Saturday, November 2, 2019


Recently we had a fire training day and one of our lessons was how to survive a burnover. To do the lingo, a burnover happens when you are in a truck, a bulldozer, a car, or on foot as a wild fire front goes over you and through. The boss showed us this video of where a fire fighting scenario had gone wrong. Triggers, folks - anyone with fire trauma need not watch this. However no one was seriously injured here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Singing the bones

'This is why,' the doctor explained when I asked him why my left lung was bleeding. He was a jovial Scandi sort. He held up his clipboard. 'This is your lung, right?' He smacked it hard into a pillar in the emergency room.
'O-o-okay. I think I understand now.'
'Broken ribs hurt don't they?' He said, as I crawled, gasping, onto the hospital bed.
He rolled some ultrasound goo around, checking for air pockets and also 'if you are pregnant.'
'Oh Doc, don't make me laugh, it hurts too much.'

Two days ago, drafting cattle with Stormboy, the vet doing the pregnancy testing looked at me with concern. 'Do you have experience with cattle?'
'No,' I said. 'But my son does,' watching him float around the yards like a dance between boy and beasts, and the vet nodded. 'Yes, I was out here last year and the one before.'

Halfway through the testing, it began raining and then blowing, the big gums whipping around over the stockyards. The cows, udders swelling, lowed for their calves. The banging of metal gates and Stormboy yelling 'Hoo up! Come along now.' Everyone was a bit twitchy, all confined into yards. One angry lady went for Stormboy's brother. Then for me. I was standing against the yard fence with my tally book and saw murder in her eyes and I couldn't run up that six foot fence fast enough. She was so quick but I climbed the fence quicker, tripped on the top rail and landed on my back on the other side. Oomph.
Stormboy was shouting 'Mum! Mum!' and I lay in deep green grass remembering the last time I was winded, unable to breathe. I was three years old and had fallen out of a tree house. The sensation is terrifying, like being buried alive.*

I was feeling a bit fragile, but necessary, if you know what I mean. We had to stick it out for the next few hours while the vet was here but my inner whiny monologue was 'Why can't someone make me a cup of tea? I'm sore. I'm wet. That number 224 is a crazy bitch ...' (She charged Stormboy as he ran to check on me apparently.) 'There's always one,' the vet said to me. Later a friend observed, 'Yes there IS always one. In the stockyard, in the writers workshop, at the pub. There's always one.'

I drank enough wine that night to sleep okay but yes, wine is an inflammatory in many senses of the word and I woke up yesterday morning in a world of pain. By mid afternoon I could hardly move and knew I'd broken a few ribs. But still I thought I'd tough it out because there's not much can be done with ribs. I decided against going back to the inlet where I'd have to chop wood and drive 20 kilometres along corrugated gravel roads, and to stay at Stormboy's for a few days more. But by last night I was coughing up thin tendrils of blood.  This morning I dragged myself to the hospital. Described my adventures to the doctor and, a few hours later, discovered the utterly delirious release of codeine after an injury.

Yesterday afternoon, at my height of heightened pain, I had a phone interview with a Noongar Elder. We were talking about the courses I teach. Every time I moved the wrong way, I'd moan or gasp and finally he asked if I was okay. Because the courses I teach are great, but not that great. I muttered something about a cow and my ribs. When we'd finished our meeting, he asked if he could pray for me. He then asked me to put my hand on my ribs and, over the phone, prayed for Jesus to heal me. Sung me, Jesus way.

* not speaking from experience here.

Friday, October 18, 2019


This exhibition is amazing! Tahlia Palmer's work is with photography, audio, film and an extraordinary rendition of the stone fish traps in needlework and beads. The above image is from The Gap. Wonderful stuff. If you are in town, please go see.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Apocalyptus diversicolor

Some days I feel like I have lost something, some kind of juju that I used to possess. I should be getting braver and better at what I do. Building shacks, writing books and fishing for a living and now my ability to wield an electric drill let alone write a whole bloody book ... well those muscles feel atrophied. (Caveate here: I have felt the same way at the same stage of my last two books, like the thing's a dog and not a very nice one at that. It's the problem with pre-resolution, lack of confidence and no plot answers in sight. I know this shit, right, but still I suffer for my art). The electric drill bit, *see what I did there* is another muscle and it's laziness that's allowing me not to pick it up, fix the bung on the dinghy and get the boat out on the water. After destroying two boats when I didn't pull them high enough ashore during a storm, I don't trust myself to launch it on my own. Hence the bung conundrum.

Anyway, all whining aside, it's been pretty good around here. I live entirely off grid. That makes washing clothes, doing the dishes and watching movies more interesting. I have a gas-powered refrigerator and hot water system, so I’m not totally wilding it, but no electricity, water or mobile networks mean it’s pretty much back to basics. I pump water up to the top tank which gives me water pressure to said hot water system. I always know when the water up the top of the hill is low because the hot water cuts out on me. The pump's not working at the moment. It's cat and mouse between water running low and pump fixed. I read books and download podcasts. I’m writing this on a solar powered laptop from one of the most beautiful places In The World.

This morning I drove up the track to head 200 kilometres to work at the uni. I drove through the karri forest, past the dead boomer roo, who hasn't been opened up by crows or eagles yet and no human has the stomach to drag it off the road. Pretty ripe. A few hundred metres on, this scene added to the dendro-dance macabre:

 This poor karri was quite alive when it fell. Maybe yesterday's rain loosened it from the earth. Maybe the recent burn compromised its buttresses. Dunno. I was just as sad for this fallen giant as I was about the big male kangaroo. It always eeries me to see a tree downed like this.

 However, I was able to drive around the old man kangaroo. This new situation required the old vervy, creative Sarah Toa and she was out and about to check a possible route and put the front cogs into four wheel drive. I'm pretty chuffed that I wasn't on the track when this mother came down. Below is a picture of the spot a few kilometres along where I usually sit on the track. I can get four bars of mobile phone reception there and do my banking and email business. A near miss. I try to avoid it these days during heavy winds. Straya mate ... stuff here can kill ya.


Monday, September 30, 2019

Situation, Balmy

We went down to the shore to watch the spring tide come in so fast it made waves. Tuesday and it will be a 'King Spring' tide, the biggest all year at 1.5 metres.

Surprise! Hermit crabs wriggle away from me when I'd though it was only shells at my feet. Water rushes in to the littoral, the in between space of land and sea. The stumps of the old pearl workers' huts in the sand and scraps of copper with nail holes ... band aids for wooden boats.
Mangrove spikes in the mud and a boy wearing a red shirt stepping through the mud with a spear in his hand.

I walk down to the diving girl early next morning. It's Grand Final Day and a forklift driver is busy unloading pallets of beer, speakers blaring reggae from the gas bottle on the back. Crows call from the Boab and then begin to mimic another bird, a call I don't recognise. Two legged walking clever one that crow. A hawk with a stick in its beak alights on another feathery tree.

Past the old pearl masters' houses nestled behind the primary dune, tropical constructions of corrugated iron and lattice.

And back to my abode for the weekend ... looxury ... an outside shower in what feels like a jungle. The jungle seems to sleep in the heat of the day and come alive at night as the palms rustle and crash and screech with owls and critters and possums.

Those dynamic tides and sudden changes in water level are similar to my inlet but on a vaster scale and I think it would be way too cold to have a shower like this at home.


The diving girl, Broome. Although the plaque below doesn't say so, pearling masters used Aboriginal women as well as men to skin dive for pearl shell until it was outlawed in the north. Pregnant women apparently had heightened lung capacity.

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.