Life and death
Did you ever play road trip games Dear Reader? Eye-spy, animal-vegetable-mineral? What about life-and-death? No?
That last was a trick, see, since my mother and I made it up.
As an only child I often co-opted my mother as substitute sibling and playmate, and never was this role more clearly wearisome than after six straight hours eye-spying on the route from home to else. So one trip she suggested a new game, build on our shared love of space and place. Life-and-death.
The premise is absurdly simple; the actuality is ludicrously fun (once everyone gets past the judgemental aspect). Basically, as you go past houses you call out ‘life’ for places you like and ‘death’ for those you hate (‘life n’ death’ developed as a mid-point to address my childish love for stucco columns and my mothers adult distain of the same).
It’s a game I still play, though more often in my head than out-loud. I played it recently, driving south down the coast of Australia, from Sydney to Jervis Bay.
Death. Death. Death.
The coastal sweep of southern Australia is one of the most beautiful, and most abused, in the land. It lies as testament to the unending colonisation of man. The progression of sighting natural beauty, loving it, coveting it and then destroying it to achieve the pinnacle dream of uninterrupted sea views and a double-garage.
The insistence on ‘uninterrupted’ as a selling feature of houses always seems curious to me for it rebuts that which we know to be true – that the most interesting sight lines are those partially obscured, that mystery is what enchants and allures us and that it is the promise of the unseen (and the unknown) that captivates and holds.
On I drive. Death. Death. Death. And then…not-death. No house. A cow.
A cow standing in a field. A black-and-white cow standing in a field with a pink thing sticking out of it. A moving pink thing.
Slow down to gawp, pull over to observe; the car slides to a stop on the verge as the pink thing slides from the cow. And suddenly there are two black and white cows in the field (albeit one of them is small and wet with non-functioning legs). And now the only pink thing is the tongue of the cow, which repeatedly visits its bedraggled offspring – as if trying to make the calf presentable through the film of amniotic fluid to the voyeuristic stranger standing slack jawed in mint-green cowboy boots beside the road.
And it is so cool.