Making House

I’ve lost a poppy and buried a trowel. I know – I’m quite surprised myself. I can’t find it anywhere. I even dug up the baby gem lettuces again to see if I could retrieve the trowel from their roots. But it’s not there. Vanished. Worst of all- it was borrowed. From my new landlords. I’m on my first weekend of a six-month lease and I’ve already lost their trowel. Some people have a favourite trowel that they keep for years. Mine didn’t last an hour.

It’s the first time I’ve ever even attempted gardening. I have a row of cos lettuce, then some silverbeet, then some poppies. But I lost a poppy. There were six little tubs when I emptied them but only five little shoots once I’d planted them. And now, with all the digging up on the missing trowel, their roots are probably shot anyway. All that love and care they got in their former home too, to grow them to this dizzyingly tiny height of a mini plant.

I lost a poppy and buried a trowel. On Monday I woke up in my new house to discover I had no hot water, or breakfast ingredients. On Tuesday, having fixed the hot water problem and visited a supermarket on my way home from work, I made a big sloppy bowl of muesli and yoghurt. A lack of any utensils (and some might say foresight) meant I had to drape a towel over my new work shirt and scoop the breakfast slop it into my mouth with a  measuring cup. Didn’t make me feel like the slick and efficient professional I was pretending to be.

Andy once promised that the first time we found ourselves with a plot of land he would build us a veggie patch. Alas, he’s not here right now so instead I rented a house that came with a plot ready to go. My part of that bargain was to grow food. I’ve never done that before and I think it’s something everyone should do at some point in his or her life.

It’s almost exactly six years since I last had a residential address where I actually lived. Many thanks to all of you in the mean-time who have provided an address, a spare room, the use of your washing machine, your internet, your kitchen…. and most importantly a sense of home.

To be fair, I bought Nooksak six years ago, and three years later moved onto Zephyrus. So I haven’t been homeless. Just houseless. And what a lot of stuff a house requires!

I just felt an earthquake. While typing. Just a mini one, but I’m pretty sure it was a tremble. This is Christchurch. A strange place to be moving to when so many people are leaving and losing, grieving for their former stability, making new plans. Everyone seems to be in a state of change. It could be their house is being demolished entirely, and the land not to be built on again (red zone). Or the house is being demolished but a new one will be built in its place (green zone). Or the house will be fixed, and that means moving out (that might be green-blue zone, I’m not really sure). Or the house is fine, but friends or family less well off have moved in. Or moved their stuff in. Or they are in the white zone – yet to be decided.

Stuff that has been kept in storage for years is being emptied out to make room for real valuables. Garage sales are hosted every weekend around the city – “everything must go -moving country”, “house being demolished – no price refused”.

It’s a strange time to be moving here. I have a beautiful house, freshly renovated, with garden and garage, conker tree, lemon tree, fuschia bush, and veggie patch. I have managed to pick up everything I need at the blink of a wish – fridge, table, bed, bike, cutlery, crockery, pots and pans. This morning, Sunday morning, I discovered an amazing farmers marker just down the road. That’s where I bought the plants.

It’s a strange time to be moving here, and several people wonder why I am. But I don’t have earthquake fatigue. A tremble is just a tremble to me. To them it’s a trigger for a flood of memories, preparations, fear, exhaustion, emergency planning. To these people, most of whom are operating beyond capacity in both their home life and work life, living in temporary locations, working in shipping containers, paying both their mortgage on the old place and rent on the new … it’s too much. In many cases breaking point has either been reached, or is not far away.

Far away, on the other side of the Pacific, Andy is visiting Robinson Crusoe Island, Juan Fernandez, in Chile. The two of us were there on Zephyrus just over two years ago when there was an enormous quake in Concepcion and a tsunami devastated the town that we were moored next to. They, too, are rebuilding.

So it’s not surprising that natural disasters have been on my mind lately. Things that seem to be unavoidable, unpredictable, and devastating. Things that you might be able to prepare for, but will be shocking none-the-less.

I’d like to say something philosophical now. Something that makes it all ok. I guess this is just another very real part of life. The skill is having the flexibility, or creativity, to keep going and to find a positive beyond.

So, for all those giving away houseplants and furniture at the moment, I’m planting lettuces. I think I might learn to bake as well. And I’m going to get some new clothes, and take up pilates, or maybe join a choir. I’m going to enjoy every moment of domestication for the novel, exciting, and temporary thing that it is. For today, this is my reality.

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