Skip to main content

Nature Notes, Days 1-5

Day One

Head out into the air this morning on my engaging challenge. My first encounter is with possum piss, its frothy stench hitting me as I walk out our front path. I hose it away, cursing the urban wildlife. The wattle is out, the scent bringing back my dad and making me cry. 

After some lovely meandering down the canal, watching birds and holding my 'in memorium' sprig of wattle for dad, I take my tears down to the salty water of the bay. 

There I walk out on the rocks, go that bit too far, slip on invisible moss, smash various parts of my body and end up almost in the water. Thankful that I haven't busted my head open, I fling my little sprig of wattle towards the water, where it falls short and lies on the rocks like me. Ready to be picked up when the waves come in. 

I reach for my phone, make sure not to drop it, take a photo of the wattle as it waits, as I wait. I have wrenched my shoulder, and I am shaking.

Day Two

I plan to walk after yesterday's fall but instead pop outside to my tiny garden plot. Just to smell the herbs, to touch them and release their powerful scents. I have a new hybrid: basil mint! It is glorious. The self-seeding rocket continues to spread across the plot. I see the tiny thyme leaves, so perfect. Rain starts falling right in the middle of bright winter sun. 

I take a seat under the verandah where the tin roof tinkles. Now the grey comes and the cool air. Rain beats harder and the air shifts around me. I can just keep my knees dry. 

I don't have much garden out the back but a few pots can bring me such joy. I trim some oregano and Vietnamese mint to bring forth new growth. That's about all my shoulder will allow today. Then I decide to feed myself, my herbs in a bowl of noodles. Mmmm.

Day Three

Today, there’s more mouse poo under the sink. The search for nits. The smell of farts on a packed train.

I walk through a city park, notice the markings of limbs, a few dry dusty leaves still to fall. I choose to cross the grass, to feel the wet soil under my boots, bread ties and bottle tops scattered across the tanbark. I crinkle the dry brown plane tree leaf and discard it.

In the St Kilda Botanic Gardens, there are flowerbeds of colour, and the succulents-oh wow. Sequences of form and swirling reproduction. Layer upon twisting layer, they blow my mind. How cool is nature?!

Touch the gum nuts, gritty smooth. See the magpie, my sentinel bird, signalling I am almost home.

Day Four

Today I walk with my partner, down to the sea again, noticing the sound of water washing up on the rocks.

By afternoon I feel the need to get my hands dirty and work on planting and weeding my pots and little plot. Replant mint, weed between the bricks, consider the moss at the base of the olive tree and know that warmer weather is coming. 

Here I was wondering about nature and there it is: clouds drifting lightly by as the sky moves towards evening. I pluck a basil/mint leaf, pop it in with my gin, grab a rug and sit and watch the sky. 

Day Five

At the end of 5 days of engaging with nature, I've moved from tears to reclaiming a right to be, to exist.

Looking up, seeing the lines drawn across the sky, the clouds reforming, banks of light stacked across the horizon, I feel the links to a world beyond my own sphere, where the oxygen is spinning and the earth turning and waters constantly washing in onto the rocks, sucking back as the tide takes off, the whole sphere in space with us scurrying across its surface. 

To engage with nature has been to slow and nourish my mind. It's been worth the injuries and the dirty fingernails. Now, to tend some more crops, be they plants, the self or stories.

Addendum: my piece was not selected for publication. Sob. But it sure was worth the experience.


  1. Why oh why wasn't your piece selected? It's beautiful and tender and funny and original. I'm so glad that you posted it here, and I'm going to re-post it on my page. Dani x


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Fitzroy Streets make me cry

Fitzroy Streets make me cry. 

Jasmine scents, basil plants, fried coffee grounds on the gas stovetop. Purple love-bites wander downstairs, smeared mascara, bruised thighs. Paperbacks strewn on the dusty carpet, threadbare runners on the stairs. Overflowing gutters and fragile drainpipes, smashed-in cars and broken hearts-these are the days that float back on the warm air.

Cornflowers in a metal vase, Jonathan Richman and Billy Bragg playing from a tinny stereo. John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Karl Marx, Terry Eagleton, Helen Garner's Monkey Grip and Susan Sontag's On Photography. Pasta pots and ashtrays, tumble-down dunnies and creepers hanging low into the lanes. Dark night lights on the cobblestones.

Sunday night sessions at The Standard, with a roast cooking in the oven as the pedal steel wails. Heart strings playing, lurching gut, blushing over the beer order. A deep bass vibrates across the bar.

These Fitzroy street are filled with fever, tears and rage. Ornaments on a side…


The rain is sporadic, but the stream peeling off the roof is constant. An insistent pouring onto something plastic, not the comforting spattering of drops. It jars with my yearning for a certain type of rainsong. While the room warms up, I sit in beanie and overcoat, coming to grips with my space.

The blue car in the old shed has not moved. Some days there is washing on the line. The Hills Hoist carousel has three pieces of baby clothing on it today, hanging, sopping, in the rain. One day there was a free-wheeling pink sheet, fresh and joyous. It sang like a flag.
My room is my own. Unadorned. The desk has piles of books, some propped open on pages. Significant letters: S for studio. Topographical maps for placement, location, anchoring in space. 
Turn the page. F for freelance. I have been paid for my writing. I am out there in the world, selling my words. Making a mark as a writer of sorts. Feeling allowed to own this identity, this voice. Inhabiting that place where I feel contentment…

Weaving my own way

In my first weeks of University life, I unzipped a heavy blue bag and found myself bent over a skinny cadaver with a scalpel in my hand. Smelling the formaldehyde. Over the course of the next year, we carved flesh from his buttocks, separated muscle from cartilage, and pulled and probed his ligaments. Lab sessions with the stiffs were fascinating, but I didn’t really want to be doing Medicine. I had never liked biology and was not at all interested in seeing patients with medical needs. So how did I get to be there?

It was always expected in our family that we would attend University, preferably to do medicine or law. Coming from a family of parents and grandparents who valued tertiary education, who had been lawyers, doctors, engineers and inventors, this was an unquestioned path. Of course, at the Catholic school, there was also the option of becoming a wife and mother, something seemingly so appalling to me that I rejected such a notion for decades.

Career advice at my private schoo…