Tomorrow I leave for the Blue Mountains. For five days solid I hope to write. I hope to lose myself so deeply in my writing that for this short time I will transcend the usual humdrum of my daily writing and get to somewhere I have not been before, ‘wheeled and soared and swung through footless halls air’. These words come to me from a poem I met as a child , ‘High Flying’ by Walter Magee. It begins, ‘Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth and danced the skies on laughter silvered wings, Sunwards I’ve climbed and chased the sunless mirth of sun split clouds and done a thousand things you have not dreamed of, wheeled and soared and swung my eager craft through footless falls of air...
and while with silent trembling heart, I've trod...put out my hand and touched the face of God’. (I have muddled these words. If I were a worthy soul I would Google them for you and correct them, but it's late and I must be away early, so if you are interested, you will need to search for yourself, or accept them as they are here, a muddle from my memory.)
I have started to pack, at least in my mind. It’s an easy thing to pack for one. After all the years when the girls were little and I needed to pack for them as well. I need also to put out five shirts for Bill who is colour blind and cannot select his own shirts and ties without disastrous consequences, at least he will worry that the consequences will be disastrous. He lacks confidence in his own taste, at least in colour. For the rest he is artistic, with excellent sense of shape and texture. Sometimes he gets to work in non-matching socks.
Tomorrow morning I will get up at 4 am and leave the house fifteen minutes later. I will drive my own car and leave it in long-term car parking to the airport. The cost of a weeks parking is the equivalent of one taxi fare, so I save money this way. Although I have discussed the matter of my getting to the airport with various members of my family and all express the wish to drive me to the airport, it seems to me, it’s too ridiculous a time, Monday morning at 4.15 am to inflict on any of them. Therefore I should be the only one inconvenienced by this trip – I should drive myself there and back seven days later.
I am a nervous traveler. Whenever I rehearse the experience in my mind I panic a little. I can see myself getting lost, or misreading signs and missing my plane or in this instance my train, first from Sydney airport where I will arrive at 7.00am during peak hour and then on to Central station. From Central station I need to make a three-hour train trip to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. I look forward to this leg of the journey. Three hours on a rocking train, three hours where I will still be on land but moving swiftly through space, three hours during which I can doze, read, or look out through the window at a new landscape.
I feel the need to write a brief farewell blog, a farewell for one week only. A bit like the dinner my husband wants to share tonight to mark my absence for a week. Not too special a dinner – I’m not going away for long – but to mark the occasion nevertheless.
We mark absences and returns in our household with fervour. No one can sneak away unnoticed, not like one of my brothers did on his eighteenth birthday many years ago, or Maggie May’s sister. She writes about this in a blog that eats at you with its poignancy. No, we mark our farewells and hellos.
It’s worse when I go because I am the ‘mother’, and mothers, not always but perhaps more often than not, are the mid point of the wheel around which all the spokes circle.
I wear the weight of my responsibility seriously and I am troubled at this end by my planned absence.
Someone needs to worry incessantly about the dog, as there will be a man here to help install a new gate and the gate will inevitably be left ajar from time to time. Someone will need to keep the dog in mind for the times when the gate man is here. The under pinners are also coming on Monday to help us to rectify the enormous cracks that have erupted in the front walls of our house.
They will work outside but one day at least my husband will need to take time off work to watch as they hoist the house up on jacks before they pour concrete into the huge holes they will have dug beneath the perimeter of the house to force it back in place. Hopefully this will help to rejoin the cracks.
I can put five shirts and ties for my colour blind husband in advance, one for each working day of the week I am away. I can make sure there is enough milk in the fridge to last the week and enough toilet paper. For the rest, my children, the ones living at home are old enough by far to look after themselves, as is my husband. Still I worry about them.
I worry about all the little things that they can take for granted, though taking people for granted is a dangerous pastime and one none of us should ever indulge in for too long, myself included. When we take others for granted, as Art Durkee has written elsewhere in relation to the business of expectation, we will inevitably trip up, not to mention the pain we cause the other person who is taken for granted.
So my absence shall be a good thing, painful for those at home to some extent only. The days will pass quickly enough and apart from my youngest who needs me more for transport and a general holding in mind function, the others will do just fine. And so will I.