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  • Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Page 1 of 2 pages 1 2 Info Credo Success Brief Life Contact Gallery Search this site The Little Green Grammar Book does for grammar what The Little Red Writing Book does for style The book shorter than it s red progenitor and Excerpt from The Little Green Grammar Book Recent Post Why Write Prize Life Praise Life Getting Over Your

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  • to ten share work over three months and under my guidance learn from each other from what each other learns and from the wisdom that usually arises out of such an endeavour conducted in trust in a safe and inspiring place The cowshed classes cater for aspiring and practising poets memoirists essayists and storytellers short and long fiction and nonfiction especially those with a manuscript in mind or underway If you look in Gallery you ll find some pictures taken at one recent session They give you an idea of the setting the mood and the mode Classes run over three months We meet every other Saturday In between participants rework workshopped copy and make new work In the days before each session everyone shares new writing by email with me and their fellow shedders The idea is to help writers advance their skills and for those writers already a little down the path to further a manuscript in the making I have some things plenty of things to say about the disciplines of beauty the making of a line the arc of a narrative the integrity of one s voice the uses of cliche and so on but most of what I share arises out of our shared consideration of each other s writing and writing journey Along with my fellow cowshedders I offer generous and specific critical responses to participants work But the larger part of my job is to create an atmosphere in which cowshedders feel safe about taking artistic risks about deepening into themselves their voices and stories and learning and applying new skills Work made or redeemed in the cowshed has been published in literary journals and two or three books worked and reworked in the shed have found their way into print Poets have found themselves and their forms here Short story writers have found their self belief Memoirists have remembered their mojo I run two cowshed classes each year one in autumn the other in srping Watch my website for dates As well as the longhaul cowshed classes I run weekend intensives in the shed a couple of times a year one for creative writing of all kinds another for poetry now and then one in nature writing or essay Check out Cowshed Shortcourses for details and watch my site for dates And you might come for the shed and the writing tuition but you will probably end up staying for the food The cowshed classes are already famous for Maree s catering which embodies on the table what we try to practise on the paper the disciplines of beauty So come to the shed for the gentle exacting discipline come to get to the end of a manuscript and make it the best thing it can be come for the charm of the shed and the paddocks down the back and the hens in the garden outside come for the food You won t be the same when you leave Some comments

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  • Progress Questions Info Credo Success Brief Life Contact Gallery Search this site A reminder that I m sharing a reading with the great Australian poet my friend Robert Gray at Blue Metal Vineyard Berrima this Friday evening 29 Excerpt from Blue Gray Red Recent Post Why Write Prize Life Praise Life Getting Over Your Self A Peaceable Revolution Cool Web The Lyric Stance Voice Place and the Lyric Essay Nature

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  • clever and penultimate mess we ve made of our time on earth the more we get the less we have till time herself is running out But listen there s weather on the river now like Bach on the radio and one hopes it never ends There s coffee in my mouth and the whole day at least ahead and I look and the cormorant is gone III Later I come outside and stand again in the perpetual rain and ask the river how we are hedging our doom Twelve pelicans fall from the cloud and ski for fifty metres to a standstill and something tells me our landing won t be as soft But what would a river know about doom in particular ours and what would a pelican do but fledge its young and curse the rain and fish the river dry I sit where I sat this morning and I watch the day drown and there s weather on the river now like a phonecall after midnight and grief is the colour of the bottom of the sky There s weather on the river now like children in the playground and mercy s the lamp in the evening s tent She s the gelatin scrim on the face of the water the daub of forlorn incandescence upon mangroves and fishing boats the yellow of the pelican s eye There s weather on the river now like cluster bombs on Babylon and fear is the wrack line on the wrong side of the street There s weather on the river now like a change in the government and hope is the thing with feathers And as I watch she turns and beats her wings and then she walks and then she runs and then she rises like some plump and indefatigable martyr up into the unending rain and she passes under the bridge and tracks the river down to the sea a thing she s always done and never stops at all IV A prayer for my daughter For Lucy Beatrice There were thirteen winds and a symphony in F there were six or seven varieties of rain the afternoon you came there was a lullaby and a mountain range a vivid orogeny of birth that shaped itself like earth in her own making beside us the chart of your ecstatic arrival In the room we kept the radio on and it was seventeen eighty four all hour the time of the composer s life and the orchestra of the age of the enlightenment played for you were coming to us out of darkness into the afternoon of a warring world sometime late in the Holocene this doomed and beautiful era of men and a woman cried Here I am even deeper in the labyrinth and outside in silence the sky drew itself together fell dark and broke open and on those thirteen winds one for every angle of the hour and one for all eternity and between

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  • MARK WRITING TEACHING CONSULTING NEWS Label Letter From Cowshed Poems Books Critiques Essays Nature Works In Progress Search this site

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  • WRITE WHAT YOU DON T KNOW What beyond the poetics to which I ll return makes Judith Beveridge s fictive poetry especially remarkable is how little she draws on her lived experience Write what you know they tell you in fiction writing workshops Though novelists invent worlds their fabrications seem most real when the author draws on what she knows and loves But Judith Beveridge has hardly stepped in a boat she s rarely cast a line she s never I think mended a net She has not ever disembowelled a shark You can tell though she s walked rivers and watched shorebirds fish the estuary at dusk and she has eyed octopus and shark through aquarium glass But on the whole and very deliberately Judith Beveridge has chosen to write in Storm and Honey precisely what she does not know Her poetic project here is to throw poems like nets into the unknown Into the world of what she longs to know In all but two or three poems in this collection Beveridge chooses not to wonder about reality by dropping lines deep into her self the way Montaigne and Augustine do in essay and Plath and the memoirist poets such as Charles Wright and Philip Levine do in poetry poets whose work Beveridge admires but does not emulate Instead she fishes other lives and lines of work and suffering and joy which she has never lived or even rubbed shoulders with She wants to leave herself behind to find the world She wants to ask her version of the poetic questions by sustained acts of imagination None of this has much to do with the suspense and plot and narrative arc what Beveridge achieves is not a novelisation of the real world Her poetry is enacted empathy She writes the Other she writes it real But the thing is you d never know that she never knew Beveridge makes herself literate through research as fastidious as her imaginings are generous in the names of things and the way they go in the worlds she is drawn to write She learns the verbs and nouns in which other livings are made She gets the detail so right you know these men these jellyfish these microbes exist nothing real has more vivacity and pulse Consider for instance what you need to know to write of the old fisherman Delancey in his shack rubbing away at a spark plug yellow as a dugong s tooth or of Grennan and Davey flensing and flinching and opening up the shark Think how at ease you have to get with your subject his work and his lingo to have the young fisherman say in The Trawlers Soon I ll ease down my head pour everything out pack everything in feel my dreams churn like sea wrack at tide turn in the cold cut of the wind It makes me tired just thinking about what Judith Beveridge has had to find out about fishing tackle and technique the taxonomies of fish and weather and the lore of the sea to write these fishing poems and have us believe them as well as anything we ve ever believed in our lives Judith Beveridge in her poems apprentices herself to what she does not know she teaches us who we are by writing about who she isn t Octavio Paz defined the work of love and poetry as giving a face to the Other that which she whom one loves and is not and can never really know Judith Beveridge gives a face to her fishermen and the world they inhabit to the seas they fish and the knots they tie and the weather they live by and the birds they roughly admire And by means of the care she takes in the library and then in the making and casting of her lines she lets us see in the face of this Other our own LEARNING THE LANGUAGE OF WHAT YOU LOVE Water Sapphire the second part of Storm and Honey contains a dozen poems that slipped the net of Driftgrounds A number hold water but none go fishing These are personal confessional lyrics or recollections they are voiced by the poet not her fisherman And they include notwithstanding what I wrote about the fishing poems the best poems in a very strong collection Herons at Dusk Rain The Mosquito Riffs and Plaints and Appaloosa Appaloosa a poem about horses and longing and what one suspects is Judith Beveridge s deepest love the vernacular music of language stands as a metaphor for her approach to poetry especially the empathetic narrative poems that characterise this volume I have never been bumped in a saddle she begins and I have never counted the slow four beat pace of distinct successive hoofbeats and I have never stepped my hands over the flanks of a spotted mare nor ridden a Cleveland Bay carriage horse nor made clicking noises with my tongue during the fifty kilometres to town with a baulking gelding and a green quartertop buggy But everything about the texture and rhythm and insider s diction and fine detail of the writing tells you she has And no doubt she hasn t but the point is her point maybe but certainly mine that there is a knowledge you can enter into by casting your imagination out there with love and by learning the language and letting it play in your mouth and fingers You can inhabit others lives if you can fledge yourself from your self The poem might almost be read as Beveridge s poetic credo write the places and lives where the words that you love in which you recognise some of who you really are lead you Learn the language for what you love follow the words where they take you Be there a while Find yourself there GIVING A FACE TO NATURE Notwithstanding the beauty and verisimilitude her portraits of Delancey Grennan Davey the young fisherman and Lingo egrets and herons are the heroes here When the herons quietly step they make even the stilts and avocets neat stabs along the sand seem like slapstick they make the routines of all who fish along the shore at dusk seem overweighted and vaudevillian And look How they stand at last stilled to perfection Herons at Dusk Beveridge s lyric empathy and fastidious mindfulness extend not only to fellow men completely unlike herself but to the nonhuman citizens of the places she writes she practises a kind of ecological imagination which never collapses into anthropomorphism on turtles and rays skates and urchins and pipefish octopus whose arms now seem to be conducting music to four distinct orchestras and shark how its eyes keep staring colder than time in the last poem in the book The Aquarium Even perhaps especially to them the profoundly Other even to the landscapes the animals those other nations walk and fly and swim Beveridge gives a face MENDING YOUR NETS THE FAITH THAT A FISH MIGHT RISE If I refer now to a text from the New Testament I don t want anyone to get the wrong idea Despite appearances I m not taking a religious turn not a Christian one anyway As it happens Judith Beveridge has a strain of fairly fundamental Christianity running through her life story but not through her poetry She s left behind the narrowness and dogma that attend to much Christian observance but she s carried with her into her life and work the caritas and agape that are the real and only useful teachings of Christianity She s found as some other fine poets have too richer articulations of the Truth more suggestive metaphors more helpful divinities and more productive practices of mind and heart in the spiritual systems of the East I too escaped a Christian childhood more or less intact and found my way in time to what Aldous Huxley calls the perennial philosophy I found it as Huxley did observed more beautifully subtly profoundly sensuously in art and poetry and liturgies less bounded perhaps by the pieties of the Christian tradition I knew as a boy When the other month a Christian missionary asked me in a pub in Newcastle yes the Missionary was in the pub what I believed in I said poetry and beauty And something else that should stay where I said it Nonetheless there s some good writing in the Bible and one day last year when I was looking for way to organise some ideas about writing for an address to some Christian writers I turned to my grandfather s preaching bible which I keep on my desk and it fell open at Luke Chapter 5 It s the bit where Jesus finds Simon and some other fishermen washing their nets buggered after a day s fruitless fishing and he asks them to carry him a little from land into Lake Gennesaret so he might do some teaching without getting crushed by a growing throng When he s done preaching he tells Simon and the others launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught They tell him they ve fished all night and caught nothing but they push out and drop their nets anyway and lo and behold they inclosed a great multitude of fishes and their net brake What I made of that passage when I spoke to the faithful was this the call to writing may come at any time and often it will come when you feel worn out from fishing all day for your subject from working too hard to discover your voice when most of what you wanted to say seems to have refused your bait or been fished out already and when you are sitting empty on the equivalent of the shore mending distractedly but with skill the equivalent of your nets Learning to wait without hope for poetry to come is part of the trick of poetry The larger part Another large part is the mending of the nets learn the craft master sentences practise tying them together so they hold when the time comes so they re good for catching fish when they rise Let inspiration catch you in the act in other words of the hard and unbeautiful labour the getting ready and the mending afterwards that is most of what writing is Be ready Though her fishermen are tough and secular if capable of such vernacular liturgy as I like it to bitch box its hisses I like the full clack and brattle and not just have it chitter like a sorry crab Judith Beveridge is unlikely to be unaware of the New Testament suggestions of her fishing poems But that is neither here nor there My point is that just as the passage in Luke might be glossed as a parable about the hard work that underpins art and lays a writer open to grace so the knot tying and casting and scuttling and gaffing and flensing and trawling and cleaning up after of the fishermen in Beveridge s poems might be read as metaphors for what it takes to make poetry and though she would not say this I can to make work now and then as beautiful and apparently effortless as hers The poet learns by sticking at her poetry the way the fisher sticks at his fishing she fails again and fails better she works at her technique till her technique becomes a practice and her practice becomes an art Judith Beveridge at her lines is Grennan at his nets So in this volume even more perhaps than in The Domesticity of Giraffes Accidental Grace and Wolf Notes each poems feels almost perfectly judged just about the right length and her lengths vary from two stanzas to five pages neither too closed nor too open at its end the line breaks deftly made to hold the poem poised like the heron between grace and murder the poem in nearly every case justifying and transcending the form the poet chooses for it And the forms are many longline couplets quatrains quintrains sestets short and long lined tercets free verse in ragged right and justified columns the more baroque sound sculptures of Rain and Appaloosa each a kind of visual onomatopoeia for its subject and the variety is satisfying Beveridge seems the master the captain one might suggest of each vessel she chooses for her utterances But there are no prose poems this time there were some fine prose poems in Wolf Notes The Superintendant of Pastimes Exsanguination and Whisky Grass and one misses them here But not too long THE SEA OF METAPHOR The poems in Storm and Honey are a masterclass in metaphor and diction they are a trove of similes and lapidary verbs list some each as fit for its purpose lithe and sui generis as the hooks in Grennan s tackle box Hooks Important matters of meter and form aside it is compression and freshness of language nouns and verbs in particular and the deft employment of tropes metaphors in particular that make a set of words a poem Rather than say a shopping list or a piece of prose A poem can tell a story and Beveridge s do it should probably try to mean something rather than nothing but what makes it a poem is everything it does that it doesn t have to do merely to mean something and get the story told With Judith Beveridge though she makes elegant sense and keeps her narrative arcing meaningfully and suspensefully up you know without question what you re reading is a poem I ve talked already about the care Beveridge takes to find and use the diction of her fishermen and their ecologies But beyond the compelling aptness of her nouns and verbs Beveridge uses words and phrases that thrill a reader or shudder you because like the water at dusk or the casuarinas in the early morning on the scarp they are in their sound and shape and suggestion beautiful Astonishing Just so They are something way beyond what they need to be they do much more than they have to without wasting a breath without missing or adding a beat Her phrase making has a music both wild and necessary There is no sophistry in her diction though Beveridge he doesn t use language to baffle or dissemble or impress She uses it the way the sky uses weather the way fish use water the heron uses its bill The kind of vivid grace she achieves doesn t happen by accident but it is offered modestly almost incidentally As a gift Each day we go out among the slippery stench of weather s trouble to work like sea bulls in the rain s surge and swell Each day we follow lightning s flickering pulse the black slough when clouds flume their tempests We see squid turn orange red green in a spectrum of unearthly dawns At 5 am There are other poems in the second part of this collection that seem to revel in and play with language its sensuous possibilities that seem almost to put a case for poetry The Mosquito Riffs and Plaints is one I prefer the cicada s stroboscopic glitzy aural brandishings And the bee s legato burr even the blowfly s whirr when heat keeps the pedal down I prefer the damaged ringing of my inner ear and yes say it everything turning tintinnabular than to hear this stylus burdened insect pest mimicking a tiny current s hum and hiss this long nosed diva floating above my breath Mosquito you sing into my ear as if it were your mosque but I m waiting for you with my aerosols around the back end of spring I m waiting Morse quito for my had to slap a message Back just once loudly and quick as your electric dialect The Mosquito Riffs and Plaints Rain is the second Listen to the punning and aural aerobatics there see the imagery sacred and profane Rain has the same kind of fun with a much more sympathetic subject Rain rain The cascading rain outrunning its own skeins in the lilting Dark The loquacious rain glissading across The drip garrulous leaves Tipsy Rain puddling wetting its own socks So you see what I mean about metaphors Those passages contain only slightly more than the average concentration of simile and other metaphors you ll find in the rest of the poems in the book The final poem The Harbour is almost an essay in simile and a tribute not just to Robert Gray s poem Late Ferry but to Gray s particular gift and affection for the device Beveridge shares Gray s gift for simile she attends one feels to this aspect of the practice of poetry with both joy and discipline Here are a few more of the metaphors that festoon this book The trawlers are slanting moving across thick dossiers of water the wind dictating urgent demanding a copybook hand The Trawlers And notice that wonderful line and stanza break Just then the rain ticks on the wheelhouse roof as though Kalahari tribesmen had gathered Tackle Lightning slips down the sky like a forkful of buttered sea worms At 5 am A thunderhead like an enormous decaying molar lightning shooting as quickly as cracked pain Dusk is spreading across the sky like a peach preserve The Point With every lurch of our boat I stagger trying to wear this gale like a fisherman s sweater Gale Near the pier another heron is holding its bill over the reeds as purposeful as a seiner with a marlinspike before it jabs then returns to its wire drawn stance as if all it must achieve now is to lift and pull itself into the distance like sail twine Herons at Dusk This collection of poems

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  • Project Republic ed Benjamin Jones and Mark McKenna 2013 Mark Tredinnick 1 We seem to me a people more than ready to leave home To take full imaginative possession of Read More Why Write Published Friday June 13 2014 Published In News An Early Thursday Morning Writing Credo Write what you don t know about what you do know James Galvin says Write your affections afflictions and addictions Write what always eludes you in what you love Write the Beloved in the world in yourself in your enemy in the dew Read More A Poet s Guide to Climate Change Published Saturday December 29 2012 Published In News My talk A Poet s Guide to Climate Change plays on Radio National tomorrow Sunday 30 December 2012 at 9 45 am Here s the link http www abc net au radionational programs ockhamsrazor a poet27s guide to climate change 4426198 You can read and download the transcript there after 30 December you can hear the talk by podcast Assuming the poles Read More Margaret River Sestets wins the Cardiff Poetry Prize 2012 Makes the Landscape flame and sing Published Tuesday December 04 2012 Published In News In June my poem Margaret

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  • on Boxing Day 2003 Had it happened under Sydney the city would have fallen to the ground Had it happened in the plateau our cottage would have ended up on the floor of the valley As it happened nothing happened Not yet The earth went on revolving without losing a beat Christmas Eve dawned on the plateau And Maree was washed up on its shore IV Six storms roll over us that afternoon They sweep across the plateau from the southwest The sky congeals and blackens in heavy winds and lets loose heavy showers of rain Between storms I hear the birds keening but Daniel s keeping fairly quiet His brother s asleep but the little bloke s raging against the dying of the light so when I think the weather s cleared I put him in the Bjørn and walk him up the drive and out onto our street I mean to walk him asleep in the arms of the afternoon and he surrenders almost as soon as I leave the house His head drops against my chest but I carry on I walk straight into the heaviest and suddenest storm of them all and I have to run for shelter under the awnings of the new house that s going up on the corner Daniel sleeps through the din and through the rougher music of my running right through the cold hard drops of rain that hit us like shot I stand under the fierce percussion the afternoon makes upon the awning and I watch how much water courses the roof spills the eves floods the downpipes on its way to the stormwater drains and in time to the valley This is an inundation It ll help the dam rise again enough to retake Jim s tank The rain that falls in the half hour I pace here with my sleeping child would keep this house in water for a couple of months not that they re catching it That s an old habit we ve lost and need to recall The rain eases back I wait for it to fall away to nothing but it comes on again heavier The next time it fades I run for home Who knows when this might end V On Christmas Day I miss my exit We re making for mum and dad s on the motorway I take the next exit and backtrack past the university I point out to Maree where six lanes of traffic now run where Christie Park once slept where I spent my childhood playing soccer inside the circle of the sandy trotting track and the scribblygums that hemmed it all in This place was not especially important to me but because of its effacement I find myself able to understand the grief that others feel when their homeplaces are drowned or burned or blown to bits or swept away when the face of the earth is altered and somewhere becomes nowhere I find myself saying this this Christmas day in the morning VI Boxing Day It s a year since Bam fell and thirty thousand people died I don t remember that until later Today is the first day of the Melbourne Test Match For twenty five years there s always been the Boxing Day Test and I m watching bits of it on the television when I am not being pulled outside by Henry to help him discover our garden and the path through the banksias and gums to the valley beyond This year we re playing Pakistan The sky is blue in Melbourne that s not traditional that s a miracle Cricket is a game in which almost anything can happen at any moment and usually doesn t And then suddenly it does That s its genius which it s showing off again this Boxing Day in Melbourne In cricket the real game is going on and it s always going on tides are turning between balls beneath the surface when nothing appears to be happening at all Like geophysics like plate tectonics Two minutes before noon getting on for lunch at the MCG the earth trembles Not that we noticed at the time How is it that this oblate spheroid the earth can be shaken so hard it shudders from its axis as it spins and the day loses three microseconds of its length right there and yet the trajectory of a cricket ball in Melbourne and the concentration of one man watching it in Katoomba are unaffected The Australia plate is on the move again But what it does this time makes the Macquarie Ridge quake look like a Sunday School picnic like a game of cricket In this moment just before eight in the morning local time something happens that would normally take three hundred years Along a 1200 kilometre front the leading edge of the Australia plate slips fifteen metres under the Burma plate The seabed on the north side of this subduction shoots up ten metres in an instant It is a violent movement of the earth radical and massive Its epicentre lies just west of the northern tip of Sumatra Islands nearby shift twenty metres north the northern tip of Sumatra travels thirty six metres in a split second They feel it in Aceh and Java they feel it way up in Thailand As well they might This is the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded on earth Seismological instruments in North America where it is still Christmas Day measure it at 9 0 that s almost ten times stronger than the Macquarie Ridge quake But the sudden subduction as these scientists know is just the beginning Such a rending of the crust under the ocean is tsunamigenic as I heard an Australian geophysicist put later Such a shock makes seismic waves that cross oceans at hundreds of miles an hour that breach coastlines with a force and amplitude correlative to the violent subsidence of the earth s crust that got the wave going in the first place One dictionary of geographical terms I have sitting here on my desk says this Tsunamis travel for considerable distances across the sea the wave length may be over 100 kilometres As the tsunami approaches the shore the wave height increases markedly and sometimes exceeds fifteen metres it is thus capable of causing immense destruction to coastal settlements and severe loss of life For example the great Krakatoa eruption of 1883 associated with seismic disturbances caused tsunamis that drowned 36 000 people in coastal villages of Java and Sumatra Witherick et al A Modern Dictionary of Geography The world and Witherick s dictionary are just about to get themselves a more shocking example What follows clearfells whole Sumatran villages it claims three hundred thousand souls it travels all the way to the coast of Africa four thousand kilometres from where it began VII The moon is full that night And the ocean under that brilliant pure moon is calm again Along the shores of that ocean Aceh the Nicobar and Andaman Islands Phuket southern Burma the east coast of India south of Chennai eastern Sri Lanka the Maldives and Mogadishu in Somalia 250 000 people lie dead and dying a thousand coastal settlements villages and slums tourist resorts and minor cities lie wrecked like a vast defeated fleet Three million people have no homes to go to or families to go to them with None of them knows yet that they are part of such a vast oceanic company No one has yet imagined that the loss they have suffered the horror they have survived has been so widely shared You would not think a wave could stretch so far Only the moon would see the pattern of which they are all a part The tsunami is spent but the story it makes the tragedy it tells are only just breaking on the shores of our consciousness The afternoon of the next day I walk with my friend Roland into a burned heathland above the place they call the Landslide where the escarpment gave way in January 1931 and slid into the valley demonstrating just how the deep valleys of the upper mountains got to look the way they do Charles Darwin stood near here in 1836 and thought that the ocean must have flooded these valleys to make them look this way But this is one place the ocean never came and is never likely to The landslide from the plateau s point of view was nothing out of the ordinary This is how the cliffs retreat This is how they turn themselves into a valley and in time a plain This is another way the earth remakes itself But up here it s an event we re only just getting over Roland has been painting out here lately Everything you want to get hold of and never can about the plateau is here ironstone sculptures ochre scarps the plunge to dense grey green woodlands the elusive bulk of Solitary the indomitable amplitude the blueness of the very air And today it s all gathered here under a cloudless cobalt sky in which the winds storm We find it hard to stand The wind rushing up out of the valley is pushing us back We can barely hear each other speak Where the grasses grow up out of the blackened ground I find these delicate flowers which in all the world grow only here on these few escarpments in the sandstone plateaux The pink flannel flower comes up only briefly and only when the plateau gets its litany of fire and wind and following rain just right As it has these past eighteen months It s a blessing to find the flower and to know what it tells you This is one small way the plateau celebrates what it is It s how it remembers A week later Roland sends me a birthday card he s made from a drawing he sketched near where we floundered in the wind His valley floor is so alive it looks like the sea s broken in VIII Days pass Off Sumatra and up into the Bay of Bengal the ocean bed is hectic with aftershocks The plates are bedding themselves down The body of the earth is not still It never is particularly here But the sky above is calm and clear and so s the angry sea Each day in the bright blue western sky of morning my son Henry finds the same moon reduced a little more and a little more until it is after a week a ghost of itself a slender crescent It is the same moon of course that looks down on the dead and the displaced but my boy has as little idea of the horror the moon joins him in as does the moon herself The moon going about her monthly ritual of birth and death above us all on our tremulous planet can still cause him joy That s no comfort to anyone I guess But it tells us that gladness and terror coexist every moment in the world under sun and moon It s not that the earth its restless plates and ocean waves don t care it s not that they hate us It s that what becomes of each of us is just an example of what the world is each tear and smile each life and death is part of its natural history Each day in the plateau we wake to sunshine to beatific days that are dreaming up another drought and we wake to news that the toll has risen by a factor of ten Apart from grieving and giving it s hard to know what to do or what to think One had never imagined that an event so enormous that annihilation on such a scale so thorough and so swift was possible without some human agency One is subject to the world after all One s time will come But what in particular does a man say who spends his days asking whoever will listen to remember the natural world to remember it in our politics and prose and in our daily lives This was not the world he had in mind No this was part of it But it is of course the very last thing he wished the world to do To do to these people In Melbourne the test match runs on On its third day the players run black tape around their white sleeves about their upper arms It is a sign of mourning a mark of respect In Galle in southwest Sri Lanka there is a cricket stadium that looks now like a tip Its grass has been blasted away its stands stolen Car bodies an overturned bus sheets of tin corpses and the branches of trees are strewn about the decimated circle of it A few months ago in a test match on this ground the leg spinner Shane Warne took a wicket and broke a world record There is no reason at all why the tsunami might not have rolled into Galle that day rather than on these days of Christmas when Warne is bowling in Melbourne And he knows it Its what his armband says among other things By the fourth day the estimates of the dead have jumped to over a hundred thousand A journalist walks with his cameraman along the south coast of Aceh in northern Sumatra and finds the ruins of a village where once ten thousand people lived where now just one man remains Here the waves which elsewhere swept five and even fifteen kilometres inland because the land let them pushed fifty metres up the limestone cliffs behind the town swamping it and then rushed back out to sea taking the town and its people with them This happened twice Nothing is left that could be called a town In Northern Sumatra survivors refugees now stumble toward the capital Banda Aceh where the sea became a black river pulled the city apart and dragged it broiling seething through the streets and ruins and where now hundreds of bloated corpses float in the harbour with broken boats and sewage and the roofs of temples where disease and wreckage and the rich smell of tropical death wait for the flood of refugees that s coming this way Two thirds of the people the ocean killed over one hundred thousand of them when counting stopped it killed here in Aceh province Their homeland was the first thing in the waves path An independent people struggling for its freedom a fishing people a fervent warring people they ve made the mistake of loving since time began and inhabiting this contentious ground where three tectonic plates converge It s nobody s fault We do not choose or homelands They choose us More stories reach us now more than we can handle It s a miscellany of misery the boys playing cricket on the beach at Chennai taken by the first wave scattered and lost the Indonesian mother who has to choose which of her children to let slip so that she can stay afloat with the other the Indian Tamil who drops his three year old son when the wave dumps them and then watches the retreating water drag his small son away to sea arms still reaching for his father Just to avoid the usual cliché let me say the waves did not come without warning The animals seemed to know what was coming Dogs refused to walk their usual walk on the beach A day before the monkeys disappeared from the temple by the beach in Sri Lanka and the elephants took to higher ground in a wildlife refuge where the next day seventy tourists were overwhelmed The birds fell silent Though we are animals too of course it s been a long time since most of us tuned in to the frequencies the other animals still pick up or to the animals themselves Besides the warnings the animals gave there was the very last warning from the sea herself Not that this warning did much good either it was too cryptic it gave no one much time and there was nowhere much to run even if you were fast enough On the beaches on Boxing Day morning a couple of larger than average waves washed in and surged higher than you d have expected Then they were sucked back fast leaving in some places a kilometre of sand exposed where there had only ever been water before Only the wisest and most cautious souls could resist the impulse then to stay and look at the flapping fish and the wet desert the ocean had left behind And that s where most people were when the seismic waves surged in turbid loud and terrible And people ran then but mostly it was too late It was an Old Testament moment a fabled horrid otherworldly occurrence utterly natural and yet apocalyptic enough to make one believe in hell if not in heaven if one had the time But it was neither it was just the earth at work The ocean took them all Buddhist Muslim Christian Hindu rich man poor man scientist thief pantheist and materialist the old the young particularly the young the men and the women particularly the women it took them all without ceremony The fathomless sadness of each of these stories any one of which in normal times might break your heart gets lost in the flood of others tens of thousands of other tragedies just like it that makes a crescent half way around the world on Boxing Day 2004 IX On the fourth day of Christmas an economist in Washington DC suggests the tsunamis could be a good thing for the afflicted countries There s normally a bit of a boost for battered

    Original URL path: http://www.marktredinnick.com.au/index.php/writing/more/days_of_christmas/ (2016-05-02)
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