Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Fire in the Water

I rang my mate Seashell today and she said, whilst schlepping her seashells to sell, 'where did you go Sarah? It feels like you've dropped off.'
'I dunno,' I answered. 'I'm here. Where did I go?'

Broke is where I've gone. This is not an economic state that I entered into but a place, though the place is conducive to the former for voluntary inmates. I went to Broke to write a book about a man who lived here a long time ago. I'd been plotting my escape for about twelve months. I've since found out that I'm living on the same property as my subject, overlooking the estuary, watching for footprints, people or boats ... feeling like royalty in paradise and at the same time that senseless, timeless, 'why am I here why am I here why am I here why.' I have only myself, no powerful kingdoms or men to overcome, only myself in those hours when the silence falls so complete it feels like profound deafness and for the first time in my life I have heard my own tinnitus.

It's not all stasis, silence, netting mullet and existential crises though. I've been working on the final edit of my novel about the sealers and Aboriginal women who travelled from Bass Strait to King George Sound in 1826. Fremantle Press are publishing the book in the first week of July. Oh my fook. That means I have another week to get a final copy to the editor, who then sends it to the copy editors. Who then check it for mistakes and that's about it. I think it goes to print in January or February. That really is bloody it.

It has a title now.
Fire in the Water.
I love this title because it involves the one scene in the book when all is right with the world. William Hook, Moennan and the child are fishing at Waychinicup and they come across phosphorescence in the water. Moennan is standing, poling the boat across the shallows. All three see the lights coming up from the sea and know there is beauty in the world that transcends every trauma and brutality they have experienced in their short lives, if only in that moment.

This week, I think I may also have a job, as well as a title for my next book.
'But you've just written a doctorate!' my uni boss said today. 'Why are you pumping diesel and making coffee?'
Because I need to turn my hand to something other than the keyboard. Because I need income. Because no woman is an island. Because books don't pay. Because I would like someone other than pig shooters to talk to. Because.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Broke to Burswood

Oh, it is so tempting. The line I went straight from Broke to the Casino is just gagging for it. But that really is what happened. I drove from this:

to this. 

I’ve never been to the casino before but it was easy to find, rising over the skyline like a top-heavy cruise liner. Maybe a live sheep ship would be a more appropriate description, though it smelled a bit better.

The contrast in habitats that bookended my day was extraordinary.
A smoking fire, several dogs, a riffling wind on the skin of the inlet, peppermint tree flowers dropping onto black earth like snow. Five black swans in a line on the water, the air spackling as they shattered the silence taking off, their strobe flash of white and black wings.

A car park patrolled by casino security and a man in hi-vis, shorts and joggers carrying a plastic bag, looking for cigarette butts. Then marble stairs and escalators and psychedelic carpets and lights and bouncers and pokies and high heels. A constant heart throb of music.

I was lured to this fresh heterotopia as a story teller for the opening of the national seafood industry conference. That was the cool bit about being in the casino, because just about everyone at the conference were fisher folk and as I read from my book, I could almost hear their nods and smiles. They totally got what I was saying. Later I met Tasmanian lobster men (who complained about the seals), American and Indian delegates checking out the Australian commercial fishing scene, women-in-fishing advocates (who complained about the seals), South Australian crabbers, a vet nurse (husband to a fisherman who complained about the seals but wanted to protect them herself) and industry groups including the government fisheries mob (who complained, tinged with a grudging respect, about my old boss).

“They get a bit rowdy,” said K, who’d spent twelve months organising the event, “because they haven’t seen each other for ages. This is about the only time they get together.” And she was right. It was raucous, warm and collegial. After all that I drove to my daughter’s new house. Well, that’s a detour around the truth because I did get lost in the boondocks for an hour or so. Then I fell into a mattress on the floor and woke up the next morning to Pearlie and Gracie.

Gracie, ahh Gracie, grown so robust and talkative … I feel that generational heart skip when I look at my granddaughter. This child is of my own ilk, I think. She knows me. I know her. She is nearly three. I understand her moments of fury and cackling hilarity, her curiousity, aloofness and generosity.
“Nanna Sairwa,” she said, pointing to my tree necklace. “Can I put it on me?” 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fragments of Friends #4 by Ky

When i came out of the bush i met my first town humans at age fifteen.
They were strange. They had these things called opinions.
Whenever anyone had asked me previously what i reckoned about something I'd usually say "I dunno", or they'd ask "What do you think about this"? 
"I dunno, don't think about it".
This wasn't very good for new conversations, they didn't last very long, and i wanted to talk to girls.
So i thought I'd better get some of these opinions. I knew that they were arbitrary, there was no truth in them. Otherwise everyone would have the same opinion.
A variety of opinions was the go, changing them every time i changed clothes.
Some people wore their opinions persistently.
I had noticed that people argued about them. If opinions weren't throwing bombs at each other, they threw labels at each other.
Trees don't do that. Humans were very strange.

I entered the human world and learnt some more words. After that i formed my first golden rule of employment. Never ever get a job that involved wearing a suit and tie. Too much serious danger there of getting a career.
I've had dozens of jobs and have a stack of really good references.
I know that because i wrote most of them myself, having access to company and factory letterheads and the boss's signature.
Apparently I've been gainfully employed for about one hundred and seventy years.
I did have to arrange them sequentially into field jobs, factory jobs, office jobs, and brain jobs, so could have up to four different jobs with the same mob.
The only CV I've ever written was short.
'Grew up as a hunter, learned to sit silently, walk quietly, leave no tracks, and kill swiftly'.
Someone told me later that this was meditation. I got the job.
The other golden rule was to change everything every seven years. Some happened naturally passing through the seven whirling balls of energy inside me, If not, I'd stop doing what i was doing and wait for the next thing to happen. Figured i only had roughly ten septums, already used three up, seven left to do different things.
Sometimes when you did nothing, angels appeared.

It may have been inappropriate for a man to be in her kitchen. She had seen me approaching the mudbrick stand alone room in a dirt yard and had hidden herself. Crouching behind the wood slat door, almost completely clothed in black, only her face visible, a wariness if not fear in her eyes. With sign language and body language i thanked her for the food. Her eyes looked briefly to mine and then turned away. The smallest of smiles, a mona lisa smile, briefly came and went. It felt like it had been a long long time since she had been appreciated by anyone.

I've met women wherever. In markets, waiting at bus stops, at laundromats waiting.
At a lock up storage unit.
I was working at my unit where i kept stock for my shops.
Business was easy. Buy something somewhere and sell it for more than paid for it. Employ people to do the work, and pay them a lot more than they'd get working for someone else, to keep them happy. My office was a shoulder bag and front seat of ute. I didn't have a phone so no one could interrupt my solitude.
I'd tell people,
'there's nothing so urgent in my life that can't wait for you to write me a letter'.
Even if a relative died I'd usually find out before the funeral.
I heard a song playing from another storage unit around the corner. It was on repeat, playing over and over, for an hour and a half. It was Dylan's Rainy Day Women. Eventually, curious, i went around and saw her sitting in the middle of the storeroom surrounded by what looked like household possessions and cardboard boxes.
I asked her why she was playing the song on repeat. She said she liked it.
We talked about the lyrics, how some people thought it was about drugs, 'everybody must get stoned', when it was nothing to do with drugs at all.
It was a song of total alienation, of freedom. I told her of my visit to see Dylan in his motel room and how he had talked of how it felt to be so alone, like a rolling stone, a complete unknown.
It was her song for this moment. She was ecstatically high, tripping on freedom and liberty.
She told me some life stories.
After her husband had left for work that morning, she had packed her personal possessions in her hatch, a couple of trips, and was now sitting with them. She had finally left him, a damaged war veteran, after years of violence. After thinking of doing it for a long time. And now the time had come.
She told me stories of an uneasy man, and of a new man, and new possibilities.
A week later she was there again. Still high and happy, experiencing the possibilities.
A week later she was disconnected and flat. Her new man hadn't really thought she would actually leave her husband.

I'd passed her once on the street, carrying herself lightly.She had smiled, a smile of friendship and recognition, but not an invitation.
Some weeks later i was sitting cross legged on the floor, a room lit only from sunlight through an open door. With eyes closed i saw the light change and slowly turned my head a little to see a silhouette in the doorway.
It was her, standing still, adjusting her eyes perhaps. I turned away and closed my eyes.
Her footsteps approached, she slid down my back and sat behind me, legs outstretched either side of me, then hooked and crossed them over mine, to lock me in. She put her arms under mine, hands on my chest. I took her hands and held them to my heart. As she leant her head against mine she whispered to my ear, "just be still"
We traveled together, as one, to a place far far away that has no name, and stayed awhile, in that place of light, silence, and love, where time did not exist.
Slowly we came to our bodies again and moved so slightly, to remind ourselves that we were two, not one.
She took her legs away, then her arms, and as she rose she whispered again.
In that timeless time i don't know how long we were there. The sun was still there and i saw the light change again as she walked out the door.
I passed her on the street again. Again we didn't stop or speak. Now the smiles were of friendship and recognition and also of deep gratitude and love.
I can't forget her, though i never said a word to her, and she said only nine words to me.

Lara invited me to an orgy. She was my partner's best friend and had invited her so probably thought she'd better invite me too. Her boyfriend was also going to be there plus eight or nine others.
Orgies weren't my thing, bit too much like free range fucking.
There was a black and white TV in the corner of the lounge so i sat on a chair closely in front of it. The lounge room was dark, lit only by the TV, and i could see dark shapes around the floor. I knew my partner was in an adjacent bedroom, i recognised the sound of her orgasms.
After an hour and a half Lara came over and said "what are you doing. I didn't invite you here to watch TV". I quietly explained that i didn't have a TV, that I'd been in the bush for a few years and hadn't seen TV for five years. Besides which I'd just seen Clint Eastwood in Rawhide and was half way through Kung Fu with that grasshopper bloke who wandered around with a long stick. And, that these were two of my all time favourite programs.
She was not impressed.
So in the next ad break i did my contractual duty and got back to the TV. Had only missed a couple of minutes of the program.
When grasshopper finished she asked me to leave.

Two years later we were madly in love. For six months, until distance separated us, she taught me heaps about taoist tantric yoga. I already knew a fair bit but she knew more.

A couple of years later i drove across the Nullabor to see her again. When i got there she said "Sorry, I've got a boyfriend. I'm being loyal and faithful"
"You!?".... "You, loyal and faithful!?"
She showed me more tantric stuff but now it was all theory with no prac work.
She sold Tupperware as well as being a dragon shop steward unionist in the public service. She'd managed to combine Tupperware parties with giving instruction in tantra to some of her customers.
One day she said "you know that perineum muscle weight lifting exercise you showed me. I've got two women doing it". This is the exercise where one end of a piece of string is attached to a ribbed dildo and the other end to a weight. Crouch down a little, resting the weight on a short stool or something like that. Then grip and lift, squat and release grip, in lift sets of one, two, three, six, three, two, one.
Lara said one of her women did her exercises in the kitchen, using pots and pans for weights. After a few months she could lift an iron.
She said the other had found a pile of broken bricks in her backyard. She'd started off with a quarter brick, moved onto a half brick, and now could lift a full brick.
"I'd like to meet her" i said.
So she took me on one of her Tupperware delivery runs. Passing the new footy stadium she reached over to the back seat and passed me a container.
"Look" she said, turning it over, "It doesn't have a recycling number. That's because they last forever. A lifetime guarantee"
"What happens if you accidentally break one, like drop a brick on it"
She was in full sales mode. "There's a lifetime guarantee. We replace it with a new one. Free".
"What do you do with the broken one"
A pause, then "well we recycle that"
"How do know how to recycle it if it doesn't have a number"
She knew that i liked real genuine woman, who don't wear makeup or use machinery to massacre their armpits.
She was wearing a sleeveless top and in a deliberate effort to distract me she pointed past me out the passenger window and said, "Look, that's where they play football every week"
I've visited her a few more times, years apart, visiting her and her husband.
Now we talk about stamps. She's a collector like me.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fragments of Friends by Ky #3

The two wedgies were circling above, specks in the sky. I was sitting cross legged on an open paddock and called to one, the male. He slowly circled down to rest on my arm, looked me clearly in the eyes and kissed my forehead. I lifted him into flight to join his partner in the sky

Crows are truth tellers
Trish had lost her boy in the bush. A crow called her, and repeatedly flew a short distance ahead of her, calling all the way, until it led her to him.
Essa was a crow queen.
We lived in a quiet place with bush opposite where a family of crows lived.
Each year the new young crows would fly to our house, sit on the brick chimney and call down. I thought they liked hearing their voice reverberating down the chimney, practicing to be crows. But they had been told by their elders that if they went across the road to that pile of bricks, and called, they would hear their queen.
Essa would lie on her back in the lounge room, head and shoulders in the open fireplace, and call softly back to them.
A year after she left i noticed the new crows weren't coming to call, at least when i was home. I wondered why. I wondered if they knew she was in the sky with them.
A few minutes later a crow called at the front door. I opened the door, an adult crow was on the gutter above and adjacent to the door, almost within arms’ reach. Had never seen one there before. Or since.
He turned his head to me and said, 'yes she's safe in the sky with us'. Then he flew away.
It's a few years now and they still don't come. They know she doesn't live here anymore. Crows are truth tellers.

Essa was in the biosphere national park with a twitching group.
She knew every bird by sight and sound. Would call them and they would come to her. At tea break twitchers were comparing lists, excitedly saying they'd heard a noisy scrub bird or a ground parrot, or some other scarce bird. Essa would apologise saying "sorry, that was me"
With magpies fossicking in the front yard she would give their autumn call and they would look at her askance. .. who's this crazy magpie giving an autumn call in the middle of winter.
I'd banned her from giving female mating calls. I'd seen another twitcher call a mopoke owl and it sat in a tree all night calling to his prospective mate who was in a tent below. It wasn't fair.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Fragments of Friends #2 by Ky

My father gave me a gun. My mother washed my clothes.
Walking past my friend's rainwater tank, stepping carefully quietly, though firmly, took me back to a hunter. Downwind of a mob of kangaroos, stepping quietly so they wouldn't hear or feel, but firmly enough for nearby snakes to feel the earth shake, then they'd move away.
The roos would stand up from feeding if they felt you.
Little ones would carry on, the boomer if suspicious would raise one leg and strike the ground, a warning to be watchful. The young bucks would pay attention, moving ears, looking around, and sniffing the air. You'd have to be still and wait.
If the boomer raised both legs lifting himself on his tail, and brought both legs down with a louder thump you knew you only had a few seconds to get a shot away before some moved away, usually the females first. If the boomer didn't move they'd stop at a distance.
A double thump, striking the ground twice rapidly in succession, they'd all turn immediately and leap away.
A young buck, the best meat, leapt away jumping long. As he was at the top of his leap a quick shot sent a bullet through his brain. A total fluke shot. Could take that shot a thousand times and not hit anything.
Dead in mid air he fell, skidded tumbling on the ground and came to a stop.
Immediately gutted with a bowie knife there was less weight to carry. The intestines left for ants foxes crows or eagles.
To carry a hole was cut in each ear and through the end of the tail. A green short stick cut and sharpened at one end was pushed through one ear, the tail, and then the other ear. With his tail over my shoulder it was like carrying a shoulder bag.
By now the sun was setting and it was a dusk walk a couple of kilometres home.
One time i carried three home, one on each shoulder and the other slung over my neck. My shirt, shorts, legs, and bare feet covered in blood.
Once home the roo was hung up under the trellis grape vines off the back verandah, to be skinned in the morning.
Then it was to the snake infested woodheap to chop wood, light the copper, carry buckets of water to fill the copper, wait half an hour or so, and then carry buckets of warm hot water to a wash tub, to wash the blood off.
We didn't have electricity.
My mother would wash my clothes the next day on a scrubbing board in a wash trough, using soap made from animal fat from other killed animals.
Couldn't make roo soap, they didn't have much fat on them.

The next day nothing was wasted. Skinned, his hide nailed to a shed wall.
Tail for kangaroo tail soup. Steak and roast cuts put in the meat safe hanging from the verandah roof or in summer, kept cool in the coolgardie safe, water soaked  hessian over a metal frame.
Offal to eat, meat and bones for the pigs chooks and dogs. Sinews for string. His scrotum dried for a handy bag or purse. Could drill  holes in claws and toes, thread with sinew for necklaces or bracelets.
Roo claws are hard and strong. If a roo took a dog into a swamp or lake, out of a dogs depth, their claws and powerful forearms would hold a dog under the water to drown it, and lifting one leg, disembowl it with one strike.
Once he hit the ground this roo went in all different directions. His hide tanned, now a floor rug in a swanky apartment in London.
In his final bounding leap he travelled a long way.

I grew up alone in the bush. Dirt poor, no money, but always plenty of food.
Good, natural, healthy food. Roos, rabbits, parrot pie, bronze wing pigeon. My father had a recipe for cooking galahs. They were tough. Drop them into a pot of boiling water with an axehead. When the axehead was soft the galah was cooked. Catching parrots was fun. Soak some wheat in kitchen cooking sherry and spread it around.  When the parrots got drunk could chase and catch them.
The toys i had to play with were sticks and stones and my brain.My backyard was one thousand square kilometres of bush, and if i crossed one road, another thousand.
One time my father tracked a six year old city boy lost there, for three days and nights. The boy had gathered leaves and fallen branches to keep himself warm on the freezing nights. My father showed me a letter he'd received from the commissioner of police, thanking him for finding the boy.
Coastal woodland and wetlands.
Jarrah, Redgum, Paperbark, Blackboy, (though supposed to call them grasstrees i think in order not to offend someone), Boronia, oceans of gold Morrison, Swamp Banksia, Bull Banksia, (wonder if that is offensive to cows).
Some people take up a big chunk of their ego with being offended.
Raised by rocks trees kangaroos sheep birds chooks pigs and dogs i didn't have a huge vocabulary. Could see and feel things though.
Lying on the ground, atoms melting into the earth, merging with the earth's energy and love field, sometimes could see everything.
Could talk to trees but only listen to rocks. They're the wisest people on the planet. Everything in my world is made of sticks and stones, rocks and trees. I heard a politician talking about 'treehuggers'. I thought he must be talking about me. I've been hugging trees since i could crawl.
Crawling through a patch of lupins one day, I'd felt the earth moving around, and knew if i kept crawling towards the sunset i would end up back in this place.
So i did that. A couple of times around it, and round about it.
I had grown up in paradise. I didn't know the world that humans had created.
Other than the whispers, of the economics of the great depression, the politics of war, social justice, and compassion. My parents never ever abused me, physically, emotionally, or psychologically. I grew up in love.