I did a most unmolish thing this week. I left the burrow. No sense of duty drove me. I wasn’t provoked. I decided, just like that, to up sticks, head for wilderness and spend a few nights in a teepee.
I can see now that seeds had been sown. Two weeks ago my amanuensis withdrew all reading, telephoning, all Babbage-influenced contraptions, all messages and seductions coming through the ether. It was a spacious week, with no sense of clocks ticking or deadlines passing. It was calm. That week was a little test to see whether I could retreat while staying in my burrow, and it worked. But what I didn’t withdraw from were conversations and interactions with other beings. It was not a week of solitude.
That was one seed. The second was that I had become so emboldened by my journey to the north of the island, that I found myself toying with the idea of taking a bus to places I’d only ever seen on the map.
A third but vital seed was the unexpected loan of a car. Now a couple of particularly hairy episodes with Great Uncle Mole’s friend, Mr Toad aka The Road Fiend, had put me off motors and roads of any kind. But recently kind chums have offered me their cars, and I have used them, sparingly, to carry heavy things like bags of Epsom Salts or potting mix, or to get me to an appointment the other side of town, or to relieve myself from standing at a lonely bus stop after an evening out. This car, though, had been used to more daring outings.
And my dear neighbour offered to cater for Monsieur Boo.
Could it be that Spring played a hand in this? I felt a stirring in my tummy, a sort of sprouting seed sensation. It spread to the rest of my body and before you could say ‘Wild Wood’ my paw was on the dial and a teepee was booked for the very next day.
It was so sudden that although I deprived myself of the joy of anticipation, I also had no time for the corrosive panic of second thoughts. I cooked. I made big lists: a food list, a clothes list, a writerly list, a what-have-I-got-to-do-before-I-go list and a what-are-the-things-I-need-to-cancel list. Uncle Ratty never had need of lists. What he couldn’t fit into a small knapsack didn’t need taking. And his knapsack always was packed; penknife, torch, a bottle of stout, Captain’s biscuits, woolly socks, Sou’Wester, ginger biscuits, tobacco, maps, and his second-best mouth organ. Great Uncle Mole never had lists either. He would never have known what not to take, and he was such a hoarder he was happier staying at home in his burrow surrounded by all his home comforts.
The back of the car was spacious. I could indulge my Uncle Moleishness and pack my bothy rug, hot water-bottle, a jigsaw, my pyjamas, a teapot and tea cosy, coloured pens and the enamel mug my dear Mama bought me in Prague. I could take a bunch of daffodils and a vase and a bowl of mandarins and nuts, and a sturdy nutcracker thrown in. And perhaps that is all I ever really need to feel at home.
And then I took to the road. Broad and open at first, it became narrower, steeper, twistier, bumpier and wilder the closer I got to my destination. I could feel a little squeal of song coming on, a distant relation of the Shadows”We’re all going on a summer holiday’, I think, except that I remembered it as ‘jolly’; much more to my liking than’summer’.
The teepee was at the end of a winding mossy path, defined by dark green shrubby trees. It was not just any old teepee but had a covered porch with a table and a couple of chairs. It was a teepee with a wood stove and a fold-out bed.
It was a beautiful teepee but it did not begin to be my own until I had lit the fire, put the daffodils in a vase, spread the bothy rug on the not-yet bed, and made myself a pot of tea. It became more mine as I sorted the jigsaw pieces by the light of my head torch in the evening, but most of all it became mine when I woke up in the morning to the sound of wrens and honeyeaters. And nothing else. I was the only mole there for miles and miles.
By day I packed a bag with notebook and pen and my lunch, and explored the ancient mossy rainforest. I slithered in the mud and clambered over trees that had come down in the heavy snowfall in the winter. I got lost and found myself among huge man-ferns and gushing waterfalls. At night I lay on my back in the dark and gazed up to the skies, gobsmacked by the constellations.
I had gone to the teepee to write – but it was really only on the second full day there that I began to find my way into it, and on the third I had to leave. But it was so much more than just a place to write, undistracted. As I drove home to my burrow I could sense a bit of Mr Toad suffusing my mole body.
What I had just had was an adventure!