- THINGS TO NOT FORGET
The sound of the slow creak of the back door, opened to let a wind-ruffled cat into a steamy kitchen on a wintery night.
The steep path from the road to the house, through the agapanthus and past the rockery to the gate. The empty letter box in the hedge, dripping wet in the rain. A rag doll, freshly washed, pegged to a line.
The sound of a father’s voice, the feel of his arms as he carries his child to bed.
A lemon tree. An overgrown bank, ripe for exploring, and amateur archaeology. Glass bottles fished from the soil, washed under the hose, filled with marbles and colored water, placed in the sun. A bed of weeds, littered with hidden caterpillars. A magnolia tree for climbing, sailed to the ends of the earth. Ants on a hot patch of footpath and an ill-directed magnifying glass. A back veranda. A little girl’s song and the look of loss in her father’s eye, misunderstood.
“Why are you not listening to me?” she yells, not realising the farewell she is being silently given.
- THINGS THAT RESEMBLE LEAVING
A passport. Tickets. Money belt. A pack half-packed. Morning tears over morning coffee. Weather conversation. The animation of the one who is leaving, no matter how sad they feel. The awkwardness of the other, left behind. The half-imagined places yet to come, ripe in the mind of both leaver and left. The forgotten toothbrush, upright in its bathroom mug.
- IMPORTANT LESSONS FOR LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY
Rickety houses are heated by pot-belly stoves: one in the kitchen, one in the living room. You set your alarm for 4 a.m. to refresh the dying coals so the house will be warm when we wake. To make a fire, first lay paper and wood and start a blaze. An open window lets in oxygen, which helps to fan the flames. Once the fire has peaked, and embers are appearing, toss on the first coals. Open the air valves and study closely. Add more coal and wait until the embers are a hot bed of amber. Add more coal and close the valves. A pot of water left to heat on top of the stove helps to replace moisture stripped from the air.
When boiling water in a kettle, unplug the hot water cylinder and turn off the stove to prevent a fuse from blowing. Only play the stereo and computer together. The stereo, computer, and television together could blow a fuse. Electrical circuits are rigged in circles in each room. Two elements on the stove, the toaster and the hot water cylinder will certainly blow a fuse.
Turmeric left unbalanced on the shelf will certainly fall.
- THE SHAPE OF ANIMALS SEEN
A squirrel, rippling across the road in front of the car, never seeming to touch the ground. The white cat from next door, glowing pink in the sunset as it rushes across a woodshed roof. A rat, which doesn’t count. It was heard scrabbling in the roof, not seen. Two deer in the forest, just this morning, and shortly after, a family of wild boar, a mother and her three children, you say. A barn-owl, startled from a drainage pipe by the dog. And a fire salamander, yellow spots glowing warningly on its back, invisible against the forest floor when shot in black and white.
- LESSONS THAT REMAIN UNLEARNED
How to fit in on a dance floor. To recognize friendship when shyly given. Parallel parking on a busy street. How to stop the dog from pulling on the line. That to sing loudly doesn’t necessarily mean that you are singing in tune. How to stop you from leaving, again.