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25 November, 2007

Change Of Life

So, here I am in my new home in the country – or the bush, as we learn to call it here. My life is in flux. For the first time, Wifie and I have moved away from the cities we have always been forced to live near and have taken up residence far, far from the madding crowd. So far, in fact, that we don't have mains water, or sewerage, or even a telephone line. The postie drops our mail half a kilometre away at the bottom of our 'drive' (a dirt track that is all but impassable in the wet). If it wasn't for that lonely pair of wires bringing electricity up here, we might be living a very much more primitive life. The nearest shop is twelve kilometres away, the nearest small town, twenty.

We live at the top of a thousand-metre-high hill and the forested valleys and hills of Queensland's Granite Belt sweep away below me in all directions (see above). Forty-six acres of those forests and hills belong to Wifie and me. It doesn't sound like a lot but, in several exploratory walks, we have not yet found all the boundaries and we still make amazing discoveries whenever we go wandering – granite bluffs, huge meadows, boulders as big houses, gorgeous, exotic plants (including three species of wild orchid so far) and beautiful forest glades. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen – and I live there! The more gaudy bird-life includes crimson rosellas, king parrots, yellow-tailed black cockatoos, and eastern rosellas, and there are often wallabies in the 'garden' as well as feral pigs (not yet seen bet heard snuffling and grunting in the dark), lizards and snakes (including a gorgeous red-bellied black snake we found near the house the other day - see below). We've seen wild cats, a fox, rabbits and, in early Spring, the roads are full of long-necked turtles crossing at their leisure. The air is full of the sound of cicadas chirruping and, in the evenings, the frogs join in the song.

The ground immediately around the house has been cleared but nothing has been done with it so Wifie and I spend our time making plans for a garden. We've already planted a few fruit trees and we've put in some of the prettier native shrubs (grevilleas, bottle-brushes, banksias) but there is lots to do. Even this 'garden' is huge and we have to adjust to the idea that 'gardening' here will involve earth-movers and lorry-loads of materials. Our days of picking up a bag of gravel or mulch from the garden centre are over. Such things now need to be ordered by the cubic metre, delivered in trucks and spread by bobcat. Even the 'ordinary' garden tools are different now. Strimmers, mowers, weed-sprays and so on, that used to be adequate for a suburban home, we are replacing with heavyweight industrial equivalents. And, for the first time in my life, I own a chain saw and an axe. I got them so I could cut up wood for the wood-burning stove but now I see many other uses. A recent storm, which brought a small tree down across the drive a couple of weeks ago made me realise that a chain saw is an essential part of my new life. Without the means of clearing a fallen tree off your drive, you could be stranded up here!

And at night, when the skies are clear and the Moon is new, the Milky Way is a river of light that runs from horizon to horizon, turgid with stars - more stars than I have seen in my life before, more stars than I even knew were there. It is breathtaking. Astonishing. The glory of the Universe revealed just for the effort of lifting up your eyes! I watch satellites amble past, meteorites zip by, and whole galazies - the Large and Small Megallenic clouds - hanging like misty islands above me. And if you think I'm waxing a bit poetical here, all I can say is, you should see it and then we'll see who's totally blown away.

It's exciting, scary, humbling, and uplifting. It's a wonderful adventure and a dream come true. I am an immensely lucky person.

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