We went to the sheepdog trials.
“Away up! Right over! Back off. Come be-oind! Stop. Geddup. Stop. Geddup. Get ‘ere. Come be-oind!”
We sat in the boot of the car, out of the wind, and watched lithe little dogs hurtle across the field. They never stopped working.
“That little dog tried her hardest. She could honestly do no more.”
It was a good day out, though. We met some characters. One bloke came trundling towards me on a motorised mobility scooter, his wife and his dog walking beside him. His wife chided him as she realised his intentions.
“Don’t stop and talk to the girls. Don’t stop and talk to the girls. Don’t stop and … oh, never mind.”
He stopped dead in front of me. “Gidday,” he said. “She’s just jealous.” And gave me a gappy smile. “Got any dogs in the competition?” I asked. “Three in the top 20,” said his wife proudly, “and he’s 81 years old!”
The next weekend we drove in the opposite direction, down the surprisingly quiet Hume Highway to Jugiong, which is really taking off. If you’re on the way to or from Melbourne and you need a break, pop in to the Long Track Pantry for lunch. Or stay the night at the recently refurbished Sir George Hotel. (They didn’t pay me to tell you that. I just think they’re both quality establishments and a great example of what you can do to attract people to a country town.)
We wandered around the corner to find a row of shops selling homewares, gifty things and interesting recycled/salvaged architectural stuff. The front wall of the building was made of a concrete-like material just begging to be touched. It was honey coloured and warm in the morning sun. “Rammed earth,” said the owner of the shop when I asked what it was, and I decided then and there to have a rammed earth wall in the house I’m going to build one day, hopefully not too far away.
We drove on, along deserted back roads, to another town that hasn’t read the manual on how to attract visitors. It was rich in interesting architectural features, but we felt as we stopped to photograph them that there was a bit of an air of menace. We weren’t welcome. We quickly got back in the car and drove non-stop to another place, almost on the outskirts of Canberra, where you can find handmade chocolates and a good cup of tea and sit and look out over paddocks and relax.
The weekend after that there was more driving, a last quick swim in the sea while it’s still warmish, then a catch-up with a friend before seeing to some family biz.
They were the fun bits. In between, I’ve felt like Wile E Coyote, cartoon legs whirring in midair. Or I’ve been like a sheepdog: running, running, running, herding, chasing, turning in circles, rounding things up. It’s not just me. A friend said she feels like a hamster on a wheel and the wheel keeps getting faster.
On top of all the busy, there have been other challenges to face. I fell in a bit of a hole, mentally, a little while ago and I was finding it hard to climb out. I pretended everything was fine but it wasn’t. I really wanted to feel better but I just couldn’t. Then one night a friend came over and said, “We’ve got to scratch that record.”
He was right. That was the answer: getting the needle out of the groove, changing the song that was playing over and over in my head. That led to an extraordinary visualisation exercise that was hard to do but I trusted him and it worked. I feel better. I feel reconnected to myself, to other people and certainly to the world around me.
Since that night, that difficult conversation, I’ve been able to tackle two other tough situations. They’re not completely dealt with or solved, but it’s been liberating to start to address them, to think carefully and speak compassionately to the people involved and feel things shifting for the better. It feels incredibly adult to do that.
This weekend, thank goodness, was a quieter one. Apart from a walk around the lake and dinner with friends, I mostly stayed in my kennel. What a relief! Autumn’s beginning to put in an appearance, calling for long sleeves and an extra blanket on the bed. It’s time to tune in to the season and slooooow down.
And that’s what’s been going on around here.