Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Bike Pump


Recently I went to the tip shop and there was a bike inside the shed. Bob's yelling at me, 'Oh Sarah, take this bike. You can have it for five bucks. FIVE BUCKS!!! Look at the brand. Look at it this bike.' 

He stepped aboard and pumped the front wheels. The bike had shockies so he was able to bounce this bike up and down on it's front wheels. This particular tip shop guy had managed to distract me from the red lady's bike that was of a proper vintage with a front basket and carrier, to a welded, factory bicycle, sporting only a water bottle bracket and shockies. Anyway, I bought it. Five bucks after all.

'Front tyre's a bit flat,' he said. 'But it's FIVE BUCKS.'

I've been more in need of a decent four wheel drive car recently, than a bicycle, because living 35 kilometres from the nearest town tends to make you need to drive everywhere rather than do the school or shop run on foot. But when the bar breaks at the inlet, there is this long beach to ride along. The sand is hard and I've often wanted a bike to ride along that beach. 

I bought the bike with dreams of riding it along the shore ... but then I needed a bike pump for the front tyre. So the next time I ventured into the city, I went to the nearest bicycle shop.

As soon as I entered, I realised this was not that kind of hipster bicycle shop where kind, bearded men sold hot cups of cold-pressed coffee on leather lounges, while asking me to peruse their cargo bikes. No. These blokes were the enablers of the lawyer and accountant clique of cyclists. They came towards me in tiny shorts and with their hard, chiselled faces asked me what my business was.

'I'd like to buy a bicycle pump,' I said.

So they sold me this really expensive thing that looked like it was from outer space. I got it home, unscrewed the top (there's no tube here) and all the valves fell out and I couldn't work out how to put all the valves back together again. Apparently you can reverse the valves to release air from the tyre in this one trick pony.. Awesome. We used to do that with match sticks when I was a kid.

I was telling this story to a mate of mine yesterday. She looked at me, incredulous.

'So let's be clear here Sarah. You paid five bucks for a bike, right? That's cool. And then you paid forty bucks to pump up the front wheel?'




 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

How do you write about a tree?

 A quiet day today, a walk around the block and thoughts about human and more-than human relationships. I've just re-read the essay by Ingrid Horrocks about writing nature called Dissolving Genre: Toward finding new ways to write about the world. Together with a colleague, I've run workshops and talks about writing the environment and the Anthropocene - and it always great to read what other writers have to say about this immersive but elusive practice.

The hound and the guardian tree

In the essay, she writes of meanings and modes of what she calls eco-nonfiction, ways to move beyond human frames of reference ('Is it possible to write or draw a forest?')

 

Velvet Earth Tongue emerging from the Marri litter

Close observation and attention

     This kowphai bloom, that estuary

     This possum, that coal fire

 

Hovea elliptica are really popping!

Ordinary or unpromising locations

     Edgelands

     The flourishing of motorway burbs

A secret pond in the bush near my place

Avoids idealisation of pristine wilderness

     Fewer epiphanies in national parks

     Fewer men on mountains

 

Favours systems that include humans

     More suburbs, kitchens, children parents

     But also oceans, rivers, oysters

Mother Marri

Observes altered worlds

      Eucalypts in San Francisco

       Ice melts in Antarctica

       Rewildings

 

And lost worlds

      Endlings: an animal that is the last of its species

Peppermint paving

Often draws on memoir

      I, sometimes we

 

Finds continuities between the human and nonhuman

       Warm breath misting

 

Demands we move outside a human frame of reference

“Is it possible to draw or write a forest?”

 

Struggles with how to do this

signed here.

 

Searches for organic forms and structures opening out stories of confluence

“What do I know but pieces, all at once?”

 

Understands that in the 21st century “to write about nature is a political act”

Hopes (within hopes) that a shift in attention
–a yielding of consciousness to a world beyond human–
will give to a shift in action.

 Ingrid Horrocks, 'Dissolving Genre: writ with water', in Bending Genre: essays on creative nonfiction, Bloomsbury, 2014.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Threatened Species Day


Yesterday was Threatened Species Day in Australia. The date was chosen because it was on this day in 1936 that the last Thylacine died. (I do notice that goggle spellcheck tells me I'm writing about hyacinths here. Even the Tasmanian Tiger's name has become extinct in the etherwebs. Thanks blogger.)

The day is beset with a complicated stew of feelings about colonisation, the Anthropocene and resurrection. Apparently some Australian-born movie stars, among others, are helping fund an initiative to clone the tiger using numbat, tiger and dunnart genes. More practical ecologists are asking how this funding could be diverted to managing future extinctions. But no, the tiger clone/sighting bling always wins. 

The video of the last surviving tiger does me in. Yes it is a species made iconic for its extinction, but there are many other species that have suffered and become extinct over the last two centuries. Birds, marsupials and insects. Personally, I see the attempted resurrection of the tiger as the ultimate human arrogance. It's using Euro/settler 'science' to justify the elimination of a species ... and then bring it back from the dead. Wow. It's Frankenstein stuff for sure, with an added dose of Theseus' boat. But ultimately, 'building' another tiger is not absolving us of our past. 





Saturday, September 3, 2022

Pensioner Road

There is a road that runs in a perfect dog-leg between two highways, in the town I grew up in. On the corner of the bottom highway, there was the family house of girls I went to school with. We'd pass the house every day in the safe bubble of a country kids school bus and this house was prone to drama ... entertainment. As kids we never understood why the mum was so big and angry and her daughters were fighters. I sort of understand it now. I didn't then.

Anyway, Pensioner Road. This is the same road but I guess people living on there didn't want to be labelled with living on Pensioner Road, so it must have been petitioned to turn the road name to Pioneer Road.

Between 1850 and 1868 a lot of British men were sent out to the colonies. They'd previously fought in the Napoleanic wars, the colonial wars in Afghanistan, Africa and India. They didn't seem to want to go home to a domestic two-up-two-down rental situation in England. So they were offered a patch of land in great southern land in return for being cheap trained soldiers for garrison or police duties. These men were trained as soldiers and had fought for the empire but part of their pensioning off scheme meant they could emigrate with their families to ... Pensioner Road.

Eleven hundred Pensioner guards, eight hundred and seventeen women and a shitload of kids (about fifteen hundred) emigrated to Western Australia during this period. The influx of Pensioner Guards at this time has been called by some historians as 'a noteworthy genetic and cultural influence on colonial Western Australia.'

After 1857, most of the Pensioner guards who where in Albany were fighting in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. This is where it gets interesting for me.

Dad said to me recently, 'You henna your hair. It reminds me of those women from Pensioner Road. They hennaed their hair.'

'Pensioner Road?'

And then he told me the story of the women who'd arrived with their husbands in Albany in 1850. They used henna in their hair and khol to decorate their eyes.They'd come straight from India to Albany. Their hands were henna tattooed. When I told this story to my son, he said, 'Oh my god mum! These women must have seemed like a bunch of witches! 1850s Albany.'



 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Tiger

 

He was alone when he excavated the first tiger, 25 years ago. It lay under beds of ash, interred and then cremated, almost as though to sterilise or negate the soil that it lay in.
A few days before his find, he'd taken pity on the team. With a dearth of artifacts the students were hot, bored and his young colleague's wife was expecting a baby any moment. They packed up their desert camp and left him out there alone, where the Southern ocean bit off the country and little black stars fell to earth.
He returned weeks later to the city, triumphant and bore with grace his colleague's jealousy and regret. His name was instantly cemented in professional circles, subject to an intense scrutiny of process and umbilicly connected to a pre history with no written word, only songs.
Now he needed to revisit the desert sands that formed the plinth of his career.


She was born with teeth, little needle canines. Her mother refused to feed her and considered exposing the strange baby, whose eyes remained glued shut for half a moon.
A young man who saw her teeth knew there would be trouble. It didn't stop him from presenting food, skins and flint to her parents and he continued this betrothal promise faithfully for thirteen years.

This was the time after the coming of the dogs, when everything changed. A barren woman, who carried a ginger pup strapped to her belly, told the girl her Granny’s story of the strange men who sailed in from the north. They wore spiked helmets fashioned from stonefish and breast plates of thick, felted coconut fibre that repelled even the death spears. They brought the dogs with them to eat and to hunt and they wore the toothed necklaces of the ones they'd eaten on the journey.

These dogs without pouches were welcomed. They didn't compete with the people for food, like the tigers did. Dogs hunted in teams and brought food to the camp, where they sat on the outer rim of firelight, their jowls resting on their paws, ears cocked, waiting their turn.
With them came a new mammalian knowledge of fatherhood and birth. That's when things began to change, the woman told the girl.

Nights when the moon was full, the dogs left the camp silently in rows like militant wraiths. Then the cold, dry air thickened with the smell of terror and blood. They yipped and howled as they sniffed out den after den of tigers, tearing apart the marsupial bitches in their cramped little caves and devouring her babies.

He tracked her out into the scrubby mulga, always careful that she didn't see him. He was curious about her absences. She lay in a sunny clearing with tigers. People spoke of tigers as the Dreaming, since that lifetime of bloody nights.
The brindle tiger joeys sprawled over her dusty brown skin and chewed on her hair. The girl suckled from the bitch, her face obscured by the furry pouch. He could smell the warmth coming off their coats. Her fingers stroked the stripy pelt. Her fingers stroked and scratched and kneaded and then ...froze.
She whipped around to face him, grinning at him with her sharp little teeth dripping opalescent milk. She was daring him to say or do something. He knew then why the dogs never liked her. He stood, habit, like a tree. And then they were gone, the whole mob turned into the country, including his promised wife.

The reason for archaeologist's return was to impart something to his old colleague and to follow up a rumour. He knew the thylacine he’d found twenty five years ago had been buried, probably by human hand and then a fire lit over the ground. Radiocarbon dating on the charcoal was three thousand years. Twenty five years of research crossing all disciplines and he was still guessing the rest. He was running out of time. At seventy five, it was time to hand over his baby.
"You need to get some people down here. You have to work out where the circle begins and ends," he rustled a bunch of spiny grasses in his palm. "I think there's more."

Around a frugal flame, the elders sat for three days and discussed the business of the girl. Nobody saw the dogs leave. The dogs ran silent and hungry across the earth, teeth bared, nostrils flared, their long red tongues flicking against their jowls with every bound. It was the next night, a frozen five-dog-night, when the people realised they were gone. All but one man curled up with their backs to the fire, grumbling with cold and tired from all the talking.

The old patience of a dedicated bone digger was deserting him. He slapped a switch of mulga leaves at the flies and paced. A new generation of students straightened their backs in shallow trenches, watched him and then glanced at each other, eyebrows raised. They knew the history. He walked in circles, always circles, always trying to find the centre, muttering "Tyger, tyger, burning bright..." and slamming his canvas hat against his thigh.

She ran for the sea. She could smell it getting closer. She ran in a short choppy gait, jogging along with the very last of her totem. They stopped at the night well and drank and then ran again. She chewed sweet red flesh from the berry tree and spat out the spherical nuts. The flesh she savoured in her mouth and it sustained her for hours. They headed for the caves on the edges of the ocean. She would light a fire there and be safe for a little while and perhaps her kin could be too, for a little while.

The promised husband ran too, his eyes scouring the earth, back tracking, finding a trail again, running, running, always running and searching the ground for signs of the dogs.
It took two days but he found them.
Terrible sounds hung floating, suspended under the constellations, shot through by the sharper, piercing screams of the straggling tiger joeys as they died. He ran faster into the night towards the noise, expecting his exhausted body to betray him.

He saw the tigers crouching in a circle, facing the dogs. They protected the girl who stood in the middle, teeth shining like the white stone in her hand. He saw the dogs stalking around the largest male tiger. Their yellow eyes glinted hard and sure as they took him down. One of them yelped as the white rock glanced off him. It was not an orgiastic flurry. It was quick, merciless and brutal. He saw her search the barren soil for another stone.

The dogs split into groups of three or four and quickly killed the other adult tigers, the leader of each pack picking a tiger up by its neck and shaking it lifeless.
He was running towards her when the dogs hit her as a deadly circular body, with a shattering single thump of flesh against flesh.

The helicopters bristling with cameras arrived. The news was satellited around the world within hours. A perfect circle, twelve metres in diameter, of human-interred thylacines is news. Television camera crews and journalists rolled out brand new swags in the student’s camp. The old archaeologist could not stand still for interviews. He still thought there was more. He let his colleague do all the talking. The students put both hands to their faces often or knelt on the ground and felt the earth, amongst all the activity of the media.

Later in the evening, he invited his colleague out into the field. The stars were brilliant, despite the generator lights, the celebratory bonfire and the full moon. "I'm going home in the morning," he told the stunned man. "But I know there is more. There’s something here, right where I stand, in the centre. It's your dig now, friend."

The promised husband knew that she was the last one and that the new order of dogs had begun. But the dogs would not have her. He buried her first, very deep, with all the tiger joeys laid over her belly. He buried the adult tigers where they fell defending her, facing outwards to protect her forever.
When he lit the fires, the dogs waited, uneasy and triumphant, at the edges of the light.

Bike pump

Recently I went to the tip shop and there was a bike inside the shed. Bob's yelling at me, 'Oh Sarah, take this bike. You can have it for five bucks. FIVE BUCKS!!! Look at the brand. Look at it this bike.' 

He stepped aboard and pumped the front wheels. The bike had shockies so he was able to bounce this bike up and down on it's front wheels. This particular tip shop guy had managed to distract me from the red lady's bike that was of a proper vintage with a front basket and carrier, to a welded, factory bicycle, sporting only a water bottle bracket and shockies. Anyway, I bought it. Five bucks after all.

'Front tyre's a bit flat,' he said. 'But it's FIVE BUCKS.'

I've been more in need of a decent four wheel drive car recently, than a bicycle, because living 35 kilometres from the nearest town tends to make you need to drive everywhere rather than do the school or shop run on foot. But when the bar breaks at the inlet, there is this long beach to ride along. The sand is hard and I've often wanted a bike to ride along that beach. 

I bought the bike with dreams of riding it along the shore ... but then I needed a bike pump for the front tyre. So the next time I ventured into the city, I went to the nearest bicycle shop.

As soon as I entered, I realised this was not that kind of hipster bicycle shop where kind, bearded men sold hot cups of cold-pressed coffee on leather lounges, while asking me to peruse their cargo bikes. No. These blokes were the enablers of the lawyer and accountant clique of cyclists. They came towards me in tiny shorts and with their hard, chiselled faces asked me what my business was.

'I'd like to buy a bicycle pump,' I said.

So they sold me this really expensive thing that looked like it was from outer space. I got it home, unscrewed the top (there's no tube here) and all the valves fell out and I couldn't work out how to put all the valves back together again. Apparently you can reverse the valves to release air from the tyre in this one trick pony.. Awesome. We used to do that with match sticks when I was a kid.

I was telling this story to a mate of mine yesterday. She looked at me, incredulous.

'So let's be clear here Sarah. You paid five bucks for a bike, right? That's cool. And then you paid forty bucks to pump up the front wheel?'




Sunday, August 14, 2022

Evening again

 

Like the gloaming and the evening, there is also apparently the fuckening! A friend sent this to me this morning and I was utterly up for it. It's been a pretty strange full moon period, for me anyway - and I've gone nocturnal since the dog and cat in the night time incident. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but that doesn't mean they're not out to get me!

Missed calls from a dead ex, a pair of socks that aren't mine beside the fruit bowl, Random Man moving into the shack, the dead cat ...it's hard to refrain from making false connections between odd events at the best of times and I don't even smoke weed.

The inlet has risen really fast as well. Struth's boat would have been on the sand a week ago, if he'd parked it where it is in the photo below. At first I thought the bar had broken from the outside from the huge swells we've had but now I think it's the water pouring in from the other end, the rivers swollen with messages from upstream.



Here's some photos of my house too. People sometimes think I live in a shed but the cottage really is quite respectable. This is my desk and writing area, close to the fire of course. The huge windows face south to the inlet, and the weather.


 And this is I guess what you'd call the sitting room (It's all open plan). Today it's covered in prep work for next week's uni classes. This semester I'm tutoring for Environmental History, Indigenous Studies and Creative Writing.