A postcard…

Greetings from Bundanon!

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When last I was here, at the height of summer 2014, the days were scorching. Now they are mild and the fields are Irish green.

Life is different in so many ways now – but one constant is my gratitude to Arthur Boyd and his family for the gift of this haven. There are four visual artists in nearby studios, and a musician up the hill. I think we’ve spoken for a total of fifteen minutes in the ten days I’ve been here. The deep silence works its magic and it has been a chance for me to stop and catch breath. I have gone to ground and applied myself, barely putting my head up for air.

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And I have been able to work… 

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Relief floods in…

This little missive is really just a quick hello from me and the wombats, as well as a heads-up to let you know that I was on Radio National’s Blueprint for Living, speaking to Sian Prior, author of the exquisite memoir Shy. We talked about my new home – pics and details in the next post if you keep scrolling down – in the Spirit of Place segment.

You can hear the podcast by clicking on that blue word that says “podcast”!

Wish you were here!

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From an absent friend…

IMG_5256Last time I wrote, I spoke of my superstition that January can foretell the year. In some ways it did. I’m in-residence again, this time at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in the foothills outside Perth.

What I couldn’t have guessed when I wrote from Bundanon was that I would get glandular fever, and with it a master class in s-l-o-w. Hence my lengthy absence, for which I apologise.

The community at this site – my “village” – has been a constant for me since before Sinning Across Spain was released, and I value the comments and care I’ve received from you here, so to have gone AWOL feels neglectful. I’ve been an absent friend.

I’m sorry.

IMG_0278While I’ve been here in Perth – almost four weeks now – the temperature has only dropped below 30 degrees on two occasions. Today it was 37 again. The trees outside my cabin drop their bark as though they’re being stifled by layers of cardigans. The clay earth has closed over completely, trying to retain what little moisture it holds. Magpies and crows start the day with loud calls, wheeling between the trees and past my window. But by day’s end, they can barely hop, and their voices are little more than faint squawks.

IMG_5306The sunsets from my writing perch, looking down to the city, have been end-of-worldly.

I am cocooned in this cabin, just down the hill from Katharine’s place. I’m aware of her and of her work every time I open the door to sniff the air. “Get back inside,” I hear her scold. “Stay still and conserve your energy for your work.”

Everyone tells me to conserve my energy. I’m not sure how to do that. It has never been an issue for me before. I’m on a different camino. I’m learning…learning…

The lessons of the guru-snail.

Listen to the internal rhythms. Slow. Stop.

I’ve barely left this piece of land in all the time I’ve been in the west, but last weekend my sister took me to Cottesloe to see the sculptures there. It happened to be one of the two cool days, and the breeze was intoxicating. I crawled along, more entranced by the sea and the salt spray than by any of the installations, wonderful as they were. Moisture, cool, families, movement, swimmers, music, gulls wheeling…

Ken Unsworth's Entry in Sculpture by the Sea

Ken Unsworth’s Entry in Sculpture by the Sea

Life jostled about me, and it was good to be among it again. Good to see the whirling and colours and to hear shouts and laughter, the rhythm of running feet on pavement.

No. Not mine!

After less than an hour of toddling like a two year old on wobbly pins, I was ready to go. When you’ve been so solitary, the world is a wonder. Almost too much.

But no. Never too much. Never.

I know it’s there waiting. And I’m coming back, world. Yes I am.

S-l-o-w-l-y.

Meantime, may good health and strong legs be yours, ever and ever. Walk strong. xxx

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Spot the fevered pilgrim photographing the wondrous mirror-dog, if you can

PS. Thank you Alanna for all your help. I couldn’t have done it without you, mysis.

Starting as I hope to go on

Bundanon window

Bundanon window

Happy, healthy, creative, joyous, surprising, peaceful new year!.

I’ve a private superstition that January foretells the year to come. Sometimes I can shape it. Sometimes I can’t.

This year, it shaped me, I hope.

I’ve been at Bundanon, the remarkable property on the Shoalhaven river that was gifted to the nation in 1993 by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd, for artists to come and work in solitude.

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I’ve had two weeks here, with mostly only wombats and kangaroos for company.

Excellent companions

Excellent companions

Oh, and the characters in my next book…

Work begins on the draft

Work begins on the draft

It is set in two worlds, one red and one green, one then and one now. It is a story about stories and a search to find a home. Isn’t that what all stories are ultimately about?

My then and my now

My then and my now

And tonight is my last night in this breathtaking place. I’m so grateful for the time. The natural world is my paradise, as you know, and Bundanon has fed and fed me.

 

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The cicadas…

the spiders…

the wrens…

the wagtails…

All of them colluding to take me deeper.

IMG_4996The river…

the rocks…

the ferns…

the gums…

Oh those gums, so varied and so true.

My saints, my markers…

Walking my way through and over this land, but being walked by it too.

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The silence of the deep full moon night and the misty early mornings. The intense heat of the first week. The moist mildness of this second week. All, all…gifts. Reminders of the natural world and how it longs to support us if we will only give it time. If we will only pay attention…

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I have produced so much more than I dared hope here. Can’t believe it really. And the miracle is that I get to return in April for a third week.

Tomorrow I leave, but I’m so grateful and amazed to have had this time, just as I am to wake each morning on this beautiful land. It has set me on track for the year, I hope.

May your year be fulfilling and may the way be clear.
May wonder be your default setting, every day.

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Happy new(ish) year.
Buen camino.

Postscripts…

Here’s a link to a recent piece for Eureka Street. I feel pretty passionate about this one.

And if you’d like to get a feel for the studio space I was in at Bundanon, click on this link to watch a short video. I like the sentiment on that little heart!