Friday, June 28, 2013

The Salt Story Pictures


I've written the book and now I've gathered together all the photographs of the south coast fisher men and women with whom I've worked over the last five years. In between moments of parenting, writing a thesis, editing my book, attempting to build a bush shack verandah, teaching and that thing called basic life maintenance, I've built a website to store these images. (Phrew!) Thank goodness I'm not also a deckie right now because that work tends to be all consuming but, as a friend said to me today, I will always be a fisherwoman.
Here is the link to pictures:  Salt Story: of sea-dogs and fisherwomen. and there will be a permanent (like forever and ever or as long as my WineDark love with blogger lasts) link on A WineDark Sea's sidebar.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hey! This is my book cover.

So finally the Sarahs Toa and Drummond collide on A WineDark Sea in the best of possible ways. You like? I'm just delirious with like. No, that salty, whiskery bloke is not Old Salt, though the designers did consider putting him on the cover. I don't know who this character is but hopefully he will be instantly recognisable by Christmas.
Fremantle Press have done a really lovely design job with Salt Story. Here is a link to my author page on their website.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Icons Project # 4 To the Right Place

Home. She's showing the way to my place.

On Tears

Almost two weeks ago, they started and I think I've been leaking them ever since.
It was the drowned boy that began me. Then it was Stormboy and all his peers and teachers sniffing behind me in the pews, the family dropping to one knee in the aisle before they sat down, the Filipino Father marching ahead of the procession in his purple and white robes. It was the sight of his mother ahead of his casket. I've known her for years; a tall, broad shouldered woman with a great smile. Her and I got into some rather fabulous trouble together at last year's Melbourne Cup.
I saw her face as she walked down the aisle Thursday week ago and my hand went straight to my mouth to stop its stupid quivering.

A mother who dived
and dived again
and dived again
into the deep


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Queen of the Clouts

It was a rather grand plan to build a veranda and a bathroom onto the northern end of my shack. Perhaps I could have achieved it. I have no idea, because the morning after I arrived the generator shat itself. It wouldn't start the next day either, or the next. It's no fun, starting the day to be beaten by a mere generator. So, in the absence of power tools, I decided to play with nails and a hammer.

Then I started on the walls ...

I suspect that the township of Kundip was constructed entirely of old kerosene tins and beer because its detritus is scattered everywhere. I started gathering bits of tin on my morning walks and nailed them into the walls in the evenings. The resident pygmy possum left in disgust. The resident snake ignored me. My left thumb was burst, is still quite flattened.
Despite the pain and shambolic nature, I'm a bit proud of this work. The feel of a nail going true through galvanised steel, the steady aesthetic of working square sides against round ... you could rip this wall away and put it in an art gallery in the city but it would never hold the power or context of walking into my shack and seeing a whole wall of Kundip kerosene tin lives played out with rusty galvanised iron and clouts.

Icons Project #3 The Buddha and the River

I call him a Buddha though he is not of the conventional sort. He's a muscular, almost animalistic man, lotus-legged and clothed only in a Sumo-style thong. He crouches, his face covered by the palms of his hands and the exaggerated muscles of his shoulders are pure, tactile strokability.

"An Icon for you," said Kyabla. I held the wooden Buddha on my lap. It was the same character as the one I'd deposited in a cave recently but three times the size. "I found him in the Dread's shed. It was one of the last things we got out of the place before the State took it. I took him home but he is a strange character. He doesn't really feel very comfortable to me. In the end, I didn't want to keep him in my house."
"I like him," I said. "I've always liked him."

Kyabla and I have mutual friends who have just been gaoled for cultivation and dealing of weed. Before they were separated by the big house for men and women, they also had their land and shack seized by the state. Growing over a certain amount of plants means an automatic dealing charge, which in turn means an automatic seizure of the 'assets of their crime'. In Western Australia there is no secondary court process to decide whether the seizure of land is justifiable. Even though they could prove that their farm was bought by legitimate means, it was taken anyway. Like the card game Grass, paranoia served to enforce the divide and conquer paradigm where fellow stoners felt too vulnerable to protest this situation, or even lend their names to personal references in court.

Kyabla is right in his feelings about the Buddha. It's very posture speaks of injustice, grief and loss. Yet what I see in this character is a kind of beauty and humanity. I held him on my lap, rubbed his spine and thought, this Icon needs to go to Cocanarup.

I don't want to equate the tribulations of a Rastafarian couple to what happened at Cocanarup. Nobody can compare those two experiences.

One day though, the Buddha will be swept away by the river and the river, as is her wont, will roll him over and over like ancient stones, like contested bones and conflicted histories, to the sea.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Icon's Project # 2. "Sorry"

To explain the purpose of a stuffed white bunny in a greenlit clearing with "sorry" pinned to its chest, I've cut and pasted a previous post:

 From the deceased estate of my daughter's father there are Icons - Buddha, Pavati, the cat queen, Kali (I kind of like her style), Leda, St Geraldine, Kwan Yin  (she's been standing, holding her babe on the dash of my car for a long time now. With a four wheel drive you need a Goddess of mercy and compassion to guide you) ... 
While moving house I've had to put all of these Icons into boxes and cart them somewhere else. There are also the things that mean so much to me but have no utilitarian or monetary value. I consider these things to be Icons too. An example:

A stuffed toy vaguely resembling a white rabbit sits upright with floppy ears and nylon, cobwebby fur. It's the kind of thing you find in op shops, in fact I think we did. One day when Pearlie and Stormboy were pre-teens, I'd had an apocalypticly premenstrual day on the lawnmowing round. All I wanted was half an hour alone in the bath. Just saying to kids that you want a moment alone in the bath is stupid anyway. Thinking you are actually going to get it is misguided in any expectations of single parenthood. Still, I lit the chip heater, paced around for half an hour waiting for hot water, poured a bath and sank into its depths.
Not long after that I heard screaming. Not fun screaming, real screaming.
I scrambled out of the bath and went into the kitchen where I found Stormboy lying on the floor covered in blood and Pearlie leaning over him. The knife was still in her hand. Stormboy groaned and lay still. Then I saw a little smirk as he writhed in pain and I thought, maybe even said out loud, you pair of little @#*!!
So, wet and naked, I stormed past the tomato sauce/blood and pathos theatre and went back to the bathroom, slammed the door shut and lay back in my fucking bath. Silence from the kitchen. I think they knew they'd pushed it a bit too far. Minutes later the bathroom door opened and a stuffed white rabbit was pushed through the doorway with a stick. Safety pinned to his chest was a piece of paper and on it was written, "Sorry".

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Meat #2

I asked Jaques if he wanted to borrow my four wheel drive but he declined. They are good roads, not the bush tracks of the back blocks, he explained. These are more like city streets. Good money went into these roads to haul the logs out before they all went broke.
He had his rifle hanging out of his drivers' side window and was feeling around with his left hand for the spotlight. Flicked on the spottie ... and again. "Ahh, she does not work." He chucked it behind his seat. "Two hunnerd and fifty I pay for this fucker and it does not work."
"No spottie?"

It was decided between the two of us that we'd set some yabbie pots in the dams and then try and find some game. Jaques was after a roo and maybe some rabbits but he also wanted a fox because really, he's half hunter and half consummate shooter. "I 'ave a special thing to bring the foxes in," he said.

When we got to the dam he cleared his gun and laid it carefully over the dash before he got out of the car. Wild ducks scarpered in the headlights to a black sky. I could smell the night, the oil of the trees and the funk of the dam. I threw pots into the dark water and laid their lead ropes among the cloven hoof prints on the banks. Then he backed out, to the track.
"Cattle tracks," I said. "I saw cattle tracks."
"Yes, there are wild cows here," Jaques said.

I didn't really believe him because the fences were fallen down and all the roads open to the main highway. I didn't believe his story about wild cattle and sheep until I saw them in the headlights: a mob of heifers of all different colours galloping along the track; a flock of sheep with their long tails, their wool falling away from them in strips, running through an avenue of blue gums, running from the car through abandoned city streets.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Last Whale

When I was seven or eight the whaling industry closed down in Albany.  I had an awful haircut thanks to an aspiring teenage hairdresser down the road. I had to walk what felt like miles and miles to the bus stop.  Mrs Marshall glared at me when I yelled at Simon for being a prat. Every kid I knew, their parents worked at the meatworks, the whaling station, on fishing boats, the fish factory, or else they were cleaners at the school.

The birth of Greenpeace in Australia?
Where was I?

Anyway, the point of this post is that Chris Pash's The Last Whale, the story of the last whaling operation in the Southern Hemisphere and the first Greenpeace action, has just been broadcast as a great radio documentary. It includes the testimonies of the old whalers and protestors from 1977. You can download the podcast here.

Were you involved with the whaling, or the protests, or can you give me a picture of what your life was like in Albany in the 1970s? Really, I'm curious.

Meat #1

'Ave a look at what I got 'ere, Sawah.'
I could smell them before I saw them. He walked me across his kitchen to a supermarket-issue cooler bag full of three rabbit carcasses; fleas jumping around inside the bag like mosquitos. Perfect head shots, all three.
 'Zey are dinner tonight, yes?'
What I love about this guy is his poaching intuition. He knows how to cook and he understands a European law of the commons ... but he's in Australia now. He was pulled up and breath tested that night and, when the coppers questioned him about the three dead rabbits lying on the tray of his ute, he gave them such a convoluted French method of cooking rabbit that they got bored and walked away without asking him how he could possibly have killed them without a firearm's license.

So when he asked me if I wanted to go poaching last night I said yes. Of course Jaques. He wanted to get some roo. Of course Jaques. I love the idea of getting my own food. So we drove fifty or sixty kilometres out of town to his regular spot. It was a tree farm gone broke. I know the place because I've been shooting there before. I've always seen the tree farm industry as a dysfunctional pyramid scheme and this theory seems to be coming to fruition. Jaques just sees the broken tree farms as his hunting ground. Good roads, dams full of yabbies and lots of game. He's happy happy.

As soon as we turned off the highway he reefed his rifle from behind my seat. I ducked so the end of the barrel didn't hit my head.
'Always I see a few punters here.'
He laid the .22 across his side window and drove slowly along the gravel road.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

'It's a good thing that you did there, girl.'

'So do you own a farm around here?'

He was sitting next to me in the licensing department and waiting for his wife who had just left to do her drivers test. She was nervous, she said to me before she left. 'I haven't done a driving test for sixty years. What if they do it differently these days?'
While he waited for her, he told me about his childhood in Albany when 'no one had cars, only horses and carts.' He said that in 1939, his Dad had the first car in town and I'm sorry to say I looked skeptical.

'No, I don't own a farm.' I told him. But to justify my place in the world, I added, 'I do have a little block out near Hopetoun.'
'Oh yes. I like Hopetoun. A nice place. My family lived near there, a little place. My Mum grew up in a place called Kundip.'

She grew up in a tiny hamlet amongst the moorts where men worked hard clay soil for copper and gold and the women worked to create a new, corrugated iron community. Her family lived in a tin shack the size of a single car garage, with a fireplace at the northern end, a rainwater tank and candles. It was a life constructed from kerosene tins and pragmatism. As part of her schooling she wrote letters to 'Aunt Mary' at the Western Mail about storms, emu visitations and playing tennis on a court of quartz.

'I bought a little block at Kundip.'
'Really?' He looked at me.
'Yeah. I built a shack there.'
'You built ... oh you built a shack.' he sighed and smiled. 'Ahh, that place has been dead for so long.'

Kundip is an odd place. As a town it had three lives before it was officially declared a ghost town. Now all that is left of the people who built their lives there are some footings, a pub cellar, a concrete pad, willow pattern crockery, the crook of a porcelain tea cup. ("See?' I say when we come across the middens of china. 'See. There were women here. Women.')

 Recently I told the story of how a Noongar Elder bailed me up in the street to say he'd been to my shack. He expressed his delight that someone, someone, had built something there. He loved that the rainwater tanks were full, that I'd built an abalone shell into the tankstand to hold a bar of soap, that I'd put a beehive in the forest behind the shack, that I hadn't locked a single door. At the time I was  taken aback by his thank you's because I couldn't quite understand how a man whose country had so been so forcefully taken could be thankful to a wadjela woman who felt it to be her own.

It is grim, beautiful country. Driving around the bush tracks after I first bought the place, I came across the Dunn grave and realised what I was getting into, that it was massacre country, an area of frontier violence that has not been properly recognised to this day. It is fraught country, tied into past and contemporary conflicts. The landscape reflects that turning point and the contrariness of opinion. Every couple of hundred metres, the landscape changes dramatically. The block of land I own is different to my neighbour's. His has orchids. Mine doesn't, but it does have a species of melaluca unique on this planet. Nearby are Eucalypts that haven't even been named by Europeans yet.
I would recommend this post, to understand my mindset. 
The Fitz and the Barrens slide literally into Kundip to create its own eco system. Kundip is a perfect collision of ecology, geology and history.

'Maybe he realised that what you were doing was bringing a new life, a new understanding to the place,' a friend said to me on Tuesday, when I was talking to her about my feelings about Kundip. 'By trusting the place enough to build something there is a sign of your faith. That you love it and you believe in the country.'
As soon as I first saw it, I believed in Kundip. There is a peculiar kind of joy that I see in the Old People whenever they come to Kundip and see the shack. And also the old bloke in the licensing department, whose Mum grew up in Kundip when it was a real town. You should have seen the look on his face.
When the sun sets, the ground turns pink with magenta light against the quartz. At night the stars are brilliant. There is something really special about this old town of ghosts. I think the word 'healing' has been over-used. Maybe there is a poem to cover it. I don't have the words for it yet, anyway.