The greater part of the muster was done and Al and Bev had some friends they wanted to visit in the South. But ‘The Oldies’, as Eth and Eileen are affectionately called, wouldn’t be joining them. In their late 80’s and 90’s respectively, the gals understandably need a bit of help and looking after. Bev usually takes care of this, and asked if I could fill in for her.
I was reluctant in the sense that it makes me nervous to be responsible for the well being and safety of someone else (likely because I frequently fail to maintain my own). But if I wasn’t willing, Bev couldn’t go. I wasn’t about to deny her the chance to get off the station for some rare social time. So, after a haphazard instructional on everything that needed doing in her absence they were off, and I was lady of the household.
As is often the case with stepping out of your comfort zone, the experience was educational. What follows is a part of what I had to say about it (via a Facebook status update) at the time:
“. . .am covering because the heads of the household are away. So, in addition to taking care of the ladies, I’m also covering the goat milking, watering the lawn, laundry, cooking for 5. . .
Now, I only need to do this for 4 days. I am on day 3 and I already want to go hide in a dark closet just to have 30 uninterrupted minutes to myself. But, even then, I’d probably remember halfway through that I need to take the mince out of the freezer, or that I forgot to clean that pig shit off my shoe, or that the ladies need their pills. . .
. . .the place that I’m going with this (albeit via the long way) is that I now have more of an inkling than ever before as to what it would be like to be a mom. Never enough time in the day, always having to ‘squeeze in’ things I now consider to be necessary in my life and, perhaps above all else, not a single moment of anything resembling privacy or tranquility ALL DAY LONG unless you, say, go out through the second kitchen and hide behind the water tank to meditate for 10 minutes where no one can see you so you can get your quick ‘mental reset’ to get sanely through the remainder of the day.
And, now having this inkling, I can say with a fair amount of certainty two things:
1 – I have deep, DEEP respect for all you moms. Like, serious props respect. Respect for the moms, hella respect for the working moms, and incredulous ‘how the fuck are you doing this?’ respect for the working, training moms. How you squeeze BJJ in between grocery runs and balancing checkbooks is so far beyond me it’s almost behind me again. Especially given how mentally demanding a sport BJJ is – I do not understand how you manage to hold onto any shred of tranquility and focus after spending all day cooking while ‘The Wiggles’ blasts in the background.
The second thing I can say with confidence: My desire to remain childless has been re-enforced hardcore. I mean, these ladies are lovely, really they are. So I’m trying to imagine kids in their place. What if they were shitty kids? What if they were loud, shitty kids? I’d snap. For reals. I kicked a pig the other day because it was being a cunt. You can’t kick kids. Or so I hear.”
So that was good. Any small slivers of insight or understanding I manage to glean during my travels are always a welcome boon, however they’re attained. I made sure to write my mom a lengthy email come Mother’s Day on what a goddamn saint she was to raise my brother and I without kicking either of us.
But taking care of the ladies yielded a second unexpected windfall.
Every second Thursday the Royal Flying Doctor comes to Gregory, our nearest township. The ladies go out for a check-up, as well as to meet up with Pam; a lovely lady that gathers folks from the surrounding stations to meet for group activities – crafts or bingo or the like.
I got to chatting with Pam during our time together; asking how she initially got involved with the group, what sort of activities they got up to through the year, etc. Turned out that they sometimes made trips as well. Actually, they were heading on one just next week: The group would squeeze into a little nine seater plane to fly 15 minutes north of Burketown for the day, to a tiny island fishing resort named ‘Sweers’. Turned out there was an extra seat this time around. As I was a caretaker of the ladies, I was qualified to join, if I was interested.
Was I interested?
Hmm. Depart from hot as balls dusty Queensland cattle station via smallest aircraft I’ve ever boarded to visit island resort in the Gulf of Carpentaria for a day of fishing off a sandy beach?
. . .Shit, that’s a tough call.
Al and Bev, being delightful angels, agreed I could have the day off and lent me a truck for the drive to Burketown. I met up with Pam and the crew at the ‘airport’ (read: landing strip), and we were off.
I got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat during the flight.
I made this face a lot:
The trip was delightful. As is the case 97% of the time in Queensland the weather was glorious. And, after about 3 hours and approximately 14 pieces of bait sacrificed to some sly, bastard fish that has clearly discerned the physics of human hooks and how best to avoid them, I managed to hook this whopper.
Back at the resort, I got to chatting with the owners. I was intrigued by Sweers. The modest operation is run by a group of four, which includes the two owners, Tex and Lyn Battle (and how badass a last name is that? Envy.). They’ve no desire to expand, to sell, or to go commercial. Sweers is a place where people come to fish or to simply relax and it succeeds in providing both services admirably as is.
During our conversation Tex and Lyn also asked about myself; what I was doing, what my plans were for the near future. I explained I’d decided to stay an extra month on the station both for the experience and to confirm all was well with my visa. After that I’d likely head back to Melbourne, and return to training.
Ah, Tex said, nodding.
. . .Was I in a rush to do that?
I stopped to think about Melbourne at the height of winter. (Alright, to all back in Canada: I know it’s not really winter until a shovel and layered boots are basic necessities of survival. But I’ve been away from Canada a long time now and Melbourne’s chilly, rainy winter streets are just miserable enough for me to dread, and whinge about, them.) I was eager to return to training. But. . .
I turned to look out at the palms swaying gently in the sunlit field beyond the restaurant’s open side. From just over the ridge came the steady lap of waves against tiny shells and red sand. No matter how long I’ve been away from Newfoundland that sound, mixed with the salty scent of the ocean air, always feels like home.
And that was what Tex was offering – for Sweers to be home, if just for a short while. A layover point between Mellish and Melbourne from which to unwind, and make some plans.
And avoid the whinge-inducing soggy weather down south.
And so here I now am, to lend a hand for the next several weeks during the resort’s busy period. Tex picked me up in his Pelikan last week, where I was once again invited to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. Though, in a two-seater plane, I suppose that was kind of a given.
He let me take the controls at one point. I HAVE FLOWN A PLANE, sort of.
My first day in I joined the crew in a successful hunt for an anchor off a wreck from the 1800’s. As we drove (sailed? What is the correct term for ‘by motorboat’?) out to where we guessed it would lay, dolphin fins breeched the ocean’s surface at our side. Afterward, coming up from my first scuba dive in over two years, Lyn informed me I was only the 8th person to ever see it underwater.
So I was riding a permanent glee cloud pretty much that entire day.
Still riding that glee, actually. The folks here are lovely, and this tiny island is a gem. When I’m not cruising around it on one of the ATVs or throwing chum out to baby black tips, I make beds, feed chickens, clean boats and cut fruit into artistically arranged platters. I also, unexpectedly, assist the Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology. Did you know there are still a large number of manually maintained weather boxes in first world countries? I did not.
I’ve a lovely little room with a cozy bed. The beach (aka ‘nature’s running track’) is a 2 minute jog from my door. One of our chickens hatched ten tiny balls of adorable fluff the other day.
Melbs, I love you, and I do miss you. But, couple weeks time from now, it’s going to be damn hard to pry myself away from this: