So here it is, our final quarter. The ski season finally over, and a long list of other adventures to try and squeeze into our last term. To bookend the season, we were up the mountain on closing weekend, graunching our way through the thick mashed-potato snow, paying our final respects: goodbye, Cardrona! See you in a few years! Hapless gloats over his 28 ski days and 95,000 vertical metres; we contemplate glumly the prospect of a return to Ruapehu, braving the school holiday crowds, gambling on the weather.
It’s lovely to emerge from the stuffy round-the-clock cocoon of heaters and hotties, the ranchsliders flung open in the afternoons and the sun flooding in at dinner time. My erythema ab igne, the red lattice-like rash across my legs caused by excessive cuddling of hot water bottles, finally gets a chance to fade. Just as we get used to the unfamiliar flush of green that has suddenly appeared across the hills and paddocks, the air starts to get properly dry again, turning our skin flaky and the backs of our throats scratchy.
My writing takes on a feverish, against-the-clock quality, my head fizzing with ideas, flitting urgently from one project to another, trying to work out what to focus on, what to finish, what to shelve/ice/abandon.
Because our tickets are booked. The boys and I will fly back to Auckland on 19 January, leaving Hapless to pack the trailer and the car to the gunwales and wend his bachelor way back up the country.
I feel the first kick of fear at the prospect of our return, even as I begin, finally, to truly miss Auckland. I allow myself to look forward to fresh produce, affordable herbs, a garden; steamy, chirping, cicada-filled backyards, beaches, people. The hard part, of course will be the perpetuation of our austerity regime while also engaging with the outside world on a daily basis. Many of our current habits of thrift will be impossible to maintain in the city, surrounded by easy drinkers and amiable socialites, temptations to spend, however sparingly – coffee, ice creams, clothes without holes – at every turn.
But the biggest challenge will be me trying to maintain some creative writing momentum when real life muscles back in, rolling its terrible eyes and gnashing its terrible teeth. There will be an inevitable tension to be managed, between the need to help keep the family afloat and a passionate wish to continue nurturing this wobbly, bright-eyed, gawky but adorable (if only to me) free-range fledgling.
You see, I’m not sure if there’s room in my head for both kinds of writing, creative and commercial. The kind I’m doing now seems to fill up all the brainspace available, and some that isn’t; it’s like having part of myself permanently on another planet. (I hope this explains some of my recent highly uncharacteristic proto-senile behaviour: regularly burning, or leaving a key ingredient out of, the baking; losing two pairs of gloves, as yet unfound – an achievement, when you almost never leave the house; leaving my coat at the library and being absolutely unable to work out where I’d been recently [ditto]; trying to put the plug end of my iPod earbuds in my ear, instead of the bud end.)
Dragging myself back to earth to deal with kids and cooking and housework is hard enough; the thought of having to also get my head around someone’s rebranding project, or iPad-friendly website, or big fat corporate pitch, seems frankly unfeasible.
Because on this new planet, the space to think is almost as important as the number of hours available to sit at my desk, chipping out word after word. I’ve learnt that I need to spend a certain proportion of ‘writing’ time staring at the ceiling, in the lucid light of day as well as in the small dark hours. How I’ll be able to ringfence time to just stare into space, back in a life where finding time to make a trip to Fruitworld was often logistically beyond me, is beyond me.
But anyway, that’s my lunatic mission for the new year: the journey back to terra familiar, to a stronger gravity and more complex atmosphere – hoping I don’t burn up on reentry.