Great Uncle Hermit

I awoke today as they made way for a decent view of another mountain.

An extraneous, under-fruiting mango tree was lopped in favour of the outlook, with a softly-spoken electric chainsaw.

The light is disappearing now and so is the newly visible peak, a perfect meringue in the distance.

The nearer peak follows you around the hinterland like the Mona Lisa.

I have a great great uncle who was a hermit. My grandfather and his father used to ride bikes from Newcastle to visit him. We have a photo of his grass hut, ironically located a stone’s throw from where his nephew would retire, decades later. It looks like a fiction, a wannabe design concept for a film probably starring Tom Hanks.

As kids, my cousins and I used to play in the surf, within what would have been spitting distance from his “secluded” hovel.

I wonder what happened to him.

The darkened mountainside is twinkling with headlights. There’s a bird who just won’t quit, night and day she wails. Sings? No, wails.

And I keep moving belongings from one side of a table to another, to a bedside, to the verandah, to my pocket, I just can’t get more outtatheway.

Get off the road, you drongo!

Hugging the side of the mountain like life itself as I wind on down to the ocean in the Corolla, getting myself out of the way like great, Great Uncle So-and-So, right on in where the forest meets the sea.

I quietly deposit myself into the ocean, I am a self-burping baby. It’s a relief.

We all have instruments of self-pacification. It’s probably good to have a varied toolkit. Not too varied, but varied enough.

I float on the surface, letting my ears fill up, for a minute.

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14.08.18

We’ve been kissing the edges of a few one-horse towns for a few days now, and it feels like a game of cat-and-mouse with my own sense of waywardness.

We obnoxiously clank our oversized suitcases into an undersized old miner’s hut wedged between fluorescent fields of canola. We light a fire and play scissors-paper-rock for bedrooms. I grab the key and drive. I’m looking for some sense of history before the sun goes down, or in the very least, outwardness. I find ducks and geese at the creek. Nothing to feed them with.

The regional art centre has closed for the day, and all the crumbling heritage buildings are actually just people’s homes and they are all going about their lives and not inviting me in for a tea (!).

I’m looking for something historic while they move past me.

I take a carrot up to the Shetland ponies at the end of the street. They are frustrated at my diffidence.

We film a final scene for Tom’s film on his phone in the back shed under a sliver of a crescent moon and the clear sky is brisk, icy. We rush back in and eat soup.

I am swallowed by a sinking mattress in a silent town ensconced in canola and sheep for miles on all sides.

I don’t entirely know where I am. In fact, I entirely don’t know where I am.

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‘It’s just like a painting.’

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Being on the move feels like having a birds-eye view of the country.

It’s the                gaps,

the        spaces      between          places, full-up with nothing, that are the most telling. It’s those first tentative forays into Town, the clenched teeth and and partially-open mouths as we turn onto

Main Street,

Anzac Highway,

High Road,

Arterial Pass

[etc.]

The lazy, 10km/hr turns off the main drag, eyes wide open and bleary, bellies empty, armpits warm, throats hoarse.

The back of my neck is strained from maintaining an

inquisitive mandible.

‘This rock looks like a galaxy’

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I awake from a dream in which I have been singing all-too-literal songs to my all-too-literal critics, and they are heartfelt and detailed and straight-shooting songs, and she tells me to join a choir and sing.

I awake to taste black coffee that gives me a natsukashii feeling, a vibe of a black coffee from a faraway city,

              and I am in a faraway city that feels European and ‘country’

but

it’s neither of those things. Domestic travel always makes me feel further away than I am.

I gulp down this coffee to taste it like it is a

literal cup

of memory,

like it’s tethered to my lovely dream in which I sang my heart out and it didn’t matter and literal meanings burst right out of skeletons of metaphors,

refusing to be ambiguous.

Yesterday a friend read my tarot cards as we looked out over fake turf and a concrete wall.

I crossed my legs tighter, shrugging off the cold as I drank in meaning like it’s this here memory-coffee.

‘Ace of cups

mmmm I get it’.

One card jumped out of her hand like a bat out of hell and we both agreed it speaks volumes. Voluminous.

Loud and Clear.

This house is haunted, I’m sure of it. The first night was Hell.

My friend went in and

reasoned

with the ghosts.

The third, Heaven.

Thank [Someone] I have a spiritualist,

full of reason, to protect me.

So many superstitions, and all at once!

 

Unforeseen lines and wisps of hair tinged with ash begin to make themselves known in quiet and undercover ways on my person.

I am young, so young, I am told and it is true. Crease-able flesh reminds me, oh but

this is

but the beginning!

These silly little lines, these beginnings of a caricature of the passing of time will slowly move into real and actual pencilled impressions on my face. Expressions of experience. I smile again to make them known. I was told I would hate them. Why would they lie to me like that, all of them?

And as I move flesh aside in pieces, one on each side, to fold forward into Paschimottanasana, I feel stronger with these

flanks.

Pinch me,

these flanks,

I’m right here!

They vibrate, bare, as I trot (gingerly still – of course, because I am a young woman) to the bathroom in the cold of the early morning, picking up dust and white dog hairs on the soles of my sticky, not-old-not-young-maybe-young feet.

“That’ll be the 6.35 from Melbourne”

I’ve been perambulating the same little circular world for some time now. I’d like to see, from the air, what my movements would look like if they were to be drawn in chalk. Would they be ovoid as I imagine they are – circular and yet, on occasion, attempting to reach a finer point but lacking the precision; the conviction?

Would seeing the shape of my earthly scratchings really encourage me to see how I should move differently? Or, as the case may be, move at all? Is moving in a grid more, or just as, productive? Or is it less, in the sense that it betrays your understanding of what is truly productive and efficient?

I’d  like to jump into an ovoid pool, and perambulate it (or, perhaps, circumambulate it!),  just to really,

really,

really see

what it is i’m

missing.

Perhaps all this talk of seeing this little world here from the air is explained by my deep, inexplicable (now explicable?) urge to live directly below the flight path.

My lover and I cock our heads awkwardly up at the low fliers, the trans-oceanic birds, those utterly unnatural “miraculous” creations, as we wait for our dog  to finish shitting and sniffing, as the sun rises over Victorian terraces. We let our jaws hang low, and I almost fear that one may quietly fly into my mouth while his back is turned. I could swallow the miracle of flight and

maybe

no one

would ever                                                                                                         know?

You know, if the timing was right?

There’s always salt water

And my Id*l talks of those early childhood memories as a collection of moments when the gears of the heart really change. Thank you for that, and I have to agree. I watch holidayers navigate the rockpools, dressed for summer on the bottom and winter on the top, ignoring, through gritted teeth, the unseasonable windchill and wondering if the sky looks this dark two hours north of here. My beer bottle sings to me, or perhaps it’s sirening the lone kayaker lazily paddling against a slow-moving channel back towards the inlet. The turquoise waters before me are deceptively inviting, I fell for that yesterday afternoon. I never regret a bone-chilling dip, mind you. Not once in my life have I wanted to rewind to the moment before I slipped gingerly in. And this particular pool has the make and feel of that which is constructed by someone holy, for sacred purposes. Perhaps because we step in slowly, one foot at a time, and emerge again after two deep breaths, no more, with painfully satisfied looks on our faces. We swaddle each other in damp towels against the wind, peer out at the golden sliver of sand across the bay which dwindles like a torn-off fingernail, and decide on roast chook for dinner.

I’ll wash up then.

No, don’t you lift a finger tonight.

A dosi-do, a pantomime of lovingpoliteness.

Inevitably, something will happen.

As for the childhood memories, the changed gears of the heart—yes, I think so. There’s a waterbird whose call is outrageous and dorky. It calls, and there I am in Sylvester pyjamas, tucked in too tight, hearing it cackle and faff overhead, wondering where it’s headed. It calls out across the water now, and I see it. A face is put to the call, and it is not noisy and stupid, but small and majestic. It is not a rager but a serious fisherman. Its legs are not gangly but specific; pristine.

Again, as for the gears of the heart – yes, there is a learned open melancholy which sets in on a coast such as this, it is unmistakeable and mysteriously familiar. What happens when a general melancholy becomes a general nostalgia?

There’s always salt water, the reset button. Wake up tomorrow and start the game again.