Monday, April 25, 2016

Black cat crossed my track

Black cat crossed my track as I drove through the gloaming. It crossed at the Inlet River bridge; a thin, desperate feral and black as night. Prone to superstition I am, though in a contrary sense, in that I usually take the meaning opposite to popular tales to preserve an old omen's usefulness. Born on a Friday the thirteenth and all.
Keep your eyes peeled, I thought, be ready. There's that black cat to ward off bad luck or bad judgement.
... And on the next blind corner, emerging from the columns of karri trees came two houses on trucks, the houses' verandas slewing into my path. No lights, escort car or signs. The second driver reefed his truck into the gravel and I did the same on my side, saw the corner of the moving building just miss my mirror.
Lucky cat, that one.

The story of three Dots
Two of the three Dots are regularly pulled over by the local sergeant and warned about hooning about on their gophers. The third Dot lives next door and spends an age in the roadhouse, asking people what day it is, so she wouldn't get gypped buying yesterday's paper. After asking a dozen people, she still eyed the date suspiciously. Never forgets her PIN though. Her and the second Dot hunched over the ATM machine like a pair of witches over a cauldron, stabbing at buttons and sighing.
The third Dot was taken, just the other day.
"They're cleaning out Dot's house," said the second Dot, nodding to the house next door to the roadhouse. I was making her a coffee: regular cappuccino with half a sugar, hot hot. "They got contractors to do it."
"Where's she gone?"
"They've taken her." It sounded so ominous; the dementia unit in the city. "Doctor's orders, apparently."
"You must be devastated, Dot."
She nodded. "Dot'll be having a bad week." She looked frightened.

Circular Ruins
I was reminded of Borges' story The Circular Ruins by another blogger. It is the story of a man who dreams a man into existence, only to realise he has been dreamed himself.

We lay on smoothed stone, on the edge of the rapids. Roaring water, water rushing down to Circular Pool, foam curling frothy balls into laterite knuckles and granite palms. The day was warm. The roaring was relentless, not the metronome rhythm of the sea that I am used to, but constant rushing of blood in the ears, water the engine of the river. Our legs were hooked together, our bodies almost braided. We lay motionless, lulled by the sound of the river and lizarded by warm rocks.
I dreamed, awake. I didn't sleep. Dreamed for a thousand years, until we both were a mummified strand of people left as a long forgotten dream upon a lichened rock. Storms and droughts came and went. Above the crickets chanted and birds called, and below, the river ran but I dreamed on.
A twig cracked, or one of us shifted. Maybe the step of a tourist on the boardwalk above or the cry of a child. I can't remember what happened to make everything fall through the skin of that dreaming. But, when he opened his eyes wide and stared at me, I knew he'd also been dreaming for a thousand years.

Life's two percent surcharge
That experience was pretty difficult to explain to myself, let alone write down for someone else to comprehend. I haven't been writing for a while and even the qwerty layout feels a bit alien to me. I feel like there's not much I need to say/write. I just want to exist. It's funny because, although I don't feel a creative or analytical bone in my body right now, there are still narrative arcs barging about in my head. It was supposed to be my 'putting things in place' year; where I write some academic papers in order to have choices next year when I return from the inlet. Tenure. Travel. Publishing. Adventures. That sort of stuff. Stuff that compliments this stuff:

That's my PhD thesis and a link to its more ethereal version, containing biographies and history of 1826 when the sealing communities of the Hunter and the Governor Brisbane lived on Breaksea Island in King George Sound. If you are super interested (like I am), you don't have to spend six or seven years researching the story (like I did), you can just download the whole thesis from that link and read it.

Maybe this creative inertia and feelings of qwerty inadequacy stems from finishing a couple of big jobs. I just want to get under a doona for a few months, or lie on a rock and dream. I do like what novelist Elena Ferrente says about this state: "When you've finished a book, it's as though your innermost self has been ransacked, and all you want to do is regain distance, return to a whole."

Anyway, instead of being creatively productive, I've made an awful lot of coffee. I've said, "Which account are you using?" about twenty thousand times, followed by, "There's a two percent surcharge on credit but not savings or cheque accounts." Lots of customer sighing. Some remonstrations. They don't see me. Only their credit card and the EFTPOS machine.
Me: "Credit? Okay."
Click click click. That's Doctor Two. Per. Cent. Thank you very much.

Nic Duncan, award-winning portrait photographer, now she got the real me the other day.


  1. I totally get where you are at right now Sarah. I think the inertia is inevitable. I met a fellow Curtin graduate at my PhD exhibition on opening night. He had finished his Masters the year before and I asked him how he was doing after the study. 'Just trying to maintain the momentum really - that's why I'm here'.

    It's such a high point in one's life and I had similar intentions - write papers, get them published etc. Instead, I am struggling to keep my job, studying graphic design and teaching myself how to do cartoon style shading so I can show my students (even though I may not have a job at the end of this term). If I didn't have the job security stress and a bitch of a boss, I could actually enjoy giving up some of my lofty ambitions and enjoy a more simple life now.

    You may well do much better post-doctorally than I have in terms of career and ambitions, but would it be so bad to go back to the simple life? Except a part of me thinks, fuck I am a Doctor now. That has to count for something in the job market. Maybe that's where some of my stress lies.

    Beautiful writing and brilliant photo.

  2. Hi Michelle, thank you for your comment. Yes mmm job security is always a 'thing' when it comes to living in the country as an academic. That's something I mentioned in my previous post. I quite like doing other work though. I like to mix it up, keeps life interesting!