Sunday, April 29, 2007

dusky whaler,eastern blue

Seems like the ocean had one more day for me this year,
a charity swim.
And one more treat in store.
It wasn't this shark, though that distracted me long enough to stop and get a good hard look,
It was The Big Groper.
I have never seen him, and there he was, right beneath me, fanning his fins and having a Very Nice Time.

I asked him if he preferred the company of garfish or snapper.
He looked me up and down, and said," you more resemble a snapper, if that is where this question is leading."

Thrilled to have received this comment, I thanked him and swam on.

I told small boy, who was disappointed not to have seen the groper.
But guess what? I saw YOU!
he said.

Next best thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


What could be better,

Sheet rain on the tin roof,
purple flashes of lightning,
curling up in one's bower and watching the spectacle unfold over the ocean, illuminating with each flash,

Rachmaninov piano concerto,
Number 3 in D Minor.
The rain smells like heaven, and sounds like applause.

Feet poked beneath the cat.
Book in lap.

I cannot say how much I love this.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Anzac Day

I lived in Greece for a bit, once. I was working there.
On weekends I would meet up with friends, for a weekend adventure somewhere on the island.
Parts of Greece are very remote, and what looks like a short distance can in actual fact be almost a day's travel,
so we liked to have races to see who could reach the destination first, in whatever way we could: bus or hitchiking.
As we were setting out one time, I spotted an unlikely looking bloke wandering around: an australian!
Ooh, I grabbed him very smartly, I hadnt seen one for months. He was just the type I would stick my nose up at back home, a real bogan, a yobbo. I seized him anyway and dragged him along: wanna be in a race?
Australians are generally up for that kind of thing, so he came along.
As we talked and hitched and stopped and waited, it transpired that he was "on compo" due to a football injury. He was using the money to travel.
His world itinerary resembled a spiderweb: Spain, Germany, New Orleans...backwards and forwards across the globe he went according to his fancy,Like Pin-the-tail on the donkey with a world map.
He carried a pack which weighed about 85 kilos. When I asked him what on earth was in it, he proceeded to empty it onto the ground: 12kg worth of loose change from every country he had visited. Six pair of shoes, including some for "good". Three leather jackets. Half a dozen thick, lurid paperbacks and a copy of "Let's GO" for each country.
That was just half of it.
We arrived at Moni Preveli first, a monastery atop a cliff.
It was from here that the systematic concealment of the Allies was conducted, in World War Two. Australians, Brits and New Zealanders wre hidden and later evacuated via submarine from this point. They climbed down this cliff in the dead of night to submarines waiting below.

In the bright glare of day, I struggled with the narrow, steep track. More than once I found myself shaking, and clinging to the sharp rocks beside the track, gazing at the sheer drop to the wine-dark Aegean below...
and all the while my little aussie mate bravely strode before me, beneath his 85 kg pack, and never complained once.
Geez its bloody hot, was all he said.
I suddenly saw him as some lonely,far-from-home 18 year old soldier, far from Coogee beach, creeping down this very track in the blackness so many years ago, and got all teary.

We all crashed out in the bushes at the bottom and slept overnight, like a pack of corpses. In the morning he jumped up, and slung his pack back on.
See yas, he said. Thanks for the fun.
We asked him where he could be possibly going, as he headed back up the cliff as we stared gobsmacked.
"The runnin' of the bulls, mate. Pamplona. Cant miss it",he shouted, and climbed back up the vertical cliff.

I never laid eyes on him again.
Cheers on Anzac Day, mate, wherever you are.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

History in small chunks

I have sold The History of My Life.

My autobiography sailed off out the door piece by piece. I opened the doors, the world came, and carried it off.
Thoughts: standing in the hallway dabbing, worrying about paint on the baby, naughty fingers dipped in, my horizons shrinking and broadening, justifying this very act,thoughts articulated, sorrows annihilated with the stabbing of my brush. Each one has a story in each smear, which only I can see: a narrative of my own.
To disappear into that zone of relational abstracts, the real world locked out, sends you into your own imagination. I have had many a good conversation there.
I guess I wage my own little war when I make things.

Were my life-history a book, it would breed and multiply by the thousands. I could have my cake AND eat it too.
But I isn't a writer but a cavewoman, with a handful of ochre-and-bear-grease.

I sold one canvas (for an exhorbitant sum) and "I felt like to cry" as my small boy would say. And cry I should not, for I shall fly somewhere with that sum, if I am careful.

With my little sack of gold, made with my honest little hands, I am sailing over the horizon: free as a bird, quick as a fish.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Clear Midnight

This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
Night, sleep, death and the stars.

walt whitman

( Add saltwater and dreams of love, to my soul's list of things beloved.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

i heart hokkaido

over the last couple of days, have stayed up till 3am, talking to a friend who was staying with me,
(We had so much to say.)
was almost killed/blinded by the mother of all espresso pots which decided to explode,
juggled swarms of small people, research seminars and work.
today i felt rather scratchy. Extreme lack of sleep and overload of everything.
However , at the University,
one of my students came very early.
She has a mother dying of cancer, and is nursing her as she passes away. She sleeps by her side.This week she expects her mother to leave this earth, I imagine she is waiting for her eldest son to arrive from overseas.
I have made allowance for her life as carer, and am expecting no work from her. For over an hour, she sat with me talking it out.
So overwhelming.
She has dropped all her other classes.
During this conversation, it emerged that not only was my class the only one she was still doing, but that I was the only person she had spoken to outside of the hospital. In fact, she hadnt left it for a week until today. She asked her sister to mind her mum.
Astonished, I told her she could have stayed there, and she said,"oh NO, I havent missed one single class, and its the only thing I really love, just for me, right now."

Possessed with some amazing spirit, she then cranked out the most extraordinary canvas of her and her mother, in about 3 hours. Truly amazing.

How honoured I felt.

Later,one of my Japanese architecture students brought me CDs of pictures. Snow, ice and Japan.
We both LOVE snow. She exhorts me to go to Japan every week, not that I need any convincing.
She says I would love Sapporo.

This world is filled with some wonderful people.
I am fortunate, it seems, in knowing quite a few of them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

up the mountains

A lot of my life was spent in the Blue Mountains, on my cousins' property.

A place which formed a visual backdrop for many imaginings. It's said narrative can only exist within remembered sites, or something like that.
For me, the image formed by any word associated with landscape is a memory-snapshot garnered from this place:
drought dam gully shed clay sandstone
All redbellyblacksnakes are the one I almost trod on on the track, abandoned by dogs and cousins all.
Rocks, trees, dirt. Teabrown weirwater
Long shining plaits caught in low hanging branches.
Bellbird whipbird honeyeater crow

Interstitial places existing between house and edge of bush, between orchard and dam, hard baked ground festooned with curls of eucalypt bark, black windborne swoosh among pines and casuarinas, that is all here.
Smell of wet sandstone and taste of wet clay secretly licked and gum leaf chewed, sticks poked down holes and raging big ants gearing for a spat with your feet. All laid down, by my little synaesthetic self, embedded like sediment.

Twenty first birthdays echoing out into the bush from the big veranda. Boys scuffling in the dust. The big wood stove. Christmas. Walking through sheet glass, hey, no-one said you had a new door after all these years. (The noise frightened Grandma awfully.)

I was eldest , all cousins led upward in size to me and my mood set the tone for games. Whether to pelt top speed down the slope into untamed bush, or swim, or whether I was sulking over god knows what. Small boys, big boys, dogs, us girls.

Summer: we racing the thunderstorm flew out of suburbia and up Bellbird hill. Bushfires threatened the strawberries, so we were given a very quick lesson on picking and packing.
I took my harvest work very seriously.

I grew up first. I left the circle, or rather, I brought within it my dreams and loves and nothing-stary and wrote names in the mud and onto trees.

Every stick, stone and tuft of grass, every yabby in the weir, is imprinted in my head. I have no photograph.

It was sold.
We are dispersed now like blown seed. New York, Singapore, Mandurah, London, Byron, the coast.

I went back today, first time in 15 years or so.
( A bunch of us apple-picking at an orchard further up the road.)
Went down the drive, stood staring at the homestead under the trees.

It was all I could do not to stride right in there and hug my grandma, who sat on her chair by the window, and bustle in to see how Aunty Barb was doing in the kitchen. Their presence so strong as to be overwhelming.

A lady came up out from the trees, wondered what I was doing there motionless, but it was hard to speak. I was looking at the ghosts: everyone was there on that verandah, even me.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The last ocean swim

The water is warm, about 21 degrees celsius and dark dark blue. The days are shorter. Lovely light and clouds.
The last ocean race for me, on Sunday, over three kilometres of salty daydreaming joy.
The inner monologue was obviously very engaging: I came second by two whole minutes.
Noticing Dr John in the crowd, I followed him, figuring somone with a PhD in Geology might have a vague idea on how to keep a straight line.
He did.

Fish-wishing along,
Saw the biggest, ugliest cuttlefish mooching around the bottom of Cabbage Tree Bay.
Wondered what distance-swimming in the northern world was like. Like, Scotland, for instance.
Considered paintings stored in my head. Watercolours.

After the long race, there was a "dash", 400m and a sprint up the sand to grab an envelope of money. Very unbecoming, really.
To my surprise, I caught a wave and won.

Later, as I bought the cubs dinner with the money out of the envelope, I thought to myself, ah, a professional swimmer I am, and here we are dining on the fruits of my labours.
Sausages it was that I bought them, I think.

Very gourmet, we professional athletes.

(photo Paul Elerkamp)