Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A WineDark Sea

A WineDark Sea turned into, among other things, a story about the commercial fishers on the south coast of Western Australia and especially that intrepid septuagenarian Old Salt. Don't fret, this isn't an obituary. As I have written before, you can't kill Old Salt with an axe. It does bother me that this year he will be fishing alone, most of all because when he had his last 'mishap' his loyal deckie was around to put his nose back on and call an ambulance.

 This year I'm devoting my time to dropping a completed book on the publisher's desk, looking after Storm Boy, my hulking swim-like-a-seal teenage son, building a fetching and comfortable abode at Kundip and finishing the thesis. Two years into my PhD candidature, I've got twelve months of stipend left to nail this work, create something beautiful, or else find full time work and spend the next decade trying to finish it. As MF has written, it is a major rites of passage in anyone's life and I want the finished product to be something I don't feel I could improve upon later.
So, for the moment the fishing has to go.

The Sunday market has been so much fun and helped renew a fresh seafood groundswell in our maritime town. But working Sundays meant I have been working seven days a week for the last three years. Didn't feel like work, most of the time and that's not my beef anyway. It's the commitment. Number 5 Aquarians can't handle that factor for too long. I've quit once or twice and Old Salt has sacked me too but we always end up back at sea and bringing our produce to the markets.

This isn't a rash decision. Rashes, even trumpeter spikes, don't come into it. I've been working up to this for a year now. Old Salt is cranky with me even though he's had twelve months notice. He came around and picked up the filleting table the other day, the table I have spent many a Saturday afternoon cleaning flathead and whiting and black bream on, listening to Johnny Cash and the Sundowners radio show on 100.9 fm. He wanted the knives back too but I busted one blade trying to scrape flesh off a boomer hide and the other knife is 300km away in Kundip. Reckon I've earned them anyway.

Commercial fishing is not an easy life but it's a beautiful life. The work has been my muse for five years. It's helped me shape ideas about sea people, how they are intrinsically different to land people. I've seen some things that I find impossible to attach words to and other things that have made my words bloom on the page. Witchery it is, when it happens.

The other job I am culling this year is tutoring at the uni. Again, wonderful work. Reining in my deckie's mouth, whilst taking a class through the last coupla centuries' founding sociologists, has been a challenge. I usually overcome this foible by getting out of my fishing boots and putting on a nice pair of shoes. The students seem to get through okay. I think they like my class. In fact another tutor and I were nominated for a few teaching awards last year and because it was the first time that it had ever happened in our rural, satellite campus, nobody knew quite what to do about it.
But again ... headspace cramming and 'commitment restructuring' means the tutoring has to go, for the moment.

Sam Neill, the actor, said once, "Always trust your talent, never your career." I wrote that quote in black texta on my toilet wall. It looks tacky because the print is fading and I sort of scribbled it down in my excitement but it has felt like my manifesto for a long time now. I'm good at teaching. I'm good at writing and I'm fucking good at catching fish.

Old Salt reckons I can go fishing with him whenever I want and I'm going to take him up on that offer. Mmm, fishing when I feel like it. Far out.
So there will still be a few fishing stories on A WineDark Sea. I'd like to buy a license from him too. If twenty five thousand of my loyal readers gave me a dollar each, I'd almost be there. In the meantime, stay tuned. Times they are a'changing. I'm just not sure how much or in what direction, yet but I'm already missing all the action. In the last week, I've become a boat ramp tragic.


  1. Everything must change Sarah, so I'm glad things are moving on for you (and Old Salt), even though the transition may be bumpy and tinged with regrets at first.

    Fishing when you want to - bliss.

  2. Fabulous post. You remain an inspiration to all of us. You can write? Fuck yeh!!!!!

  3. You (and your dog) are beautiful, Sarah T. (and your writing). XXX

  4. It's that time of year isn't it? Taking stock, making changes. Sad to have to let go of some things but now you know how to catch fish, you'll always have that.

    I'll donate $20 to the fishing licence, now you just need another 1249 people to donate the same.

    Anyway on to other things, life keeps unfolding.

  5. Yes, change is constant. Thanks for your lovely comments.

  6. Big changes, new beginnings, no one better for the job. This blog is has given me great delight for nearly three years. Thank you.

  7. Hard decision Sarah. But I'm sure the fishing and people will continue to be all there in your writing. How could it not be. That's what i've enjoyed about your stuff; it's about real people in a real place - rich and complex; simple and moving. I'm glad you're not shutting down, just breathing easy on the blog front for a while. All the best with the writing. Nice to get a closeup of 'old salt'. Those hands.

  8. It's one of my favourite pics, those hands.