My 2017-2018 summer reading pile
This year is about to end and in some ways I feel like it has only just begun. So much has been packed into the year and time has slipped away. It’s really easy to only focus on the things that haven’t been completed and the things that went wrong, but I need to also remember all the things that went right.
This year I had some poetry and an essay published in Shaping the Fractured Self: poetry of chronic illness and pain. I bravely volunteered to read one of my poems at the launch at the DAX Centre in Melbourne. Up until the moment I read it out loud, I wondered how on earth I managed to have words of mine sit alongside such accomplished Australian poets. The feedback I received from the audience, and since from members of the public, was overwhelming. It has been absolutely heartwarming to hear people say that I was telling their story and that I had put their chronic pain into words. My own chronic pain (migraines and neck and shoulder pain) continue, but I refuse to let them take control of my life. Many of the other poems and essays within this anthology remind me that it is important to live life to the full, but to also know when to shut the door, and take some time for self-care. There is a wonderful review of this anthology by Kevin Brophy in The Conversation.
I’m packing for four days in Sydney. It’s a holiday with an old mate, and a moment to research a new story as well as time to edit and write. I’m getting better at this. That is, taking time for what I need.
Two years ago I had only been away from my family for a total of three weekends. In the last two years I have been away for five writers retreats. I now toss my bag together the night before and walk out the door.
These times away are becoming an important part of my practice. It’s time I can dedicate my mind to thinking story and character and allow ideas to grow. Not only does it make me a better writer, but it also makes me a better mum and wife. I come home refreshed (and tired). I come home ready to spend time with them.
As I pack I’m tempted to throw every book I might want, but I now know that I don’t need to. I’m taking what is relevant right now. I have a notebook to scribble in when we are out and about, Watkin Tench’s book 1788, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and my current read The Forrests by Emily Perkins. Probably before morning I’ll through another book in.
Sometimes taking less is more. More space to think. I’m planning to stand where Anne, my First Fleet convict ancestor stood and imagine what was going through her mind as she gripped her swelling belly, father long gone already. As she stared at the strange wilderness surrounding her, trapping her. As she stared at the light glinting off the harbour water that would one day swallow her. I hope to feel her in some tiny space there and let her whisper to me.
Beware. This is a ‘journey’ post.
Twenty-six days ago I was sitting in my psychologist’s office (not something I would have done, or admitted to a couple of years ago, but now I wonder how people survive without brain dumping on someone who can help you sort out all the brain mess). We were talking self care and how it would be good for me to try to incorporate it into my every day (instead of an extraordinary occasion) with the view to chat about it when we caught up again in 28 days. She was concerned that I had stopped writing, that I had given up on the idea of my words making any sense, and that I wouldn’t allowed myself to look at my manuscript I had saved all the way back in November last month.
So, being a listy kind of person I knew it would start with a list.
Last Friday I set out for my second Going Solo hike. I headed back out to Werribee Gorge and took the track that I had planned to go on the first week.
It’s a hot day. The sun beats down on my head and as I put one foot in front of the other I’m reminded of hiking with my folks when I was young.
Mum and Dad took us out bushwalking often and sometimes, in fact most times, I would get about five minutes into the bushwalk and think, ‘I’ve had enough. It’s hot. I want to go back. I don’t like this. It’s hard work and I don’t think I can do it. My head’s starting to hurt, my legs are starting to hurt and the flies are annoying me.’