Saturday, December 15, 2012

A palette of red and green and white

One of my favourite annual Christmas traditions is raspberry picking in Kinglake. When you go back to the same place once a year, it's an amazing checkpoint of how your family is growing and changing. As we drove up the Kinglake road, Una reminisced about the dog who ate her sandwich when she was three years old. Not so long ago. A lifetime ago. This year Avery went picking too. He was very approving of the whole business. 

Before we drove up to the farm the sky was high, the sun a dazzling white hole in the dazzling white sky. "It'll hold," said the woman in the general store in Panton Hill where we detoured to get petrol. Fred and Una were squabbling about something when the news came on, that twenty children and six teachers in a school in Connecticut had been killed by a gunman. Martin quickly switched it off, but the girls had heard.
'Why would they put that on the radio?' Una asked. Then, quietly, 'Kids died? Between five and ten? Some of them the same age as me?'
We waited a while and put the radio back on, music filled the car. It always surprises me that Fred knows the words to all the songs. 
I looked out the window, my eyes filled with tears.
The road from St Andrews to Kinglake is tight and twisty, with a very steep drop down the passenger side. Una and I clutched at the car and tried not to moan aloud. Martin is a very safe driver but he does not always feel safe. 
Kinglake is a place that lost everything, and then lived again. We have grown used to the burnt trees, and now we are used to the regrowth, we have grown with this landscape and it has shaped us in hidden ways. 
When we drove out of the farm after the raspberry picking, we watched as the sky descended to earth. The landscape was all but negated by thick white fog. It seemed nothing was out there, the road apparently ending a few metres ahead of the car, but we drove on anyway, with faith that the road was still stretched ahead of our car, waiting to be found. Una cried, that the fog was thick, that the rain was falling. Martin said, 'But Una, the good thing about the fog is that everyone is being very careful, we are all driving so safely.' Headlights gazed steadfast out of the fog, appearing for a moment and disappearing, sharing that small envelope of space with us for a moment.
And then, just as we drove out of the township of Kinglake, the fog lifted, and we could see ahead for miles, over the valley, over the treetops, to the distant hills, soft with rain.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Confession

The last time I really enjoyed writing was in January when I did the month of poetry. Since then every word has had to be painfully extracted. Even these sentences are staggering from my fingers. There is no flow. I feel like I have developed a stutter, like I just can't get the words out. I feel like I have fallen out of love with writing. No, I feel like writing has fallen out of love with me.

I have whole novels that I am carrying around in my head, novels I feel convinced could be beautiful books, but the lines drop down on the page and clatter. I have no voices. No one is whispering in my ear. Sometimes I push through and write anyway, but still the voice doesn't come. Sometimes I wait but the waiting is hard and painful...what if I wait forever? Shouldn't I just sit down and get it done? I sit down, but it doesn't get done.

I have written words – thirty thousand of them in fact – spread among two novels this year. One complete, but wrong, but broken, and I look at it, poor broken thing and can't even begin to fix it. I am making little lives and then abandoning them half done, a neglectful god.

Oh yes, I know. I hear you. I have a two year old. But I have two year olds before, and pregnancies and breastfeeding and night weaning and tiredness and competing priorities and distraction and yet the voices never left me before.

I remind myself that writer's block can be a form of depression. I go to see a psychologist just in case. After three visits I am fairly sure I am not actually depressed. Tired sometimes. Struggling a little, could end up there if I don't implement strategies. But I am pretty sure I'm not chemically, clinically sad.

I just can't write.

The psychologist says, what would happen if you took time off writing? And I think, but then I am just a mother. Then I am just a really crappy housewife. Ah, she says. Ah, you say. Ah, I think. How telling. But I don't want to take time off, not really. What I want is the voices back. I miss them.

Even this blog lies empty.