The 1600 km drive via Canberra and Sydney now recedes as it becomes the lesser part of my travels. Leaving the comforts of home, wife, family, identity, and the structural routines of suburban life seems to require as much adjustment as their establishment. While this journey has a strong sense of the circularity of life's path, it's probably an abstraction for me to compare it with my first settlement here in 1975 when I arrived from the devastation of Cyclone Tracy with travelling companion Jill.
Time spent in the 'Abbey', a hospice in Mittagong, with a dying friend certainly quickened my sense of the gifts I take for granted. How fortunate I am to be here and even to contemplate the range of projects I have in mind - constrained only by my manifold limitations.
And yet, when I finally arrived, I gave myself no time at all to savour such good fortune. Leaping into a frenzy of unloading and setting up camp in the spot where, over Easter, I'd set up two taps: spring water and rain water. Now, after a week, I've begun to come to rest and realise the greater part of this journey is concealed in this quiet settling.
On arrival, some benevolent force chose to assist me by taking away my mobile phone in the chaos of unloading. I was anxious for days and kept retracing my steps up the hill to the tank and the spring until I relaxed and accepted its loss as a good thing. Almost immediately it was returned to me. I'd been attending to the track in, near the road, and went over to greet some neighbours who had seen me and stopped - there was the phone on the road next to their car. After many refinements and rearrangements I have a tent (the luxurious Sturt IV) to sleep in and a fairly tattered and torn old CWA tent for my tools. There's another huge old canvass tent without poles but am a little daunted at the prospect of trying to put it up. A ferocious thunder storm the other night kept me up wondering if the canvass tent had blown away. Wheoh means thunder so maybe it was a welcoming gesture.
My camp fire has stones on either side supporting a level top made from an old barbecue plate. A large pot of spring water steams away on it. The canvass shower hangs over a stone base so that I'm not standing in mud and my cooking and washing up layout would be the envy of home beautiful. Apart from order and the proximity of water and shelter, most important comforts are the hot water bottle given to me by my sister Jane and my comfortable cane chair and cushion from Ikea.
After the storm the temperature plunged and Robina, one of my kind neighbours, lent me a quilt. The quilt was from a batch of fire relief quilts made by the Tenterfield Quilters. It certainly helped keep me warm. In town the next day I was given two of the quilts. The kindness of strangers has not only improved my snugness but also relieved any sense of isolation that comes with being cold to the bone and having wet firewood.
The scribbly gums around where the house stood appear to be dead. But there is birdsong and a palpable sense of the vibrant force of life. Mostly the trees are clothed in regrowth, grasses luxuriant, spring flowers emerging, wattles and Darling Pea abundant and even occasional insects. In the morning I'm greeted by the exuberant, conversational calls of the grey strike thrush. The Currawongs watch for any opportunity to descend and rummage around for any food left unsecured. Two young male kangaroos were sparring in the open grassland. Life is returning and I'm privileged to be part of it.