It’s a warm Thursday afternoon in the middle of the summer school holidays. The sun is shining, the cicadas are chirping, and I’m listening to classical music.
DAY 3 started out very well. I smashed out 1700 words very quickly, caught up with a friend for coffee, uploaded some new art to my RedBubble portfolio, picked up the kids from school, took them to the public library for our weekly book borrowing session, Child No. 2 got to ballet lessons on time (a victory in its own right), washed the dishes, helped Child No. 2 finish a project in which she got to interview some wonderful immigrant friends about their experiences moving to Australia, and even got in some time playing Townsmen – all before The Husband got home from work.
DAY 4 sees me starting the day with 5,257 words. To be on par I need 6,667 words by the end of today. But as weekends are generally not good for me when it comes to writing, because I don’t have the luxury of silence and solitude afforded to me by school days when the kids are out, I need to try to get as close to 10,000 words as possible by the end of the school day. It’s late morning now and already I have gone for a half hour walk in the magnificent spring sunshine. We recently moved house and it was my first lone venture into the wilds of our new suburb. It’s hilly, and filled with countless beautiful gardens that line the borders of the prestigious retirement village next to Child No. 1’s school. I’ve played with the cats, brought in a load of washing, filled the car with petrol – so now, unless I find another procrastination option (like WordPress!), I have no excuses.
While my blog “proper” hasn’t had much action, I’ve been compiling posts about the topic of joining and leaving my former church. I know this isn’t a topic that will interest most of my readers, but as I go through the process of leaving, and the psychological and emotional healing that it demands, I’ve been journalling some of it. I have shared a few of my thoughts on here in a new section. If this interests you, you may find the posts under the heading “Wandering the Spiritual Desert.” I can’t say it enough, but these are personal, journal-type writings (though adapted for the blog audience): that is, they’re not attempts to state a universal truth of any sort. I freely acknowledge that my faith experiences may be vastly different to other people, even to other people who have been a part of the same religious community. It is in no way intended as an attempt to convert or deconvert people to or from any particular faith position. It is best read as personal narrative, with all the limitations of individual perspective that entails.
In other news, I’ve been focusing on my art instead of writing in the last two months. I hope to scan and share some of this art on my blog in the near future! Thanks to all my readers who continue to subscribe: it’s very much appreciated!
I am also already starting work on my NaNoWriMo planning. November 2016 will be my fourth Nano and I’m preparing earlier and earlier each time. One of the biggest time-drains on my writing is choosing character names, so at this stage my Scrivener layouts mostly involve lists of names and their meanings, possible alternate spellings, and attempts to describe the kind of character to which they will best apply.
That said, I am enjoying working on developing the story so much that I will likely start writing it before Nano – in which case I will resort to a Star Wars: The Force Awakens fan fiction that I’ve also been planning but don’t necessarily want to write because I just feel totally awkward about letting people into that part of my brain (it contains far more adult themes than the film ought to generate).
Memories. Circa 1989. Aged somewhere between 8 and 10. South-east Victoria, Australia.
It was December. Warm summer afternoon sunlight shone down on the backyard. When I was a child, that yard seemed so large and so magical. The hydrangea by the verandah shaded a soft living carpet of baby’s tears plants and moss. There were trees: frangipani, with its bursts of flowers and wattle birds hopping between its branches; a young silver birch with long draping branches; and the apple tree. A winding path led from the verandah steps to the back gate that opened out onto a gravel laneway. Other children lived on the laneway, and we built a cubby house from branches and bark under the tall old eucalypts behind the back fence. Magpies sang among the gum branches, and blackbirds sang from the top of the fence. From a particular vantage point on the verandah I could see my grandparents’ house, a few streets away. It seemed like such an enormous distance and a vast view. Between their house and mine was a large playground, swampy paddocks with herds of beef cattle, and houses. Funny how in a small town it’s still possible to not know everyone.
I lay on the trampoline. One of those big rectangular ones with exposed springs and none of the safety nets that my own children now take for granted. I could hear the neighbours’ family playing cricket. They must have been visiting for Christmas. Every so often a tennis ball would ricochet off the rubbish bin stumps and come sailing over the fence. At least it was tennis balls and not lemons, I guess. I begrudgingly threw it back, becoming increasingly infuriated by the interruption to my meditations. I was trying to recapture a moment. An earlier memory from when I was maybe six or seven. That had happened while lying in the same spot – though perhaps on the grass. It was probably in the days pre-trampoline. There was a small swing set there, too.
I had this overwhelming sense that in this spot I had once connected with God. It is the earliest spiritual memory I still have. There are glimpses, going a long way back, of church and religious school, but this one stands as a very sharp, defined moment in my earliest recollections. And so I sensed Him – It, Her, They, I didn’t presume to know – in the vast masses of cumulus solemnly sailing through the shockingly blue sky. It was my own personal Jacob’s ladder. A mystical sense that there was, almost certainly, a link between my small mortal frame and the vastness of this life force or spirit that I personified as the God I had learned about in Mass. Nowadays I would describe it as a Thin Place, where the veil between the worlds was permeable. I could peer into a realm where Time itself had no meaning. There were angels there, too, classical, beautiful and masculine beings like those in the old Catholic artworks.
When I was ten we moved out of that house. We were still in the same town – I even took the same school bus, just took it from a different stop, and for years thereafter the driver waved hello whenever he saw me – but moving to the other edge of the town felt like half a world away. My cats were buried there. The trees full of song birds were there. The kids I knew were just a back gate and stroll down the lane away. My first Thin Place was there. It had been my great-grandparents’ house and while I never knew them, traces of their lives and legacy were strewn throughout that home. Gone was the pastel pink wallpaper I’d excitedly helped choose when my parents renovated the house. The plants we grew: poppies along the northern wall of the house, veggies right down the back, the nasturtiums with their population of cabbage moth caterpillars, the sprawling passionfruit vine, and the gums along the lane framing the view to the swampy farmland in the valley. I couldn’t look out of the front window anymore to see the horses lined up at the recreation reserve before the annual agricultural show’s equestrian competitions, nor hear the masked lapwings circling angrily when the weekly tennis club disturbed their nests. I couldn’t see my grandparents’ house from the verandah anymore, and in the new house the view between us was obscured by the hills. (I was later surprised to discover that I could see our new house peering through the chicken wire fence at the edge of my primary school oval.) I was devastated in ways my limited language was unable to express. I came down with a nasty flu shortly thereafter, and I do think that time marked the beginning of my depression. But no ten year old can likely say, in a coherent and self-reflective fashion, “I’m really struggling with the grief of this major transition in my life, to the extent it’s clouding my ability to manage my internal thought world.” It would be twenty years before I finally got help.
And I did eventually find other Thin Places. Looking out over my other grandparents’ farm, alone, rain beating my face and wind soughing through the tops of the cypresses. The beach. The bush. Anywhere with flowing water. Silent moments in church, and sometimes, moments when the flickering candle light reflecting off the stained glass windows and the voices of the faithful singing soared and though they were raw and imperfect and sometimes seemed lost in the hugeness of the sanctuary, it was as though they rose to heaven like incense. But nothing ever again quite broke through the veils between the worlds the way that had happened lying there under the vast expanse of clouds in the yard that then seemed like a world unto itself.
I am currently decluttering my RedBubble Portfolio, to make way for more recent art that best represents who I am now, as well as to make it easier for customers to navigate the available products for sale. As a result I will be sharing some of my old creative writings here on WordPress, as a way of preserving them. In several cases my mind, opinions, beliefs, values and overall understanding of life have changed since the time I wrote these pieces, but I still feel that they are personally valuable reminders of the various stages of my life journey thus far.
As I wrote on the original piece here, swamps are a powerful symbol or archetype for me, and a theme to which I continually return… as long-time readers and followers of my blogs and art sites will know.
This piece of writing was first posted at my RedBubble Creative Writing Portfolio.
Date of original post: 24 November 2010
Total views, at 2 May 2016: 277
It’s lonely here in the swamp.
Only frogs and waterbirds for company
and it’s not like they can talk with me.
What does a duck think about, anyway?
I could stand in the murky depths all day
until my skin is stained with dirt.
Still it seems to me that they’re better company than humans.
People are hurtful, painful, messy.
Full of horrors.
They plot the many ways they will hurt me.
Here among the snakes and fish and mosquitoes,
the creatures, they do not plot and plan and invent ways of evil.
They exist, they act, they behave according to their ways,
but they are not man that they should seek to harm or destroy.
And so I cloister myself in nature’s monastery,
in the solemn solitude and darkness of the waters and the trees
and meditate on that which drove me here.