The wind is howling between the door jambs in my country home and the trees, near and distant, are bending at a perilous angle - we are having a bit of a Wuthering Heights moment here in the countryside. My urban black-stemmed bamboo is putting on a brave face; like a modern girl at a vintage tea-dance she is trying to blend in. Clearly ill at ease in this wild, thrashing countryside having lost the protection of a modern patio and high fencing she is being whipped fiercely from side to side, appearing flustered and clinging to her container.
I have moved from the centre of the city to a remote village with no pub, no bus service, surgery or shop. It does have one of the best wrinkly tin village halls in the county, and according to the last census one hundred and seventeen inhabitants. The wind and some geese are the only things that I can hear. No pneumatic drills or warnings of vehicles reversing. It is peace and solitude; apart from the ferocious wind.
Kind friends have cautioned me on several fronts, the most amusing, to me, being the fact that it gets very dark in the country. I will buy a large torch. I am concerned about the cost of keeping warm and my car not coping with the terrain in ice and perhaps more solitude than I had bargained for. But so far I have met the challenge of this ‘road less travelled’ quite well. Soot from the Rayburn greeted us, along with challenging plumbing, nevertheless we managed to cook for Christmas, decorate a tree and enjoy a carol service in a simple church with a Golden Retriever in amongst the congregation.
I am attempting to impose order in my study, one of the last rooms in utter chaos. The rest of the house has accepted my furniture, pictures and ephemera with ease. People have commented how well my things fit in, and they do. Some of the paintings look better here against a wall whose colour is a cross between dark plum and terracotta. The house I have left was bland, this one is eccentric and anything I set down here has immediate personality.
The cat, Daisy, likes the house. This is a very good sign, animals know about places. She likes all of it and for a cat of a nervous disposition she settled at once and she has found no ghosts. She has only been shown the wilderness outside once, held in my arms her little heart pounding. She is far happier to look out of my study window on what, to her, is a landscape the size of the Serengeti. She was a RSPA rescue cat and confinement and small town gardens have been her lot in life. Just now she is looking upwards as a vast flock of birds as they wheel and turnabout on random winds and retreat again to the distant trees; consternation is Daisy’s perpetual demeanour.
I have too many possessions. I have already downsized once, over five years ago and I have been living apart from a good many things: my plan-chest; my garden bench, along with pictures that hang on some else’s wall. In reality the house I am now renting is a similar size to the last, only on two storeys, but it doesn’t have the storage and I have finally accepted that nothing, but nothing, must ever go in an attic apart from the Christmas decorations and a suitcase. I had a cull as I packed, but it was not enough. Having forged a creative path in life there are a number of enterprises that here in the countryside I intend to pursue again. Photography: drawing and painting; along with writing and walking. Pursuits that require equipment: notebooks; sketchbooks; paints; charcoal; cameras; walking boots; walking poles; outdoor coats and tripods. And then there are the pictures. My three storey town house had a staircase that was the perfect gallery for all the family photographs, the life-drawings and the paintings. Here, I have a small winding stairs and the wall is needed for a steadying hand that will prevent me from tumbling headfirst down them.
I also have to face the fact that my offspring are yet to fully-fledge and their requisites for activities: sailing; horse riding; rugby; hockey and myriad technology, have all come with me. Given the fiscal cliff on which our young people perilously sit I am faced with the alarming possibility that they may never fully leave home and I will be stuck forever with their mountain of equipment to store, and worse, be asked to unearth whenever they take up an invitation from friends. The spare bedroom has been filled with boxes containing all the things that we have no place for.
I am already thinking ahead to the next move, now a renter I may have to move on. I will never pack a house again. No. I will pay and have it packed for me. Packing my possessions took a long month and even then there was a last minute panic, boxes were poorly labelled and I was exhausted and couldn’t do any writing. I am not as fit as I was and my damaged arm can’t lift, so there is a big incentive to divest myself of more paraphernalia that was once deemed essential. Perhaps living here will finally test my desire to paint again and if not, the inks and the brushes, the charcoal, paint and the plan chest can finally go. Moving is about letting go of the past, when our city house was finally empty, it was after all just a house; it’s the life you live in it that makes a building a home.
I am interested to see how this rural setting alters my writing, it will, that much I know. Sitting here on the last day of 2012 as dense grey cloud is thrown across the sky by a tumultuous wind, I wonder what the coming year will bring creatively? More uninterrupted time, too much uninterrupted time? Moving lends to the fantasy that life will be different, better in some way. My fantasy is that finally I will have the time to complete all the creative projects that lie dormant and create more; that released from the pressure of the city I will roam the lanes with my sketch book and draw inspiration from close contact with nature, the changing seasons and the light. When you let go of an aspect of your life you make room for the new – I am curious to find what 2013 has to offer a writer and an artist living remote from bustle and noisy, needless activity. It will be interesting to be still.