Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Icons Project

In March I wrote a post on icons (Here). I was moving house and packing 'things' into boxes, beautiful things that stored many meanings and stories within their textured, gorgeous (and sometimes not-so-gorgeous) beings. But the presence of these icons were only useful to me in imparting their stories and their past. My little flat is tiny and anyway, my choice of abode seems to be mercurial these days. In the last six months I've drifted purposefully between the flat, the tent, the bush shack and back again. More permanent fixtures are the sleeping bag, bottles of water and some clothes on the back seat of my car.

So I put my icons into a cardboard box and started musing about what to do with them. I decided to find them new homes, in nature. To return them, so to speak. They can retain their meaning, their stories anywhere, I reasoned. I began to like the idea of one of these icons in the crook of a Kundip salmon gum and growing into it as the years go by. John Mulvaney wrote somewhere about finding a Sumatran  icon embraced by the flesh of an Arnhem Land tree, dated at 400 years previous to European colonisation.

Then I wondered about how to do this thing. Should I put GPS coordinates on them? I like the idea, sometimes. And then I don't. Google Earth and other mapping programs tend to both delight and bother me. Delight: zooming down from the sky to an inlet in Ireland or a forest in Africa or my street with my old car parked out the front; all these things are just great. Finding my way out of a karri forest at night using the GPS is even better.

Bother: because I resent the constant, intrusive eye ... the Earth is our Mother and someone (Google? NASA? Captain Cook?) has spread the Mother's legs for the camera and shone a spottie on her bits, on the secret places, on the skin's curve under her hair at the back of her neck, on the creases across her belly ... The exposure, documentation and exploitation of Earth's mysterious spaces is a uniquely human foible and something I don't always want to be party to.

Also, putting coordinates on the icons is akin to starting some kind of weird treasure hunt and that's not what I'm on about. I don't want people going looking for them. But I'd love it if somebody walking through the bush one day found an icon by accident ... and wondered what an earth a stuffed white rabbit or a brass statue of Pavarti was doing in a cave, up a tree, crouched under a shelter fashioned from corrugated iron and paperbark on the red ridge line above the river.

Here is the story of the first icon who has made it to a new home.

My friend Zeb Shyne gave me this Buddha about fifteen years ago. I first met Zeb at the Rainbow Festival at Cambrey (see the photos below) when my Pearlie was just a swaddled babe. Rainbow tights, rainbow shirt, Zeb had just returned from Africa and she shone like a fireworks the first time I saw her standing on the old railway line. I wrote a story about our friendship over the years, it's here.

Zeb bought the Buddha in a Freo op shop. She bought it because, even though she already had one exactly the same, she wanted me to have one too. Like those friendship necklaces with the love hearts that crack in half, sort of.

If you have found him and then found your way here, well then, Hello! This Buddha is nice to hold in your palm. He is round and heavy. Maybe he is carved from the lignum vitae, maybe from an Indonesian soft wood. His spine is raised, giving him a hackled look of a prehistory critter but his pose is all too human. I love the frailties in his muscular, hunched pose. If you have found him, you'll know all these things and that he is in a cave, sitting deep within the recesses of the granite walls where the light is thin and the sound of the Southern Ocean swell booms and cracks all around you.

1st Cambrey photo:


  1. Nice. I might know this cave so if ever I am in it again, I will look for him.

  2. You are such a fucking hippy Sarah! Great pics of the mob. I read that post again, about Zeb. I remember that I met her a few times.

  3. Yes, I updated it. I got out my old photos of Cambrey whilst writing about meeting Zeb.

  4. That's a good thing to do with it - you have reminded me of an almost identical thing that I did to another wooden Buddhist figure (Kwan Yin), which I'll tell you about. It's a bit like that scene in that cult film 'Harold and Maude', when the young man gives the metal love-tag to the older woman, and she says that it is the nicest present she ever had - then throws it into the sea, saying, "Now I'll always know where it is!"

    1. And Kwan Yin is another one on my list. She spent the best part of the last decade on the dash of my Bedford van, facing the road ... the Goddess of mercy and compassion, I think, will have a new home relating to the road, travel, or avoiding major accidents, soon.

  5. I think I started reading A WineDark Sea about the time you posted that love letter, Sarah. Maybe it was earlier, but not much. I read a novel opening during last week. It was an assignment and I was glad when the 7000 words were up. It was okay, very well written and organised and it had a story to tell, but it was way too soft and misty-eyed, way too sentimental, even for the likes of me. Your little Love Letter intro leaves it for dead. Seriously, there's more punch in that, than last week's whole 7000 words..