Wednesday, February 27, 2008

a flat fish

I lectured for six hours today. Fortunate, then, that I love the sound of my own voice...

But Because of Reasons,* I have commenced this academic year without my usual 'spark'.
My enthusiasm, my cackling exuberance. My wild excitablity, the immense looove I have for my subject.
My wildly crackling inner fire.
I worried that the students would be disappointed: many have enrolled in one of my courses because it received "rave reviews", so to speak.

Not blowing my own trumpet, just saying.
I have ended up with a HUUUUGE class, all with the expectation of something spectacular.
They all sat quietly throughout today's class.

Today I was aware of my own flatness. At the end, they all sat there, silent.
One student stayed back : that was fantastic! she said. I thought to myself, 'not my usual standard....'

but still.

I drove home, past the usual trees, across the usual bridge.
Stopped for the usual holdups.
Drove down the hill to the usual horizon.

Storms roll over Sydney, then the sun erupts again.
The wind blows one way, then the other.
You absorb all things, and continue on.

* I pinched that phrase from Thirdcat. It makes me laugh.

Friday, February 22, 2008

in which the fish reads a book and makes a nasty picture

Hello to the millions of Pussycat readers who have called by here from near and far!
The post Shauna is referring to is the one below.

Meanwhile, here in the land of sea and sky the fish swims on in its usual muddle.

I spent quite a while finishing a picture on quite expensive paper. It didn’t seem to be working, but I thought my horrid state of mind was manifesting itself visually on the page.
I was actually using the wrong side of the paper.

I have just read Dietgirl in one sitting. I began reading bits out to my daughter, who was intrigued, but had to stop because I started to cry.

I can’t begin to praise Shauna enough. This is the eighth year I have been her blogfriend: all it took was one random google search, and I was hooked completely. Who’d have ever imagined I would be still reading the story of this gal’s life this long? My son was two when I found her: he’s now ten. I might add, it was the ONLY blog I could tolerate reading for many years, since everything else seemed either boring, self indulgent or irrelevant, but since the blogosphere has bloomed I have found others that I love, and most of them are connected with Shauna somehow or other. All roads lead to PussycatVille.
All this time I was half aware that she had another blog, the dietgirl one, but I never really read it. The Pussycat persona was so sassy and clever and cool I never imagined her as anything but a completely amazing and together young lady: beautiful, brave, witty and intelligent…which she is, except perhaps for a while there, she didn’t realise it herself.

It’s been a while since I sat and devoured a book in one sitting. If you don’t have a copy, do you best to get one. At the moment I am the proudest Australian of the little ginger lass over there in Fife, who I am sure is working on her next book as we speak.

In other news

Some of the members of the fifi household

Are really not pulling their weight.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I am from

I am from William, how close kept his secret, from trunks of books and from Shakespeare and Homer, I am from a convict who covered his tracks, a gentleman scholar he was till October last, when we found him out, yes, we did.
I am from Norfolk and London and Sydney Harbour on a fine wooden ship. Transport courtesy of her majesty. Yes, then.
I am from Telemachus and Cordelia and all that lot, thirteen children all up, from here to Victoria.
I am from William who buried his head in books and sailed southerly for the lace in his hand. How tall the heads into Sydney Harbour still I marvel at the sight and the dark green smell of the fizzing water, I marvel just the same as he.

I come from the secret language of Changi prison camp written in the juice of forbidden berries, such tiny letters on bible pages, secret words to tell the world the atrocities and injustice and deprivation, words that carry penalty of death encoded into language so secret it will remain that way evermore. Written in the dimlight by he of the pale blue eyes and long face, that’s what he gave me, and his propensity for secrets, sneaking back in the dark to undo by night the making of the Burma Railway by day, he makes it home a husk they miss him so much but they don’t show it, especially the tacit blue eyed son the waiting at boarding school for dad to come back.
But he doesn’t. That large hole continues on. My mother fell in it when she married that boy, long out of boarding school up in the mountains.

I am from the two grandmothers: one likes me not, me of the long face and blue eyes that remind one of absence and the other of happiness.

I come from the runnels at the bottom of the sea because dad shows me out the back, in the deep, he so big and I so tiny, under under under, hang on to the sand, and me never afraid of that place ever again, I was there with my blue eyed dad under the veil of roaring foam.
I am from eskies and beach umbrellas and camping, mum with a billy swinging it round, leaves burning make a lovely smell.

I am from the backyard pool which greens my hair and I there so long I cant hear Mum call me in and I tell stories and go round in circles only the tink of the surface ringing softly in my ears I can sleep there.

I am from the deep end such a long way down, me so small there is noone to race only a big kid, I can jump through the air and come up in a turquoise arc
Gee she isn’t bad you ought to get her some training they say. I can hear nothing under there. I like it.

I am from incandescent light.

I am from girl guides. I am from an ocean of books firmly pressed to my face my blue eyes suited to printed words, my world soft and blurred at the edges . I am from that string of cousins running down to the weir to poke sticks in, maybe find a yabbie or two, one time a snake on the path, my plaits catch in the branches of trees. I am from that gang on a dragster bike past the brick veneer houses.

I am from the brick house the white house the timber house the tall house the little house the house with no grass the house with the five gum trees the house near the sea the house near the mountains.

I am from suburbs with no end and rooftops so desolate they glare and go on and on in my eyes. I am from rockpools so deep I could lie at the bottom and hide for weeks.
I am from the sea.
I am from the mountains and the riverbed full of fat round stones and the small orchard
I am from hard packed earth full of spider hole and clumps of wiry grass. I am from acacia and paperbark and rivergum and banksia. I am from sand and ocean and wave and tea tree. From the clay soil of the Cumberland plain excavated for treasure with a stick, so hard and sticky once I found a dolls teacup in real china. I found bitumen in a clump. I stuck it to the paling fence and embedded it with sticks and stones took me all day.

I am from meat and three veg things from a packet roast dinner on Sunday cutlery correct and no elbows on the table, please. I am from Iced Vovos and Scotch finger Biscuits and lemonade and one time a cake from the French cake shop on my birthday I have dreamed of it to this very day.

I am from Ivan Southall Hesba Brinsmead Ruth manning sanders.
The magic Faraway tree, Narnia, Carbonel. Witches, Mermaids, Wizards, Coppelia and Giselle. I am from Classical Mythology over and over again. I am from Sunday school with a prize under my arm a book how do they guess? Jesus knows everything. Jesus is beautiful, Botticelli tells me so then it seems my affections shift to Botticelli. I draw in my bible like he in changi only I have a pencil not a carved stick and berries spat out.

I am from textas and derwents the craft box bits of wool and perkins paste and watercolour sets and is there such a thing as a job where you sit and people come and ask for a picture and you just do it?

I am from the edge of the light where love flung me .
I am from the cliffs down south where love banged my head.

I am from the darkest shadows of the ocean.

Monday, February 11, 2008

in which the head of the fish still rings with the sound of whistles and sirens

I thought at some point,
I could SO not wear that hat,
neither when i was that age or now,

and try as I might, I don't understand the rules

There is, however, something poetic about the colour of the water in a downpour at dawn.

Occasionally during a three day State Waterpolo tournament, there are nice moments,
especially since rain returned to the land of the fish.

Meanwhile, I get to remember life in small coastal towns

and glimpse scenes from the summers of my past

before things got a little out of hand.

Monday, February 4, 2008

what I do: paint and swim.

Paint is good, some orange and the head of a fish.

smoothing it around, it's the only thing.
Sometimes I need to wipe the words away and go here, just to move the brush around and watch things come.

In other news to hand, the ocean races are in full swing. The latest one was here:

I thought the outlook suited my mood. I swam quite nicely, like a whiting rather than a snapper. It was so rainy I did not get to see the baby sharks which live there.

I did not swim so well. Miss Jane beat me. This I do not like very much: I saw her go past.
I was a happy fish nonetheless. I was fast enough, just not fast as usual.

I hope she doesn't tell anyone that I have stolen these photos and not acknowledged them, because I will then be forced to bite her bottom next time she sidles past me in the ocean, and this she may not like. We know who took them, but I don't want anyone from over there coming to this private domain of mine courtesy of Google. Oh, the horror. Imagine!

Friday, February 1, 2008

in which the fish has a narrow escape

For the last month or two I have glimpsed it a few times from the corner of my eye, but have managed to look away. Too busy, things to do, life whirling about like a carnival ride.

But it was there on the periphery, clear enough for me to see quite a few times, approaching quite close, circling. I think it must have been frightened away by the noise and the movement. A dog. A black one. And its not Sirius Black, either.

I know this dog, I wasn’t sure if it was still around, but it knows when it might have a chance with me, and comes. I clap and stamp my feet and throw handfuls of sun in its eyes to blind it:

Bah! Go Away!

It’s been years and years since it came sniffing, I’d almost forgotten it. I thought I had well and truly poisoned it. I thought it was dead.

Apparently not.

Yesterday was featureless and hot: I sat motionless, completely flattened. The garden is tangled and overgrown. I made may way out the back door and looked up into the top branches of the Olive Tree.
There is plump fruit, green as yet, but fat and full. Among the branches I noticed the Silvereyes hopping, the tiniest of birds with the gentlest of peeps, from branch to branch. Olive green their hoods, silver their eyes, to match the tree. I imagine they are pecking some of those olives, they usually do.
The Olive is overgrown now, but a while back I had it trimmed into a shape which I the reverse of the traditional cup-shaped Olive tree: all the branches were thinned, making it look like a DR Suess tree, with fluffy tuft of foliage atop smooth pale branches snaking up to the sky.

I will have trouble harvesting those Olives. I wished to give them to a friend, I said I would, and I looked forward to salting them, and sealing them into jars lovingly.
Looking up now, I realise how very high they are, and think sadly that the intended recipient no longer wishes for olives.

The garden remains tangled: I have neither the inclination nor the fortitude to deal with it right now. I am too flat, which is why the dog is hanging around.

I went back inside, the sink piled with dishes and the clothes rumpled in baskets and sat, too tired to move. The Black Dog had the audacity to come right up and sniff at my feet. I didn’t have the energy even to clap my hands. I just sat there, and let it nose at my toes.

From this close, I could see it wasn’t a dog but a dog-shaped hole.
A void, black and deep. Disguised as a dog.

I thought to myself,
I don’t wish to go down there. I remember from long ago, that place is not a nice place to be.

In the past I have disguised myself very cleverly, and the dog can’t find me. I could even change my smell, yes, and the way I walk. I could change the scenery, I could always evade. Just today, I can’t. I have no spare limbs to chop off and throw to it. No imaginary houses to hide inside, no hiding place at the bottom of the sea. No winged angel to carry me away, no little boat to sail the oceans.

If it came any closer, I would slip down feet first in a flash.
If only I could get up.

We sat for a while, that dog shaped hole and I. Obviously it had been waiting till I was too tired to move, and worn down to sand, alone without the sound of the sea in my ears. Too hot and weary to even pick up a book.

Someone comes, home from school. Someone golden and shiny. It’s Boy!

He has eaten his lunch and liked it, he has run around the playground, he has asked some boys to come to the beach, can he go before swimming?
He wishes to surf before swimming lessons. By himself. He tells me that he is big enough to go surfing by himself, which he does.
I follow him down,unknown to him. Both the lifeguard and I watch him, undetected also .
He goes to swimming after that,
Then we make dinner. He makes mashed potato.
Holding the utensils feels like a ritual act, a charm. The dog is at the back door, frightened of the shiny boy. The boy enlivens my limbs, makes me move.

Later that night, Boy comes into my bed, because there is a space and the usual occupant is not home. He senses the presence of the Black Dog.


I like gazing at you, he says to me, his little cricket-face smiling in the dark.
We sleep.

In the morning we wake, with no dog in sight. I have escaped, with all limbs intact.

I visit the still silent sea, which washes my feet with saltwater warm as my own blood.

I am very lonely for you,
I say to the sea,
but I am not falling down into the dark, not now.

I scamper into my day