This writer's neck of the (very damp) woods

It's been a while since my last blog post, but (as you could probably surmise) that's been because tons has been going on. Lots of editing, lots of friends' shows and gigs to see, lots of writing, lots of teaching, a bit of camping, and not enough fencing.

The camping, in particular, was supposed to be relaxing — a writer's retreat for me — but it ended up being a bit more intense than I thought. I arrived at the absolutely deserted campsite late on Friday afternoon and cheerily set up my tent (I am a cautious — nay, timid — camper and chose my spot carefully, avoiding both several large anthills and many overhanging branches) and boiled the billy*. The flies were numerous and enormous, but seemed to be leaving me more or less alone. Dinner was a stew I had cooked and dehydrated some weeks before, and I had high hopes for its tastiness. Alas, the rehydration process, while more or less effective, left the stew a tad bland (where did all the flavor go???), and the meat still leathery. Serves me right for eating meat on a Friday in Lent. Minor stressor (number 1).

As the sun started to go down, it occurred to me that the mosquitoes probably wouldn't do me the same courtesy as the flies in leaving me alone, and I retreated into the tent to listen to the radio and do some writing. The story I was working on began to be a bit of a tear-jerker (stressor number 2). Then the rain started — minor stressor (number 3), because I'd done a modification on the tent a while back to correct a design flaw that allowed rain to get in, and I hadn't used the tent in the rain since. Luckily, it seems I'm a frickin' genius at tent modification, and all was well. As the evening wore on, a few more campers materialized, but everyone was considerately quite and kept distances.

The next day I awoke in a leisurely fashion and made myself the traditional camping-morning Milo by setting up the stove and billy just outside the tent door without bothering to leave my sleeping bag. After a similarly leisurely morning lounging in the tent and reading a book, I got ready to sit outside to write. But oh! Remember how I was so benevolent toward the flies for leaving me alone? They had had an unaccountable change of heart. Holy hell, they hurt when they bit. And left blood seeping down one's leg. For some reason they absolutely loved my knees. Stressor number 4, and not a minor one, either. Into the tent for most of the day. (I did emerge for a short bushwalk later, which I enjoyed hugely — the flies did not follow me along the hiking trail for some reason.)

The words came slowly, but one by one my electronic distractions ran out of battery and I was driven to listening to the sluggish murmurs in my own skull. More words came, and a few more. Additional campers arrived, and kept on arriving, and I realized to my horror that this was a long weekend in the ACT (where the campsite was). Some of them were not so quiet. Some of them did not keep their distance.

The next morning I woke at 6 — I was a woman on a mission. No time for the billy or a leisurely wakeup: I had to pack up the campsite and head into Tuggeranong for a fencing tournament. (Yes, it was all very Xena Warrior Princess.) Everyone at the tournament should be grateful that there was a locker room/change room with a shower. Once I'd cleaned up, I watched the morning competition for a while, then got ready for my own event (novice women's foil). The gym was bloody hot. Oh, it was hot. I forgot to drink enough water. My focus flagged in the end, and I did not do as well as I had hoped. (Stressor 5, and a lesson learned.) Despite this, I find it very fun to fence people I've never met, and I talked to some very interesting people and made a friend or two, which was part of the point. Fencing draws an extraordinarily wide variety of people: geeks (here is where I raise my own hand), highly competitive athletes (here's where I put my hand down), hobby fencers, social fencers, fencers looking for spiritual and mental development — pretty much everyone is there for a different reason. Fascinating.

Home that evening, after treating myself to a heavy and comforting meal at the Paragon in Goulburn (locals despise it, apparently, but I love it, and it is always, always exactly the same, yesterday, today, and forever).

Since then it's been a dizzying whirl of editing, writing, teaching, and going to performances. It's been raining torrentially and steadily for four days here, and I'm starting to wither from overwatering and lack of sunlight. Not to mention the increasing mold aroma, clammy clothing and sheets, and deep reluctance to open a packet of anything, because of the certainty that it will instantly turn revoltingly soft.

Houston and I have been working on yet another 10-minute opera (our second), so I'll keep you posted as to whether and when this and the first get produced.

It sure is raining out there. Yup, it sure is.

*For those who don't know, a billy is a lightweight can-shaped cooking pot. For those who know what a billy is but think it's only in songs, nope. It's a camping essential in these parts.


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