So be it. Don't worry. It'll lighten up, I promise. Stick with it.
As we get into the car, I notice a remarkable thing. The apricots and nectarines are in bud; a few flowers too. Hey, stone-fruit trees – it's only July. What do you think you're doing?
It's our wet winter that's led them into thinking spring will arrive early. Maybe it will. Somehow, it pleases me to see the blossoms beginning to show.
Off we go then, across the railway line to the old highway out of town.
As we near the airport, we pass the crematorium up to the left, on the hill. The last time we passed this quite agreeable looking place, I felt a shiver up my spine. If you don't understand why, then it doesn't matter; you won't get it anyway. But this time, more composed, I simply muse on the fact that it will be the last place the shell of my body is likely to go.
I like the idea of cremation, as opposed to being buried deep in Armidale's cold earth. To each his or her own. My sister lies in a beautiful place, amongst the plants and birds she loved. It's right for her. Whatever's left to be released from my body, I want it to go upward towards the stars. To be dispersed by the elements, and set free.
I don't care much what happens to my ashes. They mean little to me. I tried to think where they might be disposed of. Scattered, if you must. Let's keep the euphemisms for those who can't accept the full reality of a life's journey. They can have their 'resting vessels'. Drop me, respectfully, into a coffin. Death is to be respected.
I sure as hell don't want my ashes in an urn on anyone's mantel-piece. Not bloody likely.
I'll admit that over a few break-of-dawn sessions, I thought about it quite a lot, once I got started. Where would I want any last remnant of my mortal self to end up? I thought of my home town; our farm. It's cut up now into hobby farms – six hundred acres of beautiful land, it was, that's now someone else's little selections.
The spring in the back paddock is gone, and when it disappeared because of the bores speared down into its heart, extracting its lifeblood, it created for me a separation from the spirit of the land that nothing will fill.
I left there fifty years ago, when the creek uniting the land brimmed with crystal clear spring-water. Now other people call it home. It is their home and I don't begrudge it, but they're all strangers to me. Cut up into parcels, that land has lost its connection with me.
Brisbane? Where I spent many happy years? No. If it had to be in that city, scatter them down amongst the reeds by the lake at the university, if the lake is still much as it was forty years ago. I spent happy times by that lake. Sadly, it's unlikely to be like that. And it still wouldn't be my choice.
Armidale? Where? Much as I love this place and have spent far more than half my life here, I can't think of one area of it where I'd want my ashes scattered. The university? No. It feels so wrong. There's no right spot there. The garden of this house? No. Again, there's no right spot.
There's only one place that feels right, and that's the little creek at Valla. When a fair tide's running out, stand upstream of the current so the ashes all move away from you at the pace of the flowing water. They'll be taken out to sea by the tide, and that's where I'd like them to be – tiny particles dispersed in an infinity of ocean. The Pacific Ocean.
Maybe I care more about this than I thought. But let's move on. We haven't even got out of town, and Tamworth is a hundred kms away.