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.
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.
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.
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.
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.