peach trees. The goats would nuzzle at my hair and I would breath in the smell of hay and feed and earth and sunshine and shoot the camomile that grew through the cracks in the bricks, wildly escaping the confines of the garden bed. I would shoot the animals and the plants and the children as they played. I would lose time and come in hours later with grass stains on my jeans and leaves in my hair, my cheeks pink and I would feel alive and refreshed. The photos weren’t brilliant, just parts of my garden, but it was mediation for me.

Now my camera gathers dust because the animals are gone and my backyard is short lawn and there is no afternoon light begging me to play in it. I don’t know how to shoot in this place where everything is planned and the camomile would have been ripped out and tamed and people put on special clothing to take a walk.

I didn’t expect this to happen. I grew up here, I was raised in the city. I dreamed of housing estates and perfect lawns. The country…it was serendipity. I never planned that. So how did it creep into my blood?

I cast my lot here two years ago, amongst these carbon copy houses and traffic that never stops even in the darkest hours. Where you can never really see the stars properly because there are too many lights and I can hear my neighbours conversation like they were sitting in my own living room. Here I am. But it is not where I am meant to be. I am wild, open spaces and lazy fields of yellow flowers. I am closed stores on Sunday and rambling camomile. I am wooden floors and tongue in groove walls. I am the sound of rain on a tin roof. I am quiet gumtrees standing silently in a field. I am the smell of lavender in Spring. The country sings to me. I belong to it.

Some plants cannot survive on their own, they must be grafted on to a different plant to be strong enough to make it. Roses are one. A knobbly graft marking the place where the stock plant was merged with the rose. The stock plant would be chosen for it’s hardy roots, the other may be chosen for its beautiful blooms. Perhaps I was never meant to be here. Perhaps I was always supposed to be attached to another place where I could grow strong and bloom.