The Good Life: Tick, tock
Updated: May 11, 2020
The Great Lockdown is changing our sense of time. By Michele Hewitson.
It is always quiet here at Lush Places, now it is almost silent. The animal noises continue: the constant complaining of the chickens about unknown injustices; the calling from the paddocks by the sheep who want pats and sheep nuts; the cheerful cheep, cheep, cheep of the friendly fantails who want us to stir up bugs for them to snack on.
It is the human noises which are almost absent. Despite living in the wops, twice a day we could hear the distant rumble of traffic, in what Miles the sheep farmer says used to be called “the rush minute”. We’d hear logging trucks and farmers shouting at their dogs, and, of course, we’d have long chats with the rural postie, and the gas tank delivery lady, and the firewood delivery geezer and, daily, with Miles.
We can still shout over the fence to Miles who comes, twice a day, to feed the ewes, but it’s not the same. And yesterday I heard the pop, pop, pop of a shotgun some paddocks away; presumably a kid filling out the long hours shooting rabbits.
I recently read The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, a novel about a dystopian future on a Japanese island. In this future things are made to disappear: birds, novels, flowers, perfume. The first thing made to disappear is memory. Anyone who retains memory is disappeared. You know things have been made to disappear, but you can’t remember what those things were.
A thing that has almost disappeared, at least from daily life, relegated mostly to antique shops and museums, are clocks that tick, and have to be wound daily. I would like, just now, to have a clock I had to wind daily; a clock that ticks; a clock that marks, audibly, the passage of these strange, almost silent times.
I pass my time in the garden, as usual, and time passed in a garden is always slowed down time: that is a large part of its mysterious magic. I spend hours out there and, even more mysteriously, never seem to get anything much done. Much of this time has been spent hauling hoses about with sour grace; it has been so terribly dry. I hate hoses like poison and I am always pulling the attachments off and carefully putting them in places in the garden and never seeing them again. I drive myself mad and I drive Greg even madder.
What I really want to be doing is ordering bulbs. I need more of that glorious Black Diamond tulip which I planned to plant in pots with the bright orange peony tulip, Orange Princess. I also have a grand scheme to plant 100 scented daffodils under the golden locust tree. I can still do this, although as plant suppliers are not deemed essential services, who knows when they will arrive? I had better get ordering before all of the other gardeners, who are reduced to virtual planting, sneak in and panic buy bulbs.
There will be no neighbourly swappings of feijoas and foraged apples this year. I don’t know whether leaving boxes of quince at our farm gate would be permitted. I must, somehow, find out. The pears in our orchard, on all of those hundreds of trees, have withered on the desiccated limbs. It is a sad sight.
It would be ridiculous to complain about the trifling minor inconvenience of not being able to get the winter vege seedlings in, but it is another tiny absence from daily life to be noted. But in the future, there will always be plants to buy and seeds to sow and the garden will go on. Next year’s self-sown sweet peas are already popping up and the cut down artichokes are leaping upwards by the day. “Time,” wrote Auden, “will say nothing but I told you so/Perhaps the roses really want to grow…”