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Verging on the Abstract

Verging on the Abstract

"But slowly. Softly, gently, with caution."

Earlier this month, I had the great pleasure to participate in the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Booklovers Festival for 2020.

I wrote and recorded a short piece responding to the theme 'creative resilience'.

You can read my piece below and you watch it here. 


That’s what she tells herself as she pulls her aching body out of bed and stares at herself in the mirror. She doesn’t recognise what she sees, her eyes or her nose or the curve of her face. She knows it’s her because who else could it be – after all, she has not gone to Wonderland like Alice. Yet, part of her feels like she has moved dimensions, travelled far and wide. Lockdown and all of its different colours (steel grey, cloud grey, black grey, rust grey) makes her head feel like a cloud and although she knows that she’s privileged enough to have time to dream and think and worry and bustle, she doesn’t always remember that privilege. But of course, not thinking about privilege is a kind of privilege.

She moves slowly, brushes her teeth, runs a comb through her brown hair. Honeysuckle coloured light filters in through the window. She watches the light move about, the way it runs its fingers across the walls. When she finally sits down at her computer to write, her body clamps up. Heat rises to her cheeks. She wants to write. But she doesn’t know how to. She doesn’t remember how to, although how could that be? Surely the words are inside her, have always been inside her. They can’t just…disappear, can they? Things don’t just evaporate…like water dried out by the sun…do they?

Instead, she plays with the computer keyboard. She lets her fingers dance across the keys, pretends that they’re ice skaters or ballerinas. Then she moves her fingers, stares at them with narrowed eyes. They look funny, oddly shaped. But then again, everything looks funny these days. The world has changed shape. Its contours have shifted, almost seemingly overnight.

She misses the nights – stepping out into the velvety darkness, feeling the cool air on her skin. There’s so much she misses. All the little things, the teeny moments she never even considered as being moments.

Like going to work. Yes, actually going to work. Waking in the lavender coloured mornings and rolling around in the bed, pressing her face into the pillow – just one minute, one more minute please – and then rising for the long day.

Train rides. The crowds of people, identical with their Monday frowns stretched across their faces. Black business suits and brown briefcases. Squished into her seat, holding a book in front of her face, trying her best not to make eye contact with anyone, because that could be so awkward.

An hour later, pulling into her stop, gathering herself together, all arms and legs, and walking through the park to the office. The smell of blossoms. She misses passing the vending machine in the station corner, the crinkle of chip packets and that sickening, almost overwhelming guilt she used to feel about wasting her money on junk food.

She misses the distinctness of the days. Now, everything runs together. Nothing means anything but anything means everything.

She misses the way she’d set aside whole days to write in. Lengthy sections of time where she would sit and twiddle her thumbs and look at the clouds. The yellow and blue days where she’d make pots of tea and cut up fresh fruit and sit and think and wonder. The way she’d meet her characters on the page, in her mind. But now, all the days are, if not quite the same, the same enough. The days don’t make her feel like writing anymore. Instead, all she wants to do is sleep. In her sleep, the pandemic doesn’t exist. In her sleep, there are new colours that look like hope, that shimmer like pearls.

But even though she doesn’t feel like writing, the words still come. They just come differently now.

She doesn’t believe it at first. She doesn’t believe the words are really there, are really hers to hold and keep close.

But slowly. Softly, gently, with caution.

They creep in even though she’s not prepared for them. The words ache inside her.

And so she finds herself writing through it all, jotting down her thoughts day in and day out. She scribbles ideas down on scraps of paper, records into her phone when she’s walking the same loop of streets she always walks.

She finds herself thinking of her characters, wondering how they would deal with lockdown, of the ways they would entertain themselves.

And even though it’s not the same, even though sadness that sometimes feels like ice still pricks her, she decides (without even really deciding) that it’s enough. That the words she finds in the house and in the garden and in the same few streets, and in the sky – the sunrises and the sunsets – can be enough.

Can sustain her, can fill her up.

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