Posted on January 20, 2014
He began to think of death differently at what he took to be about half way through life. Waking in the morning, death was on his lips as he mouthed the meaning of dreams. Their images were in his mind, slowly vaporising in a swirling mist, revealing an ominous certainty like a changed landscape.
The dreams had been about a series of houses and plots of land. The first house he still remembered was gothic, ornate, made from immutable materials, carved rock and stone. It felt unmovable. The part of the dream where he had been inside had already evaporated, but he had been inside. Now he was remembering a later scene, standing outside, attempting to climb the facade, but at the same time joining in a chorus of agreement that this house was haunted, and impenetrable, but if one did find a way in, that one would die. Of dread. They could hear the spirits inside, the sounds were of wailing and groaning and death by fear alone.
Around him money spilled in coins, on to the paved stones, into the grass and weeds growing through cracks. Too many of them to be anything but a sign of impoverisnhment. The small group of good people around him helped him pick them all up.
Then a jump cut, just like a dream to jump cut, he stood on a large plot of land, playing ball with his youngest son. The ball flew two plots over and the young boy chased after it, finding routes under the fences. Such an open plot was wonderful, he stood at the top of it looking down its sloping grassy hill. But there was no house here, only its calming absence.
‘Death is not the end.’ So many people around the world claim to believe it. Who could accept it really? When it came down to the self remaining intact? There was no self, specifically, but there was memory burnt upon memory, sealed in organic matter, folded upon itself into an extraordinary, little understood and unpleasant looking wonder. When people said that death was not the end, aside from a pleasing and groundless belief, perhaps they hoped for the preservation of their experiences, their memories intact, their identity. Or perhaps they were at peace with recycling their materials into the fold of the universe, giving rise to new life.
He was not so at peace with either. To be still barely conscious of oneself and surroundings, infinite as they seemed, and uniquely resourced for higher knowledge and reflection, it struck him as wrong to be anywhere near at peace. Especially as the years passed into dreams.
Posted on January 11, 2014
If the new year were a room, it should be newly painted, undecorated, nascent, vast with high ceilings and bay windows. Panelled walls, textured like egg shell, hard wooden floors all ready for adornment, yet unset, undefined, discontinuous from previous times. For this room has entertained life for years, thoughts, ideas, dramas and realisations have occured in many guises within its walls. Sometimes its occupants looked at its floor, the walls, out through its windows, at the back of its door, and thought ‘these things will outlive me.’ This leather in hand, this fixture, these things that comfort and confine, gild and trap, lull and preserve. These things are dust, wrought by more dust, animated by some quintessence of what? This room hosts the pursuit of sublime protean answers to that endless riddle.
Posted on December 25, 2013
The experience was perfunctory, down to the rusting faux brass fixtures, the undersized everything, the plastic corrugation of the balcony shade. Not that anything so superficial could ruin the view of the island’s density, its jurassic heritage, its millionnaires’ rows upon rows. I was looking North West, 336 degrees toward the mainland, pallid in the distance and smudged with cloud. The island was like a series of small hills rising out of the sea, rock then gnarled beautiful trees with roots that buried themselves in that rock like so many knives left twisted into the side of an ancient carcass. Then bushells of perennial greens and lawns unmanicured and nibbled, perfectly picaresque in the distance.It was Christmas Day, I was an interloper. I’d seen a muslim family on the side of the road whilst driving the hire car back to the House of Spong, one small case between them, the mother readjusting the scarf about her head, the kids shuffling absent mindedly on the narrow pavement. It was like those moments people universally describe, flashed before my eyes in all clarity. Further east, I’d stopped and turned the car around so that she could see the lamb at the side of the road, bonny and barely passed that phase of springing spontaneously into the air. It crossed the road instead, heading away from the pearlescent blue metal giant that had stopped to fawn.It was Christmas Day and we were interlopers, enjoying the reverie that day affords; the penultimate day of a holiday, the last full day on an island. Unless they were exported to words, the little things would be forgotten, the narrow pavement, the song birds, the movement of the water out toward the sea, those wonderful gnarly trees, a slow play of light across the hills, the long white splendid clouds, a tree with heavy bows that now rested and grew long upon the hillside. And humanity kept at bay as a distant din, mixed with waves and wind. We laughed out loud when naming the awkwardness for the first time: the House of Spong. But we were grateful.
Posted on December 18, 2013
Posted on December 13, 2013
Vivid clarity of light. Ancient glacial troughs filled half deep with cold pure water. The drama of mountains sloping directly into the lakeside. Images exaggerate their subjects unless they were taken here where the smallest, cheapest camera will do its best work.The ancient work of the world is everywhere you look. And the people with their cares seem only to scurry around it, barely scratching the surface, finding purchase for a split second in the scheme of things.
Posted on November 12, 2013
I had a moment of catharsis a month ago as the term climate departure entered the mainstream media. The news item in which it appeared was one of many that reported on a feature published in the science journal Nature, which projects that radical shifts in climate will be experienced in the lifetimes of adults alive today.
The authors contend that the temperature ranges reached by the mid 2020s, and associated weather events, should force even the most recalcitrant individuals to re-evaluate their thinking. The Washington Post has a series of maps visualising projected departure dates worldwide, based on global strategies of either business-as-usual or mitigation (there are no real global strategies at this time when it comes down to it).
What does the term mean? Climate Departure is when the coldest year is warmer than the warmest year on record. It can take a minute for that to sink in.
Generally speaking, whatever their convictions, people are too used to the term ‘climate change.’ It has no bite, and my initial feelings were of elation that a stronger and more realistic language was now being employed to describe radical times ahead. Sure, ‘departure’ might lose its edge eventually but I doubt it will be remembered as the tepid description that climate change has become. It already neatly exemplifies the naiveté of the few generations that changed everything for their descendants.
Posted on October 7, 2013
After a good eights months researching the history of Sydney Opera House, I sat down in August 2012 for six weeks and wrote the script that became the main narrative for The Opera House Project. So it was a real thrill to be recognised for the work last Friday.
Here are six of my favourite chapters (find the text versions here):
Chapter Two: 1956, the Year of the Competition
Chapter Three: Jørn Utzon, the Great Eclectic
Chapter Nine: Stage One Begins
Chapter Twelve: 1962, The Yellow Book and the Final Roof Geometry
Chapter Sixteen: Perfection Lost
Chapter Twenty Two: The Return