Postcards from Byron: Hayley Katzen on changing boundaries

When urban academic Hayley Katzen moves to a remote Australian cattle property to live with her farmer girlfriend, she hopes, at last, to find home. But this is no happy-ever-after tree change. In this week’s Postcard from Byron, Hayley examines boundaries, both physical and metaphorical – and how they can often be a catalyst for change.

The boundary fence of Hayley Katzen’s property

Hello to you all from the bush,

Where the barbs of the brand new boundary fences are all aglitter as I climb the rocky hill. Fresh neon green leaves are cascading from grass trees and branches are sprouting willy-nilly from trunks that are still charcoaled from the October fires.

I’m preoccupied with recovery, with timing – and with boundaries.

For all these years the landscape and work of this cattle farm have shaped my thoughts and feelings. For all these years I’ve railed against the isolation of rural life. Now, during iso, I feel so accompanied. You’re all living as we do and with the launch of my memoir Untethered connections are zooming in to the farm.

How odd is this timing: we’re building new fences just as my memoir sends my internal landscape far and wide.

Idioms sing alongside my steps: what’s beyond the bounds, the setting of boundaries, the fences that are good for neighbours or restrain us.

Fifteen years ago I watched the house we’d pegged out change shape, growing as we hammered stumps and joists into place, shrinking when the stud walls rose. This boundary fence now also seems a shape-shifter. Every day I’ve walked a similar pathway through the bush but this new line, stretching for kilometres and free of thigh-high snaky grass, has carved out a new safe route. Borders. They circumscribe and contain – and invite us to change inside and out.

I hope some good changes come for our planet and for you!

About Hayley Katzen

Hayley Katzen has worked in public law reform, written and produced a play shown at Byron Community Centre Theatre, and published essays and short stories in Australian, American and Asian journals and anthologies. Untethered is her debut memoir and is available from The Book Room at Byron here. Read more about Katzen here.

Conversations from Byron podcast

Katzen also features in a conversation with Sarah Armstrong about her debut memoir Untethered in the second instalment of Conversations from Byron, a podcast series celebrating writers from the 2020 Festival line-up. We hope you enjoy listening to it.

With thanks

These projects are supported by our friends at the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, who are generously funding participation fees for Australian authors, allowing us to re-imagine the 2020 Festival program. Please stay tuned for further news. Thanks also to our long-term funding partner, Create NSW.

Byron Writers Festival