Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Geo Icon Question

He is cool now, keeping it together in the reality-check of the casualty waiting room. He reads a National Geographic and shows you a picture of an alabaster Egyptian king and queen sitting side by side on identical thrones. That’s me and you, he tells you. You’re my Stone-age Queen. We’ll breed the master race.

... from a short story I had published in Indigo Journal #5. I placed that story as fiction in my submission to Indigo; though when sisters and other familiars read it, they reeled with a slow kind of 'faaark, Sarah, I'm not sure if I know you at all!' What most readers didn't know was that I have that statue of the Egyptian king and queen and that he knew that when he was wigging out, waiting to be admitted to the psych ward.

From the deceased estate of my daughter's father there are Icons - Buddha, Pavati, the cat queen, Kali (I kind of like her style), Leda, St Geraldine, Kwan Yin  (she's been standing, holding her babe on the dash of my car for a long time now. With a four wheel drive you need a Goddess of mercy and compassion to guide you) ... 
While moving house I've had to put all of these Icons into boxes and cart them somewhere else. There are also the things that mean much to my past but have no other utilitarian or monetary value. I consider these things to be Icons too. An example:

A stuffed toy vaguely resembling a white rabbit sits upright with floppy ears and nylon, cobwebby fur. It's the kind of thing you find in op shops, in fact I think we did. One day when Pearlie and Stormboy were pre-teen, I'd had an apocalypticly premenstrual day after working all day on the lawnmowing round. All I wanted was half an hour alone in the bath. Just saying to kids that you want a moment alone in the bath is stupid anyway. Thinking you are actually going to get it is misguided in any expectations of single parenthood. Still, I lit the chip heater, paced around for half an hour waiting for hot water, poured a bath and sank into its depths.
Screaming. Not fun screaming, real screaming.
I scrambled out of the bath and went into the kitchen where I found Stormboy lying on the floor covered in blood and Pearlie leaning over him. The knife was still in her hand. Stormboy groaned and lay still. Then I saw a little smirk as he writhed in pain and I thought, maybe even said out loud, you pair of little shits!
So, wet and naked, I stormed past the tomato sauce/blood and pathos theatre and went back to the bathroom, slammed the door shut and lay back in my fucking bath, fuming. Silence from the kitchen. I think they knew they'd pushed it a bit too far. Minutes later the bathroom door opened and the white rabbit was pushed through the doorway with a stick. Safety pinned to his chest was a piece of paper and on it was written, "Sorry".

Daggy white rabbit becomes Icon. There is no way that piss weak piece of  polyester is ever getting tip shopped.

So I've been thinking, whilst boxing up these characters that have inspired ripping yarns, compromises, reconciliations, trued bondings, physical fights and relationship break ups and downs, what am I to do with these critters? They are a part of who I am. But I would like to become more nomadic and these things, these Icons, are not conducive to that.

Pearlie's Dad always said of Pavati and the others that they should be left in the crevices of trees in the bush. I revere an article from my hero, the archeo/anthropo/historian John Mulvaney who told the story of an icon being left on the north coast of Australia from the visiting Maccassans (now Indonesians), how the tree had grown around the icon and it was dated to four hundred years prior to western civilisation. 
Pearlie and her father, Mulvaney's findings and moving house has got me thinking about these precious family heirlooms.

Maybe they should have a shrine of their own with shelters and flowers. Maybe I should photograph them and tell the stories of how they came to be there. One caveat - my daughter rang me after I ran this by her and forbade me to do it with any of her father's Icons - fair call. It's her heritage after all. However; the cat queen, the London gargoyles, the Buddhas, the faeries, the Pavatis and the white rabbit will soon be found in the salmon gum forests and the heathlands out the way of Kundip. I love the idea of a bush walker or  mining company worker coming across a white rabbit, or a Kwan Yin, or an Egyptian king and queen sitting side by side in the shade of a rare Banksia, out in the middle of nowhere/here/somewhere. A beautiful random encounter. Maybe said folk will decorate the shrine with flowers. Lots of maybes.

A few final thoughts: Are our things just things? Could stuffed toys that look vaguely like white rabbits be considered Icons? And if so, how do Icons get treated in our transient Australia, where us renters and first home owners are made to move about like nomads?
Bear with me here. I've just been moving house so I'm sensitive to these things. Despite this, Kwan Yin or one of her resin manifestations will stay with me on the dash of my car. Feargal, the stuffed wobbegong sharky that I found in a rubbish bin, he's condemned to following me about the country forever.


  1. Are our things just things?
    Only when they are ours.

  2. You've got a book deal! You've got a book deal!

  3. Great post ST. I get this, with my strange assortment of 'icons'. I do think these things are just things, but the fact that they trigger certain states of mind and memories is significant. That's what religious icons and ritual are all about. They remind us of 'sacred' moments and states whether they are family moments or solitary, in nature. Out in the coastal environment I have been known to spontaneously place a particular beautiful rock on a bigger rock, somewhere others will find it. I ofetn find similar shrines put there by other people, and lovely patterned arrangements of seaweed and shells. It's an instinctive thing. I hope I find one of your icons somewhere.

  4. Nice Merc.
    Maybe it is a bit disingenuous to ask whether our 'things' are just things at the end of that rave about 'things'.

    Tom, I think I'll have to stop shouting all about it at your place and write something more mannerly at my place. Sorry if your ears are still ringing!

    MF, I was thinking about you and your 'things', from your recent post. I like the idea too of finding those moments in nature that can be erased again, things we don't have to pack into boxes and cart about the country.
    I hope you find one too. If you ever see a polyester rabbit getting around, you'll know the whole story.

  5. You just made me realise that the coat I am wearing on my Tea Cosy blog has become something I can't imagine giving away. It's got 30 years of history (maybe only 25) and I should celebrate its story. Your thoughts are kind of similar to Loani's (she of the Grand Purl Baa blog)thing about people and their tea cosies. Objects carry our stories.
    Though some people are very zen and hold these things to be useless appendages. My father resisted any memorabilia in his room when he moved into a nursing home. He didn't even want photos. And yet he was avery emotionally connected man.

  6. Gypsy spirit.. with a book deal. :-)

  7. Sometimes I thinks these things are memories that have somehow fallen out of my head.

  8. Very cool song lyric Ramsnake.
    I like your father's approach, Mr Hat. Is the word aesthetic?

  9. He was certainly an athiest but that's another story. Aesthetic - no, aesthete - no, ascetic - yes (all about self denial and simplicity.

  10. Yes, that's it.
    I was talking to a friend about that state last night and she said, "Yes, well that's all very good. But can you actually live in spaces for long periods of time without your special things?"

  11. Maybe some people carry enough in their heads that meet the 'special things' category.
    Strange how some of us love being surrounded by stuff and others live in bare and, to my mind, soul-less places.
    I know where i sit. Stuff is good. For me it helps maintain connection to the past and the sense that i am part of the never ending story.