Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

The Good Life

What makes a life worth living? I’m half way through Hugh Mackay’s thought-provoking book, The Good Life, and he keeps coming back to the notion of happiness. Controversially, Mackay thinks happiness is overrated.

“To seek it, to desire it, to yearn for it is to miss it. It’s not like money, food, power or status: you don’t get it by going after it. When it comes to you, that’s a bonus all the more welcome for being unexpected. But unremitting happiness is not the mark of a life well lived – a good life – any more than unremitting sadness is.”

I haven’t reached the chapter yet where I find out what does make a good life, but Mackay is pretty clear on what doesn’t – status, success and the endless focus on self.

According to Hugh Mackay we have an unhealthy obsession with happiness, when we experience a myriad other emotions every day. I’m with him on that one. This week I’ve gone from glum to moody at the looming prospect of moving, followed by anxious, irritated, frustrated, exhausted and finally, much to my surprise, happy.

It goes back to autumn. “Soak the bales in water and leave them in the sun for a few days,” said the man from Menindee as he offloaded three bales of straw from the back of his ute. “That will kill off any seeds.”

The culprits

The culprits

I stored the bales in the shed over winter and promptly forgot his advice. Six weeks ago the temperature in Broken Hill soared to 36 degrees, prompting me to spread a liberal mulch of straw across the entire garden. Yes, there was the odd fluffy seed head but so what? I wasn’t going to waste straw I’d bought (cheaply) off the back of a ute.

The consequences

The consequences

Four weeks later the consequences of my thrift were impossible to ignore, and two weeks after that the vegetable patch was sprouting a veritable paddock of lush growth, spurred on by plant food and seaweed solution. There was nothing for it but to spend hours scraping off the straw. I was irritated that I had ignored the farmer’s advice, frustrated by the extra work and with mounting fury I pinched out flourishing shoots of grass or wheat or whatever had germinated in all the hard-to-reach places between rows of beetroot, cabbage and strawberries. ‘I haven’t got time for this,’ I grumbled.

I stomped to the garden centre at the end of William Street for three bales of costly sugar cane mulch and spent another hour I could ill afford spreading thick layers across the vegetable beds. ‘The next tenants had better like gardening,’ I muttered darkly.

Then I stood back and surveyed the flourishing vegetable patch, by now weed-free and softly coated in sugar cane mulch. I felt exhausted. And you know what? I also felt happy.

The solution

The solution

“What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” asked George Eliot.

Whoever the new tenants might be, at least they’ll have a weed-free garden.

8 comments on “The Good Life

  1. Adele Hughes
    November 14, 2013

    I am sure it’s healthy to have a range of emotions each day! For me, music playing in the background can evoke varied emotions, as well as change a bad mood!
    The veggie patch looks wonderful, you have performed miracles in Broken Hill. The next tenant will love it!


  2. Pingback: The Good Life | happycat13

  3. debhuntinbrokenhill
    November 15, 2013

    Hi Adele, listening to the tape recordings of your interview puts a smile on my face every time! Thx for the feedback on the garden, the removalists are here to day so I am hastily erecting shade cloth the protect the veggies before we go. But of course, we will be back, in fact we’ll be shuttling back and for between Broken Hill and Sydney for a while yet. And I’ll probably still be transcribing those recordings! Hope all is well with you. Best wishes to Philip, Lachlan and Anna


  4. Everyday Power
    November 15, 2013

    You did an excellent job with this!


  5. Pingback: Finding the Sweet Spot

  6. Wendy Moore
    November 18, 2013

    Namaste lovely one, all sending much love from here. I loved this post Deb and even referred to you in my sporadic missive! Is there a record for emotions in a minute I wonder. They don’t call me Miss Equanimity for nothing. Some to think of it, no-one calls me that. The next CJ starts on Friday, thinking of the old lots with love and affection.


  7. debhuntinbrokenhill
    November 21, 2013

    At last! I crawled over boxes and an old washing machine to fix the internet and send this. Armfuls of hugs to you for the CJ that starts tomorrow. What a wonderful adventure that was last year, how I would love to be joining you again. Lots of love to you all x


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This entry was posted on November 14, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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