Sunday, May 16, 2010
The life of Riley
Somehow people have developed the illusion that a self-sufficient life in the country is quiet and tranquil, and entirely effortless. In a bizarre way it's rather like people telling you about having been reincarnated and remembering their past lives. Funnily enough, they all seem to have been princesses or heroes. Oddly no one seems to remember having been a drudge, or a deserving flea, born to a higher state this time around. I've often thought that my violent and immediate dislike of the very smell of turnips -and knowing full well exactly what it would taste like before tasting it, was the nearest I have ever come to real evidence of reincarnation. But in that former life I must have been a very hungry peasant somewhere in Northern Europe... a dull Baldric-type life, much afflicted with insufficient food, and entirely too much of the little there was must have been turnip. Still, I must have been a good peasant, as I've moved on to Flinders Island in this round. Which again makes it all seem very unlikely, as I don't have a particularly saintly nature. And likewise rural life is sometimes quiet (you know, like when the green rosellas have a domestic dispute outside the window just before dawn), sometimes tranquil (when the wind actually makes such constant roaring sound that you wake up when it stops) and never ever effortless. Like the illusion that being a writer is effortless...
Anyway, in my illusionary world I have decided it's probably a good life-choice for the hyperactive and restless, as well as the not-particularly-intellectually-gifted (or they would work out that going to a supermarket for a loaf of bread is a lot easier than kneading dough) and a strong back because carrying loads of wood is a little more like hard work than flipping the switch on a heater. We will leave out the part about cutting down the tree and cutting it up, because part of me always wants to ask if you don't have to cut it down again. I think these delusions are why so many rural shifters don't last too long. Still, while it is hard work, and like any work a lot of it is repetitive, there is enormous satisfacton to it. And that hard-to-define thing quality of life is a biggy. It often seems to go hand in hand with just straight quality. My veggies aren't what any office-working supermarket-shopping person would call 'quality' - they have holes from caterpillars. They'd be less good than the stuff in the shop if I transported it thence - but here, well, firstly it's fresh (sometimes with added frog or caterpillar) and secondly it's MINE - watered by the sweat of my brow (no wonder it tastes salty and smells yuck). And thirdly - it satisfies that innate mean-ness of me. I never paid a long chain of middlemen or the government for most of it, which delights long generations of "careful" ancestors. It must be in the DNA or something, because, like the satisfaction of barter, it makes 'retail therapy' seem like a weak shandy compared to overproof whiskey.
Still, it's not the life of Riley. If you want that: stay in the big city, and stick close to your desk 9-5, enjoy dining out, watching TV, take-outs, repairmen... and that sort of thing. Otherwise, well, learn to cook in batches, think ahead and seize the day when the weather is good or the mushrooms come out or there are olives being left to rot. And sometimes it means sitting an writing on a glorious Sunday, because you're behind.
Oh well, it was always my choice. And it is beautiful, and satisfying, even if it is sometimes hard work.