The cowshed

Published : Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Label:

I work in a cowshed.

For over a hundred years my shed has stood here on ground that rises just high enough out of the floodplain of the Wingecarribee River, where that river throws a loop around Bowral. And for seventy of those years the shed did what it was built to do; it was a dairy. First it was, I believe, the dairy at this end of the big Eridge Park Estate, then it served the novitiate of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart to whom the Tooths gifted the shed and fifty surrounding acres just after the Second World War. When the number of young women hearing the call, or heeding it, tailed off in the 1960s and the Sisters subdivided this plot—these four thousand square metres with the shed in the middle of them and the house near the road—and sold it, the shed stopped being a dairy.

For twenty years I don’t know what the shed was exactly. Someone tidied this end of it up a bit then, and it became a studio. And before I came to write here, a painter painted here, in the big room with its four stall doors and its concrete floor and its outlook, now glazed, northeast toward the convent and east to the paddocks. This is where I sit and write or pretend to write and run occasional workshops.
Every month I write a letter from the shed to no one in particular. It is a familiar essay, and in it I reflect on issues in the news, here and everywhere, small matters and large ones, all of them about the nature of a human life in this age and in these times and not only in this place. But it’s always spoken from this place. From this cowshed in the world—from, you could almost say, its point of view.
You can find some of those letters here.


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