As Joni Mitchell says, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Spring has finally sprung here in the north King Country and, as we at Casa Lawrence have leaving on our minds, I’m remembering all over again why we came here in the first place.
The house in the country, the many free-range kids and animals, the fruit trees and the strawberry patch, these were all my dreams. Josh wanted an apartment in a big city with no nature (he’s allergic to dust, cats and grass – did I mention animals and living in the country?) and two of those t.v.-type children who only exist when the plot requires them. As it turns out I’m just that awesome so he’s stuck with me anyway and semi-willingly spends quite a lot of time helping with the growing and wrangling of all the above.
I have many conversations that go a little something like this:
Me: ‘Oh, I know! I’ve got a great idea! I’ll go and get that sheep placenta from the paddock and dig it into the vege garden! It’ll have tonnes of nutrients in it!’
Josh (looking at me as though I’ve suggested frying it up for tea): ‘Or, you could…not.’
Man at the engineering supply shop: ‘Can I help you?’
Me: ‘I just need a 100-pack of cable ties. I know where they are.’
Man at the e.s.s: ‘Weren’t you in here just the other day buying a pack of cable ties?’
Me: ‘Yesterday. Yes. What can I say? I have an addiction.’
Point being, this is the life for me. My favourite shop is Mitre 10 Mega, although I can also while away a very happy hour in Farmlands or RD1. I love bolts and tools and seed potatoes and gumboots and really big nails and the millions of metal things whose purpose I can’t begin to imagine. I love the grass, the way it’s just there under your feet. I spend way too much time staring at the caterpillars on the swan plant and the bees in the flowers. I find chickens on my bed and lambs in the kitchen and at this time of year I can go to sleep listening to the morepork and the frogs in the pond and I love all of it.
We bought this property for the land. The house is small and plain and sometimes, especially in winter, I focus on that and forget to look at the view. But when spring comes I spend lots of time outside and I remember what we saw the first time we came here: not the inadequate living area and lack of north-facing windows but the mountain in front of us, the mountain behind, the colours and shapes of living, growing things and the freedom that comes with so much open space. Recently for Cassia’s birthday party we had seventeen children over and all but two are immediate neighbours. A kind neighbour offered parking space at their place in case of overflow but it wasn’t needed; one family drove and everyone else just climbed over the fence or crossed the road. We have a tiny community here where children can grow up busy, free and unafraid and where adults can always find someone to pass the time with and borrow a post-holer from.
When we first arrived here almost seven years ago three of the houses I can now see from the deck were just paddocks with cows in and most of the trees and bushes were small and insignificant. As I drove round the last corner before our house yesterday and the cluster of properties around ours came into view it occurred to me that now, with the variety of homes and trees and animals and colours all nestled under the hill, it’s become idyllic. It’s the kind of place I’d look at in a photo and long to live in. And what do you know? I do.
In three or four months it seems likely that we’ll be leaving all this for a life that couldn’t be more different. I’ll have to be thinking of that as the amazing opportunity it is, a time to be enjoyed and learned from and embraced. I’ll have to be looking forward and not back. I’ll have to see it as all part of the plan, the big picture of the dream life, and not as a giving up and losing of what I always wanted. I can do that, yes indeed. Mostly. What did the crazy mama say in ‘Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood’? Something about how life’s not for thinking too much about and sometimes you just have to climb on the beast and ride.
So if you’re looking for me over the next few months I’ll probably be out by the swan plant. Or down by the pond. Or chasing the lambs out of the kitchen. Because I don’t want to wake up one day next year in winter in the big city and think, hot damn, I had the ideal life and I spent it all worrying about the dishes and the washing and the curtains going mouldy.
And I will finish by saying this:
The beautiful warm days arrived last week as we said three final farewells. So here’s to you, Penny Menzies, Joy Price and Samantha Kudeweh: we wish you could have been here to enjoy them and we hope that wherever you are now is a thousand times better.
May the road rise to meet you there, and may the wind be always at your back.
Until we meet again.