Since November I’ve been staying in Lorinna, a community of 50 souls scattered along Lake Cethana in the northwest of Tasmania. Mountains fill the sky on all sides – there are no power lines, no mailboxes and no visitors beyond the black cockatoos that bring news of rain.
I came here partly to rest my legs and partly because my writing was frustrating the hell out of me. Either way, it was time to stare at something new. In return for food and a place to sleep, I’ve worked my way around the valley, doing the odd jobs that old backs can’t carry.
My father would be proud of me. He’s a man of patience, of precision, a man who jokes he can fix anything but a broken heart. A good part of my childhood was spent handing him tools, listening to his lessons. Despite my best efforts, some of them stuck.
Lately I helped build a straw-bale cabin. I tended sheep, moved boulders, split wood, mended fences, planted crops and forked hay in sheds so old even the mice had moved on. I stepped between a bunch of guys gaping at an engine that had coughed and died, and I fixed the damn thing.
After running out of cheeks to turn, I hit a rooster over the head with a shovel. I felt terrible until I remembered the grandfather whose first name is my second. Ernest McLaughlin Boles was a proud Scotsman – he never lost his temper with birds. That man punched a horse.
The older I get the more I wish I could have met him. He was tough – a carpenter when it paid and a farmer when it didn’t. In the evenings, when I lean on a tired gate and watch the sun set over Lorinna, I like to think we would have had something to talk about.
Strange that I needed to come to a place I’ve never been to feel this connection to the land, to my past.
It tells me I need to go home, but that I need to do it my own way. In a few weeks I’ll be a step closer – in New Zealand – and then I’ll start squirreling money away so I can point myself north in South America. Call it the long way back.