The fresh clean air; the sound of birds chirping; I have to say, nothing beats living under a pile of sticks in the bush.
Now, I’ve lived under my fair share of piles (a pile of shoes at the gym, a pile of onions at a different gym, a pile of dirty laundry at home), but living under a pile of sticks, way out in the bush, is really something else.
When I first told my mates about my decision to move from my comfortable home in barracks to the bush (and under a pile of sticks, no less!), they understandably had some reservations. But some people just don’t appreciate the feeling of being out in nature, off the grid, and under a pile of something.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say that barracks life just wasn’t for me. For one thing, the buildings are way too clean and orderly. Either that or they end up being an emergency services search and rescue training aid after a weekend barracks party. And of course there are a fair number of medium‐sized buildings, which I’m not particularly fond of. But maybe worst of all is the fast-paced, hustle-and-bustle lifestyle. I mean, you can’t even sit down on the footpath, swinging your arms around and punching everyone in the legs, without someone coming up and barking at you to move it along. And if you’re thinking about trying to take a nap in the middle of a large, busy intersection, you might as well forget about it. Sure, you get used to getting run over all the time, but all that honking can make you dream about some pretty frightening things. Like a honking skeleton.
To be honest, though, the bush can also be quite scary at night (and terrifying in the day), and the sticks scratch my skin and are almost always poking me in the eyes and teeth.
Besides all that, I’m convinced that some of the bush creatures are demons in disguise, as they’re constantly speaking to me in the voices of my loved ones, whispering strange incantations and humming hypnotic melodies.
And sometimes the sticks poke me in the bum.
In my quieter, more reflective moments, when I’m not fighting off snakes or trying to attract snakes to eat the possums that eat my rations, I imagine people asking me if I ever get lonely, living in the bush, under this pile of sticks. And I always picture myself telling them the same thing: Of course I do. Cripplingly lonely.
But would I change a thing? Well, yes, I suppose I would. Everything, actually. At least everything regarding the bush and this stick pile, that’s for sure.
But I suppose at this point I’m just too set in my ways to change. I may fear and despise the bush (not to mention the pile [the stick pile, that is]), but they’re the only bush and pile of sticks I’ve ever known. And call me old-fashioned, but that still means something to me.
These kids today, when faced with circumstances that make them profoundly unhappy like digging a pit or erecting a tent, all too often they try to enact positive change to make for them a life that they find enjoyable and satisfying.
Well, these fickle youth may have lost their way, but not me!
So if you need me, I’ll be right here, under this pile of sticks in the bush, muttering a language that long ago lost any semblance to English and furiously attempting to massage some life back into my heavily infected legs.
Andrew Douglas is a long-suffering Aussie Digger who, after many hours of sitting in a pit with a notebook and pen writing his woes, has turned his hand to writing for leisure and entertainment in the comfort of his lounge room. He and his partner, Sonia, live in a 100-year-old home in southern NSW, where Andrew uses his home-repair skills to make improvements, such as being able to flush the toilet by turning on the garden tap.
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