Monday, September 16, 2019

Crow, meet Eagle

A flap of enormous wings and a shadow over the forest. She's a daily visitor and my dog finds her entertainment shaking fist (or a paw) at the giant sea eagle who would steal her fish and her bones. But today it was the Wardong (Crow) who was also harrassing the eagle:

This month I'm heading to Broome to conduct a writing workshop. Broome!

 If anyone is up in Kimberly Country, I'd love you to join in. We will be finding and developing stories from pearling to pastoralism, from turquoise tidal seas to pindan. It's a rich, diverse history and landscape and I'm very excited to be involved.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A beach today

If you have a look at the previous post, there is the same tree. Underwater on Saturday, it now has a car parked beside it.

Friday, September 6, 2019

A beach tomorrow perhaps

               The inlet this morning ... tannin stained water from the rush down of the rivers. Waves have been smashing into the bush the last few days with all this wild weather.

This morning in the gloaming I heard the son of the man-who-was-sucked-out-to-sea put his boat in just down from my place. His father was cutting the sand bar to let the inlet out to sea, when the inlet collected him up like a cuttle bone and took the old man with it. Waves crashing in from the sea ... his boat went through the second wave and he was never seen again.

And now the inlet is about to blow its banks again and he is the old man's son, heading out to the bar. I have a feeling there may be a brand new beach in the morning.

This is my guardian tree, or what Holly calls the mammary tree. She guards my gate, the warty old lady.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


In the dark of night ...
I was breathing, in a blue shirt, pant-less, into my mother's arms. Look into my eyes and breathe, she said, and I thought that was very strange. I dropped my waters onto the bathroom floor and still my mum was unfazed. Still time to go, she said.

My mum retold this story at his funeral recently and when she began I thought 'Oh my God! Mum's really gonna go there.' And go there she did, describing the birth of Stormboy in the dark of night.

We'd decided to have a hospital birth. It wasn't my choice. I would happily have given birth at home but my partner wanted the white coats in attendance. It was a tussle between us: I felt strong enough to eschew doctors and he didn't, is what it boiled down to. So a decision but not really a choice. When my waters crashed to the bathroom floor, both us realised it was time to go. My labour had quickened within an hour or so.

Mum was with us in the Kombi as we hurtled up the main street towards the hospital. He and I had previously gone over our route. Go Aberdeen Street, I'd said. No speed humps there.

He had some kind of blood rush and chose the main street, driving over the granite speed humps like someone possessed, as I stood in the back of the Kombi, holding the side rails. Badoosh! Badoosh! Badoosh! I believe that Stormboy was rattled out of me during that drive. We got to a roundabout and I said to mum, it's coming mum, it's coming.

She checked the baby, at which stage I yelled at her to not push that child back inside me. It was an odd call. I was in so much pain, I dunno where my head was at really. Anyway, we got to the next roundabout and my child was crowning, about to be born, and mum told him to stop the car.

Stop the car, my mum said.

I can't stop the car, he said. I'm on a roundabout.

He pulled over just after the roundabout and Stormboy was born in a Kombi on the side of the road. It was past 1300 and all of the city lights had just blinked out. Mum literally caught that kid in the dark. It was a pitch black no moon night. Stormboy was quiet, cool and silent as I pressed him to my breast. He felt shocked at this sudden turn of events. Mum and Stormboy's dad scrambled around in the Kombi for a torch. Someone threw me a towel and I wrapped it over my newborn. These minutes seemed to go on for hours.

Then Stormboy's father found the Dolphin torch, turned it on and shone it directly into our son's face. We heard his first breath and then him exhale with a decent scream. It's boy! The first boy born in three decades. Stormboy's dad climbed back into the driver's seat. My mum climbed into the passenger's seat and we continued to the hospital, me, sitting in the back seat of the Kombi, holding a brand new child,  heaving, cranking, thrilling with post birth endorphins.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Dirty ears

Last week I had my medical for the oncoming fire season. This medical checkup is great for me because I never go to the doctor. When I was younger, the only reason I went to a doctor was because I was pregnant/needed the obligatory pap smear/had unwell children. I tend to sort my own stuff these days.
The worst thing that came up in my medical assessment for this year, was ...

Hey! Here are some orchids!

Dirty ears. The nurse peered into my ears with that thingy and wrote down on my report 'dirt in ears'.  The doctor later advised me on how to care for my ears.
Flame said to me recently, while looking over my bed that crouches next to the living room fire. 'Sarah, you'll never find a boyfriend with a broadaxe and a cask of wine next to your bed.' Like she's an expert on the psychosexual aspects of relationships, gender and film studies. Apparently it is really all about ear health.

It's funny ... I was gonna write a post about orchids and how I've seen the most amazing orchids over the last few weeks. It's been a shitty season for fungi but really good for orchids.
Anyway, despite what I regularly do to my body and mind, I came through the medical with blazing colours, except for that ear thing.

How are your ears going folks?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Whale skull

Sometimes we dreamed together. a strange thing. We'd wake up in the morning and when talking, our dreams would be similar, even the same.
A few days before we camped at Cheynes Beach, I woke in the morning and told him about my dream. I was on a beach, a long sandy expanse, a squeaky sand kind of beach where the sand is so fine and white, it squeaks beneath your feet. I walked through the standing ribs of a stranded whale.

Half drunk we wandered down to the beach and that's where we found the whale's skull, standing like a gigantic hip bone on the sand. That night we slept on a shelf of granite, drank Stones green ginger wine and fished and pulled up shitty bream and rock cod. 'That skull is mine,' I said to him that night. 'I had a dream about that whale. It's mine. You have to help me get it tomorrow.'

It's quite illegal to take whalebones from the shore (even seashells, so I hear). In the pre-dawn gloaming we pulled his one-tonner ute up beside the whale skull. It must have weighed a ton and a half, but with his crow bar and a bit of lever-logic we got the skull onto the back of his ute.

The next day we drove through town on our way home with a bone that was maybe 8 feet long and 3 feet high. It looked like an elephant's ears. It was amazing.

Recently I told my son the story about how me and his dad found the whale skull and he said that it was mine now.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Pronouns Shronouns

I’ve recently had the opportunity to think about pronouns and non-binary gender politics. Frex, I’ve been assessing manuscripts by writers who use non-binary pronouns such as they, or them, to describe themselves.
I’m thinking, while reading, ‘what is so bad about growing up in this female body? I’m proud being in this female body.’

We have grown up in societies that place emphasis and value upon our gender or marital/sexual status. Something I hated as a kid, when I collected my parents’ mail at the bus stop, was the letters addressed to Mrs (“husband’s birth name”). They, the government departments not only deleted my mother’s name, they also deleted her right to her birth and maiden name. even as a seven-year-old, this reading of the envelope's covers made me furious.

Things have changed somewhat and I doubt that Mum would put up with the name of her husband being given to her in correspondences these days. One thing hasn’t changed though, our titles. A year or so ago I got my doctorate. It meant a lot to me. Not because I’d earned the title of ‘Dr’ but because I could now fill in forms requesting my title as ‘Dr’.

Not ‘Miss’ (I am sexually available.)
Not ‘Mrs’ (I am not sexually available.)
Not ‘Ms’ (I may be sexually available but possibly too fucked up with too much baggage to be of interest to a man.)
Finally, after more than forty years on this planet, I could fill out my title as :
Doctor ( raised middle finger.)

So I’m thinking that the they/them is actually pretty cool to bypass all of this kerfuffle.

Monday, August 12, 2019

F*ck off, we're beautiful

This morning I woke up before dawn and drove into town, climbed a mountain to see the sun rise in the east. It is always an Albany's 'fuck off, we are so much more beautiful' moment.

And then lichen ... oh lichen.


A few days ago I drove a 200km round trip to attend a JobSearch meeting, reciting to myself the whole way 'I am grateful to be invited to this compulsory meeting. I am full of gratitude for my unemployment benefits as it has allowed me to be a bear for a full fortnight at my favourite place, the inlet.'

Yes, my hibernation was for a full two weeks. At times I wondered about my mental health but really, I think I just needed a break. It's been pretty stressy recently, so sleeping, eating, reading, drinking, has been an absolutely marvellous break time in a place where I feel safe and at home.

Anyway, I motored to my appointment, schooled myself on gratitude, had a lovely encounter with JobSearch lady, and then walked into a local art gallery to get my art fix. About six women were sitting around a fire, plastic chairs on the concrete floor. The gallery was shut, they explained, 'but you are welcome to join us' for a meeting about the use of text in art.

I looked around thinking, so this is the beginning of that joke, right ... 'A writer walks into a bar and -' but what followed was a few hours of like-minded creators talking about their art and their creative processes. Never before have I been so keenly aware of how starving I am for this conversation. I love my friends and neighbours; the pig hunters, shack dwellers, bar tenders, fire spotters and wood workers, but I miss terribly the focussed discussions of esoteric yet disciplined researchers. Friday, I met with landscape architects, graphic artists, painters, musicians and poets, and we talked about how we do the things we do. Friday around that fire was absolutely bloody brilliant.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Off the grid

It's so pretty at the inlet today, chilled sun in the morning. The professional fisherfolk motored back to shore an hour after dawn and Ms Mer gave me a mullet all shiny like a new coin.

I've been pretending to be a bear over the last week, sleeping, reading and sleeping again. I haven't been paying attention to the minutae recently and was wondering why the laptop was only half charged before the inverter conked out. Poor ol' Mr Panel had been in complete shade for nearly a month, so this morning I moved him to a happier place.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Spare me

This is our Prime Minister at Easter, when pollies decided unanimously to give politics a break.

Feels for the other guy in the foreground who is photographed at multiple angles and published, like everywhere when the Prime Minister invited journos to witness his worship. Maybe Other Guy was grateful for the coverage. Who knows.

Anyway, my gripe is this: our PM's public demonstrations of the love of Jesus appear to me to be performative acts of virtue, where the ethical and ecological virtue is really lacking in the conservative narrative. And while I love the singing and joyousness that arises at Pentecostal gatherings (I've been to one or two), I notice there is often a sly dig at the mosque or Buddhist school down the road, or at people who are different when it comes to gender, sexual preferences or basic income levels.

Look. When it comes to legislature, government and the separation of church and state, stay out of our personal business okay? If you don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay. If you don't like euthanasia, then don't get euthenaised. Against abortion? Don't have one. It's pretty simple really.
Our PM abstained from a vote on marriage equality (yeah, that guy pictured above, with his hands in the air). Our international representative didn't even vote yes or no, he just fucking bailed. He then ran an election on the basis of coal being cheaper this week than renewable energy - and most of us bought it and voted him in. He is both architect and collaborator in one of the cruellest asylum-seeker policies ever to pollute our national consciousness.

He's sailed through worshipping with the Hillsong mob and getting interviewed on a swanky stage by Brian Houston despite the church being tainted by the sins of the father. Because Pastor Brian's Dad got into a bit of trouble with the law after his affection for boys made it to the Royal Commission, see here:

Without even bringing the match-strike of paedophile churchies into the conversation, our PM stands for and encourages a non action on climate change, heterosexual only marriages, a no to an Indigenous voice in parliament, abolishing the climate change commissions (Okay, Abbot trashed it but I do notice that Morrison hasn't reinstated it), giving the tick to major new coal mines and demonising medi-vac asylum seeker patients held on offshore centres in such Trumpian language as 'rapists and paedophiles.'

But hey, the guy is praying to the Lord Jesus in public after inviting journalists to photograph him.

What is wrong with this picture.


 I was in Kendenup recently and went for a wander through the back yard of where I was staying. It blew me away, the diversity of winter flowerers. Above is drosera, a carnivorous plant. Below is another species from the same family. They use sweet smelling tendrils to entrap insects. Somewhere, I remember Darwin upsetting the establishment by claiming that some plants were carnivorous. 'Plants eating meat? What a little shop of horrors!'

 Some kind of acacia ... I've never seen it before.
 A hibertia

  prickly hovea, like a purple holly

and a pin cushion hakea with its bud caps littering the ground.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The road to thanos

I’ve always had a funny feeling about that stretch of road, a long straight, a delineation between cow paddocks and feral watsonia weeds fringing the south side. The watsonias bristle with orange and pink flowers spikes in the summer. Once I passed a little red car on its roof in the ditch there. I imagined that I saw the wheels still spinning in the air but it had an orange ‘This vehicle has been reported’ sticker on the passenger side window, so I guess I made up that mental image later. Years later, driving home from an all-night party, I fell asleep at the wheel in the same place, waking only as my van slewed into the wrong lane.
The road rounds a sudden bend and just past the bend and onto the next straight, the bitumen is painted with squiggles, circles and lines; strange glyphs that only those trained to analyse catastrophe can read. The white road markers, the ones with reflector discs, are made of plastic and so, instead of a row of smashed wooden posts where he ploughed them down, they flipped back into upright position like nothing had ever happened after the accident. For some reason I found this inanimate insouciance really disturbing. How dare those posts stand back up again? Don’t they know what has happened here?
A few weeks ago, Stormboy went the crash site to clean up. He had a mate with him. When he told me, I felt pride in him and fear for him, common feelings during this time of extremes. Considering that Stormboy couldn’t even drive that stretch after the accident, couldn’t look at a photograph of his Dad, couldn’t hear any details without walking out of the room, it was a huge thing for him to do and I’m glad that others didn’t go earlier to pick up all of the refuse from the paramedics and bits of car plastic. Stormboy does things when he is ready and it’s been a whole new learning curve for this mother to understand that about her child.
I sat there alone in the cleared area in a state of incomprehension the day after the accident. Tea trees, bottle brushes and scrubby heath around me. The bush was ending its flowering season and my disbelief was countered by the smell of petrol and engine oil. At my feet lay an electrode like the ones stuck to his pale chest by the paramedics, and one of his boots. Plastic bandage wrappers. The boot is in my garden now and the electrode in the console of my car. ‘Do you think that’s weird?’ I asked Flame. ‘Whatever it takes,’ she replied, but she looked dubious. The electrode is there to remind me. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel. Whatever it takes.
I’ve always felt funny about that stretch of road. I thought it would be me who would come unstuck there and once, long ago, I nearly did. It’s the weirdest thing that eight months earlier, he had an accident - in the same place, in the same car - and came out of it with nary a scratch. His mate broke a few ribs. They walked back to his house and used the four-wheel drive to tow it out of the ditch. This time though, he was under the blood alcohol limit and didn’t survive it.

Dad, my sister and I went to visit the Field of Light exhibition not long after the funeral. I was a reluctant participant. It was just past ANZAC day and our town was enduring a festival of Anzackery thanks to federal funding for the recent centennial of the Gallipoli landing. Field of Light was an installation by an international artist, of LED lights leading up to the war memorial. It was nearing the end of the installation and the car park was frantic. Hundreds of people struggled to find parking. There was an app to download so we could listen to individual’s stories and letters from the war. People strode by the lights filming themselves on their phones. One woman took selfies at every interpretive plaque with her Labrador.
The lights changed colour from orange to green to red to white and they changed in waves. Tens of thousands of lights, to represent every person who had died in the war. The coloured lights seemed to represent panic, fear, love, anger.
My sister and I stood where we could see the lights stretch up the hill towards the memorial. She took my hand and silently we watched the thousands of lights change colour. I was crying. The violence of it all. It was dark but my sister is an empath and so she took my hand. Both of us had recently experienced violent deaths; that irreconcilable trauma inflicted upon the bodies of those whom we love. She’d taught baby rhyme time to the children who were murdered by their grandfather and I’d lost my son’s father to blunt force injuries to the head and neck. We stood together, holding hands, watching the lights change colour.

‘It would have been like a washing machine,’ the police officer from Major Crash told me on the phone, speaking about his car full of tools. She paused and waited while I breathed.
He had the face like the figure of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Straight brow, straight nose and a moustache and beard, similar in form the Vitruvian’s outspread arms, straight torso and wide-stance legs. It may seem strange, that a man’s face can look that that famous image but there you go. That was one of the thoughts that slunk into my mind as I fell against the wall, in the process of formal identification of his body for the police. That classic handsomeness of a symmetrical face. Straight of brow and nose. Despite a rather unsafe life, he’d retained these physical coordinates. His oldest son, my son’s brother from another mother, hugged me so hard that I could feel my sunglasses bite into my skull. A midgie, or an insect of some sort, flickered around his father’s bandaged face. I wondered where that insect had found him. Was it there in the bush, or later at the morgue? I think about that insect a lot. I like to think that it was a familiar. That, despite our horrified efforts to shoo it away, it stayed with him to keep him company.

In town recently … I was driving up the main street. It was a foul day; freezing cold with bouts of hail. Several cars were parked on the lawn beside the church. A woman wearing a beanie stopped to pick (or pinch) some narcissus from the church gardens. A man with an extraordinarily large nose walked past her. He was wearing white ear buds. I was looking for wine and most of the bottle shops were shut. It was a Sunday. They both had sunglasses and beanies, so it must have been May or early June, when the sun is low on the horizon all day and we need sunnies and we also need to be warm.

The hospital can be a place that we drive away from and everything has changed. A new life has been added or an old one deleted. I often think about that stretch of road between the hospital and the school/supermarket/pharmacy, and the amount of people who drive that few hundred metres knowing that everything in their life is different now. That things will never be the same again. The thoughts in all those people’s minds as they navigate the crappy T-section, or pull into the florist to buy flowers, they stay with me. I remember him saying after Stormboy was born that his life took on a new meaning during that drive. While driving he’d told himself this cycle of family violence ends with me. It’s over.

I also remember the conversation I had with him a few years ago. You have to respect the women who’ve given birth to your sons, I’d said to him. No one else has done that for you. You must respect us!

Forgive me for my morbid words. I’m still trying to work this shit out. Eduardo Galeano, when he notes that writers and artists are especially blighted, wrote “Writing springs from the wounded consciousness of the writer and is projected onto the world.” Projected … how very noble. It’s been real a fucking blast. So, while we artists continue writing about pain, violence and love, know that sometimes at night, like every other human being, I will find myself with my hand across my mouth because the whole thing has just been so bloody sad. I wonder, as I have done in the past, how to get through this. The last time, it was about someone who is still alive. At the time he’d said, ‘It’s like you have died but it’s even worse because you’re still alive.’ This new situation is somewhat different. Now I am wandering into the forest and thinking, yes, Stormboy’s father is light now and whenever I see light in its myriad incarnations, (rainbows, water, eclipse, moon, sun, a meteor) I know that somewhere in there is him.

Two years ago, my son totally mulched my bicycle. I’d loaned him my tent, my swag and my bike when he was in a tricky spot with his home to work situation. The tent and the swag survived but my bike came home with a buckled front rim and bent forks.
‘What have you done to my bike?’
‘Nothing mum! It was fine yesterday …’
‘Bullshit Stormboy. You’ve completely fucked my bike.’
Aussie was with me at the time and we both looked at the bike, then at him. I suspected he was doing jumps or crashing into potholes with my beautiful vintage Indi 500. Anyway, I would never ride my beloved bike again. Stormboy tried hammering out the kinks in the wheel rim in a belated goodwill gesture but both of us knew that it was no use. So I pinged him recently about the ancient bikes in his dad’s shearing shed. ‘You owe me a bike,’ I told him and the next time I went to the farm, the old Raleigh with the sheepskin seat and a dynamo light was propped outside the shearing shed on a milk crate, for me.

Sometimes I dream about him, my son. I am holding him like he is a baby to my chest and he is a baby in my dream but also a sort of baby/man/child. It feels like he is colicky and there is nothing I can do to comfort him. No Band-Aids, no kissing it better. Nothing works.

Recently I dreamed of his dad. I’ve been waiting for this one. The dead or dying come to me, more often when I’m awake than asleep. In the forest through beams of light, a flash of recognition as they disappear around the end of a supermarket aisle, those brindled hounds caught by the corner of my eye as they bound away through deep grass. It is both uncanny and every day.

I sit on the carpet in the middle of his childhood bedroom. The room is empty, cleared of his bed and cupboards. I am sitting cross legged, facing the window and he walks through the doorway behind me. Dreams of course offer 360 vision and so I can see that his head is still wrapped in the same bloodied bandages as when I saw him at the morgue. He puts his hand on my shoulder and then he sits down beside me on the floor. He feels gentle and kind. We sit together, silent, looking out through his bedroom window to the tree line.