Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Well, he could write.

This second line about writing from Ernest Hemmingway just made me laugh out loud:
"No matter how good a phrase or a simile he may have if he puts it in where it is not absolutely necessary and irreplaceable he is spoiling his work for egotism. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over."
Love, love, love it. Also, I reckon I might be pretty guilty of this. Hemmingway would have hated the way I write.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Hesitation.

I’ve been really, really wanting to go surfing. The days when it’s been sunny and nice, I’ve had to work and the days that I’m free and willing, it’s just a bit too wild for me on my longboard at these unknown breaks where I know no-one. Maybe I should feel shitty about not wanting to take such risks – maybe I’m meant to step up - but I don’t really care about any of that stuff. I don’t care if people think I’m lame or afraid or a wuss. I’ve got nothing to prove on that front.

The other day I looked and was dabbling in the idea of paddling out. It was wild and big and cold, but the fuller wide ones looked manageable and would keep me away from a total pounding on the inside. There were quite a lot of crew out there, and double that number standing on the sidelines watching – the place is like an amphitheatre, which is a bit daunting. I sat on the rocks and watched and wondered and hesitated. If I’d been with a friend, I wouldn’t have wondered at all. I would have gone out. My friends always seem to have more faith in my abilities than I do, which always gives me more courage and confidence. As I sat there, a guy skipped up the rocks towards hi car. What’s it like? I asked him. Pretty full on. There’s a strong rip that drags you around the corner. He didn't advise me against it, but he wasn't suggesting it was good enough out there to take it on either. I talked to him a while longer to avoid making a call on what to do. It's a knack I have.

After he went to get warm, I watched the floating bodies in the section I was thinking I could sit in and they seemed okay. They were all on shortboards too – bodies submerged and flailing, dragging themselves through the water, where I would float on the surface. I knew, really, that I would be okay. I can handle all that.

But then I hesitated. I looked again at the rocks, the steely water and the expanses of whitewash, all with that guy’s words in my ears and, well, that was that. I stayed ashore.

Argh!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Uncontainable

One of the things I love about the sea - well, about the world really - is the way it simply defies containment. We can make boundaries of and for things, but unless we work hard to keep them as we wish, they simple crumble away, or grow over, or spill out, or flood. That idea makes me think of parts of Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun; 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
...

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out, 
And to whom I was like to give offense. 
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, 
That wants it down.

The shifting, chancing nature of the sea - where the water line will be each day, each month, each season; the shifting sands; the currents that bring weeds, bluebottles, whales, warmth - all of it is far beyond my control, and that is something that I fear and love.

And that is what I thought about when I saw these artworks by Ana Teresa Barboza (via demilked).

 
 

In an interview (that includes many more of her works), she explains these pieces in terms of their craft and construction:

Both embroidery and crocheting are techniques that require time. I use these techniques in order to make a connection between manual work and the processes of nature; creating thread structures similar to the structures that make a plant for example. My aim is to create pieces of work that simulates experiments, aiming to reconstruct nature, teaching us to have a new and fresh look at it.

I like her points about this. But from where I'm sitting, what I see is the way that we can never really contain a place - not in an artwork, image or by building walls. And the minute that it breaks those boundaries the edges of things (of what we know or hoped to achieve) become less clear. They take a less defined form and fill space in new ways. 

I've had these images open in a tab on my internet browser for days now, and I'm not yet bored of them. Imagine one of the pieces of the sea in your home, taking up space that was never meant for it, falling and unwinding, even as you try to keep it hanging and in some kind of form. I doubt the weight of the thread, or the loose construction of the weave would allow it to do that, even as a completed work. 

Pretty awesome, huh.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Samantha Keely Smith

I saw these images on Facebook the other day and couldn't stop staring. They're the work of artist Samantha Keely Smith and they're beautiful.

 

You can see more of her work over on her website, and if you're in the USA (and in the region of the gallery over on the NE coast), you might want to check out her exhibition.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

'a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam...'

Clips like this make me think I might have missed my calling as an astrophysicist - Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox*. But then I remember how much maths is involved (blergh), and I know I made the right choice.

But holy crap, astrophysicists, way to put things in perspective.



This too.



*Yeah, Cox isn't technically an astrophysicist, but he's awesome and I'm counting him here anyway.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

International Surfing Day

Yeah, I know. It was yesterday.* And yeah, I know this video is not new, but it's awesome. Stephanie Gilmore really does have a lovely, smooth approach to waves that is a pleasure to watch. If there is anything specific I would like to acknowledge this International Surfing Day, it's the much improved visibility of women as surfing participants in the water and in the culture that I've noticed over the past few years. So great!

Dear Sylvia, love Steph. from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

*So was UNHCR World Refugee Day, which I feel horrid adding as a footnote to this post. I don't really know what to say about that, except that all Australians should read the first and last chapters of Nam Le's book The Boat. Also, here is something I wrote when the boat of refugees smashed apart on the rocks at Christmas Island. Almost 50 asylum seekers died in this truly terrible and avoidable incident.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Looking at the west coast from the east

As I told you, I’ve just moved across the sea to a new home in a new country. In many ways, it’s not such a huge change; English is widely spoken, we have a similar recent colonial history set against a significantly longer past, and the north island has a lot of environmental similarities to my own home country. But there’s a lot that is different as well. For example, I know so little of the Maori history, people and culture, the cold is something new to my way of life and thinking, I don’t know where to get anything (what shops sell what?), and the coastal places on this wild west coast are very different to the powdery white sand and the clear, warm water, of the sub-topics I grew up. Here the sand is black, the water a chalky green, there are a lot fewer people (the beach I run on is often empty), and the beaches are buffered by looming hills and cliffs. It is incredibly beautiful and I’m blown away, but it’s still not in my heart. Not yet anyway.


So right now, I’m giving myself time to fall in love with this place, to know it for myself, to find out what it means to me. It’s made easier by the sweeping views I have from my little home on a hill, which I’m spending many happy hours taking in - views across the harbour mouth, across the golden hills and out to sea. I’m not sure how surfing fits in to that yet, and for some reason, I haven't been ready to find out. I can’t explain this, not even to myself. But I’m not asking too many questions of it either. In a way, it’s like I’ve written before about how I think that surfing might be a beautiful trap, so I’m taking this as a bit of respite from the demands that having surfing as an important part of your identity and your life can bring.

The summer just gone, there was no respite, but nor was I looking for any. I surfed more than I’ve ever surfed before. I surfed hours every day, waking at dawn to rush to the sea, and later in the day counting the minutes til I could go back. And when I got there, I would rush, run and skip along the sand and over the rocks to the water, paddling as quickly as I could out to the breaking waves. When I wasn’t in the sea I was thinking about going back. Catching up with friends, working, eating, sleeping, these were the in-between moments that framed my life down at the beach. It was wonderfully all consuming. I don’t regret a minute of it, but I knew at the time that it was not a real life. It was a temporary return to adolescence, experienced with all the knowledge and privileges of being a 36 year-old woman.

This summer just gone, surfing was key to how I lived in my town and my community. I didn’t surf new places or anything – I surfed the same break almost every day all summer - but I met new people, made new friends. People think that living in a small town, you must know everyone, but it’s not like that at all. Byron is my place in a way that is deep and beyond my ability to explain, but there is still so much that I don’t know about it, and there are so many stories that I haven’t heard. This summer, I learned a few more. I got to know Ed better. Ed’s from Taranaki and he is a real stand-out in the lineup, both for his surfing and his ferocity. He surfs with a level of control, commitment and determination that you rarely see in such a degree. In a similar way, he defends his waves and the people that surf them. The ones he likes anyway. I got to know Roisin (Row-sheeeeen), who is such a joy to be in the water with and who I would tease by pretending I saw turtles when there were none. I met Bernie and Jai, teenagers whose surfing is well beyond anything I will ever achieve. They are the loveliest and most stoked young guys, whose excitement levels in the water matched my own, and that is really saying something. I got to know Nathan better. I met Nath on the beach in Newcastle, back in 2012. He kept my number and when he moved to Byron he got in touch and we started hanging out. Isn’t that awesome! I got to know Laura who was always, always in the water before me. She would be at the beach before dawn, walking up the bush path to the lighthouse before the sun got up, so she was always ready to paddle out as the light warmed the sky. I also spent a lot more time with the morning crew, who I have known by face and name for years, but who - through the hours I spent there and at the monthly Sunday morning mal club round – I came to know with even more affection. And that is a far from exhaustive list.


And the beach. Well, I knew it better than I ever have before or, perhaps ever will again. I knew it the way you can only know a place by being there every day. I knew where the rocks were, what the tides meant, what animals were commonly around. I knew the rhythms of the water, winds and tides as well as I knew the rhythms of the people who would routinely arrive at various times of day. As you would have picked up if you read any of the few posts I wrote, my heart was more full than it has been in a long time.

But now I’ve left that behind. Not abandoned, not discarded, not with regret. But I’ve left it because it wasn’t sustainable for me right now. There are other things to do and explore. And I’m lucky because my new home is incredible and far from a difficult landing! One of my dearest friends lives here, and a couple I already knew from Byron live here too. In fact, Kylie took me for my first surf the other week. But like I said, it’s not mine and to go from being in a place that is in the very fabric of your body and sense of self – a place that lives deep in your bones - to a place where you don’t yet belong is a shift. Not a shift that is awful, but a shift.

My approach is to be here in a way that is entirely open to its beauty and its community. To know it in a way that avoids comparison. (And believe me, comparisons between Byron and this place would be easy!) For now, surfing has not been a part of that. Mostly I’ve been running on the beach below my house, getting to know the line of the coast from there. Getting to know the colours and the way the beach-breaks look. Starting to smile and wave at people I pass on the sand. But I think I’m ready to learn to surf here now. I’m ready to know this place from the water, not only the sand. Today I bought a wetsuit appropriate for this cold water, a task I’d been avoiding, but one made easier by the lovely guy working in the store who understood my aversion to rubber. Hailing from the Gold Coast, he assured me it took him a while to get used to it. He also told me that he took a while to settle into this place too. That he started out by spending time alone with the place itself, getting to know the coast before he got to know any of the people. It wasn’t until I got home that I realise this is what I’ve been doing too. Getting to know the place before I get to know the people. But that is already changing.


P.S. Thanks for the writing encouragement x