This morning I discovered another way to take myself back to the past. Tidying up piles of papers in the study, I came across a number of letters and cards in my own handwriting. I was puzzled until I realised they were bundles of my letters given back to me by friends tidying up piles of papers in their studies.
Of course the urge to sit down and read them was irresistable, as is the urge to salvage whatever scraps I can: random morsels of my life between 1991 and 2002, as I wrote it then.
Mungo: I wrapped the lunette and the starry sky around me, and my back has not so much as twinged since.
Regrets: Just as I move out of inertia and start developing projects (sitting on the beach under a full moon; painting furniture; writing every day) holidays are over.
The National Gallery: Freda Kahlo, Australian women artists – and two paintings by Bodalla kids in the Children’s Gallery: a Potato Point wave hanging in the NGA!
School: The withdrawal room is aimed at drawing the claws of recalcitrant students. They don’t seem to be recalcitrant today – we’re all waiting for the bell … Women’s studies got no takers and I’ve been dragooned into supervising Beauty and You. Maybe I’ll get a chance to subvert, maybe I’ll be subverted.
Along the Darling: I’m writing this in my camp chair along the Darling. The river ripples and reflects below me; the occasional fish plops and the occasional galah balances on a log for a drink. I woke in the middle of the night last night, drowning in stars: they were scooped up by the river as well as in the sky.
Lunching at work: I’ve found water gardens in Batemans Bay. I ate my lunch the other day above eels, and two large and cranky black swans with five cygnets. (My memory kicks in here: I failed to mention macca boxes, drink cans and plastic bags!)
Grandchildren: We’re grandparents. We drove the backroads to Queensland and found the pot of gold at the end of the journey. T. with open eyes, after a lot of toe tickling and a dowse in the bath. She didn’t want to wake up because she’d been partying all morning … We now have a grandson: I had the ineffable delight of spending a whole idle rainy day being his bed, and finally becoming an effective burper.
What my daughters are doing: R’s off to Jordan to study, with a swag of cash earnt by her brain power, riding through the Sudan and Ethiopia en route … F returns from her cycling trip, Macedonia to Lithuania … I was mother-of-the bride in absentia. F was married in Canada in hail and snow by an exotic black guy called Cecil T. Trotman. Her wedding gear cost $5 … R’s in China on a pushbike, having ridden alone through Laos… R’s back from Sardinia with a passion for rock climbing … R’s affianced to a Polish architect … F is back home from an epic pushbike journey through Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi … After 20000 km of safe cycling all over the world, R. came off on the Potato Point road and broke her collar-bone.
Solitude on Saturday night: I’m writing a letter in front of a blazing fire after a batch of marking. I ate leftovers for the third night in a row and I’m listening for the fifteenth time to a tape of Ella Fitzgerald and Elton John. The marking rewarded me with an assignment by a student who actually had fun doing it. He turned King Lear into a space epic, and Hagar the horrible into Shakespearean verse.
Flying to Orange. We flew in a 6-seater, me beside the pilot because everyone else wanted to cower in fear in the (very small) body of the plane. We flew into a sunrise that threw perspective into chaos. What looked like red coals turned out to be the sun rising above a bank of black cloud. On the return journey we had to wait for a hailstorm to dissipate before we surfed the clouds into sunset.
Going photographically digital: I’ve just burnt my first chaotic CD to send to my son, whose fingers still itch for the paper rectangle … I’m speaking at State Conference next week and my powerpoint uses my photos as background.
Driving to work: I may travel long distances but there are pleasures. A rainbow, vibrant against a grey sky for nearly 100 kilometres. The tesselated bark on the huge trees on the outskirts of Eden. Frost shadows in the paddocks.
An impulsive trip to Tasmania: A solitary walk around Dove Lake, the pinnacles of Cradle Mountain emerging capriciously from dense cloud. A freezing high country walk around a deserted tarn. A night camping under the swathe of a lighthouse beam. An afternoon at Port Arthur. Waterfalls, rushing rivers and very tall trees.
Preparing for Syria and Jordan: My rabies injections are in the doctor’s frig, the cholera medication in my own. I think my greatest need is immunisation against trepidation!
Three months in Sydney: I slept in my own bed every working night. Sometimes I worked from 7.30 am to a bleary-eyed and dysfunctional 9.30 pm. I went to the gym most mornings and indulged in facials, massages at the Korean bath house, ferry rides, movie-snoozing and hair tinting. I lived in one room at my uncle’s house and cooked on a one ring primus – a nice mix of camping and the yuppy life.
Exploring the coast: Suddenly, after 25 years here, we’re starting to explore We whizzed off at 7 for a quick trip to Narooma to check out a couple of rainforest patches, and arrived home about 4, having driven through Wadbilliga NP (trout streams, great rocky mountainsides and not another car) to the heathland and wombat holes of the escarpmet, and then down past the Tuross cascades to Nerrigundah (more great rocky mountainsides.) … the coast Bermagui to Bega gave us round-rocked beaches, groves of huge old banksias, whales and lakes … around Eden a campsite with a champagne-cooling creek and a forest of tree ferns.
This is not a bad haul of memories, and justifies both the written word and the giving back of letters, although the chronology is all over the place because I committed the capital crime of not dating letters. I had a pleasant morning, encountering the variety and change that a decade brought – much easier than trawling through my grey matter, or for that matter, ten years of diaries.