Since moving back to the city I miss that the country heart knows the families of the people the streets are named after, and always has the possibility of running into people well known when on a trip to the supermarket.
I found that like a security blanket, because everywhere I went there was nearly always someone known and trusted who would help you out.
I knew all the people in the stores and every outing to buy something came with a conversation. I had so many friends so easy to drop in on, and they were all ages. I loved some of the older members of the community who knew stories about so many things.
I could navigate my car trips very easily in and around Tully and the outlying townships, and drive by suburb, then cane, and banana field just outside the town. The changing landscapes were interesting and sometimes we’d go on photography adventures to find hidden creeks that were beautiful to photograph. Nature was so near.
The country wasn’t perfect though. Sometimes that feeling of safety was interrupted and random things happened like someone trying to make us open our doors in the middle of the night when they were drunk or drugged and our car window being smashed outside our home in the middle of nowhere happened. It hurt knowing that someone who knew us felt the need to do that. We always thought we just got along with everyone.
But most of the time people have to be pleasant to each other as they are always going to run into each other, and conflicts need to be resolved. There are some people who don’t understand that and treat people as if they can avoid them and they just don’t have a country heart.
The friendships I made there are some of the truest I have ever made. They can be much harder to make in the beginning, but after time, a couple of cyclones, and even being a fellow mother trying to find a school community that makes your children feel at home, with very small choices, you find people and the place grow on you. I will never forget a mum from Kindy running up to me and saying, ‘you have to swap classes, the best teacher is this one, ‘ how right she was!
Yet, I struggled to find regular, fulfilling paid work to use my university education . My occupations in the country were a patchwork of projects, the occassional consistent job and short term work I absolutely loved but which ended, lots of voluntary work, and of course the bounty of being a parent who could become involved in the community. One of my best memories is a parent/ teacher race at an athletics carnival and the kids yelling out ‘ Go Mrs Perkins.’
There are possibilities in the city that suit the things I learnt in the country though. The country was the place where I have found my writing and photographic voice. It is a place full of artists and writers who want to be close to nature and part of vibrant community.
Now it’s a journey to try and relearn city life, and to find security in building new networks. I am not there yet. But I do find corners of green, people who care and want to assist me to learn how to be a city girl.
I have a country girls fears of the city, and a murder of a student at South Bank has had me worried, but sadly there’s another back at the quiet community I came from. Perhaps the whole world, city or country needs to build protection for all, so women, children, and men can truly be safe any place and time of day.
The first signs I have that the city can open its heart to us, are people who reach out to talk with us at the park. An American with a basketball wonders what I am photographing and comes to ask me.
A small boy watches my son and the rest of the family playing AFL whilst his Dad is playing a community soccer game. He comes and joins us.
I find the patches of green in the city, and love to come across a creek, and an inviting park with my family with me.
I don’t miss our old home when the cyclone season comes, because those butterflies as you wait to see how strong and which direction are horrible when you know what a large one can do. I don’t miss the flooding, but I do still love our flooded in times as we had extra family time, and tales to tell. I will always remember the canoe across the road.
I have to now take those first steps more boldly in our new home, just as my children are managing to do and add to my country heart, an openess to the city and the skills to navigate, use public transport, and connect with people. Yet somewhere deep inside I can feel that my priorities have changed and will never be as they once were.
I have a feeling the country will call again.