Sunday, 26 November 2017

(Novel) In Praise of Summer

Only we dream, 
here, in the interspaces of the world, 
but the world does not care about our dreams.



This novel is the sequel to Looking for Spring. This story is being written in the G+ stream, a strong collaborative space and the best place in the world to write.



You can read extracts from this story as it is being written here for free. The full story will be published in book version. An audio book and print version are in preparation



Copyright 2017 Peter Quinton 
Published by Peter Quinton



Generations

1. Margaret (b. Dawes Point, NSW, 1789) "On Being"
2. Mary (b. Hawkesbury, NSW, 1819) "On Emotion".
3. Hanora (b. near Picton, NSW, 1839) "On Beauty".
4. Mary (b. near Oberon, NSW, 1860) "On Good and Evil".
5. Eliza (b. near Springwood, NSW, 1878) "On Life and Death".
6. Kate (b. unknown, 1905) "On Love".
7. Johanna (b, Picton, 1928) "On Hypothesis".
8. Sarah (b. Ulladulla, 1955) "On Immortality".



Invocation


Touch the spinning thread of destiny,

Rejoice the portion racing past your fingertips,

Relish your life in fair wonder with others,

Until the great destroyer takes us back whence we came





Margaret - I  (1804)

Margaret sat and shivered in the cold morning air. They are in a rowboat in the marsh lands of the Hawkesbury River.

She watches black swans with a group of pale yellow cygnets in the reeds.

A retired marine from the original New South Wales Marine Corps has cared for her these long years, after the death of her mother. They have fled the Irish uprising at Castle Hill, and are sleeping rough near the small settlement of Richmond Hill until the trouble blows over. This morning, they are duck hunting, and he has promised to tell her about her father and mother.

The old marine looks at the young colonial girl, sharp features, eyes alert and intelligent, skin darkened by sun and accident of birth. He says, "You look like both your mother and your father. They would be proud of you. But, I am getting old. I promised to tell you what I know before I forget too much."

Margaret begins, "Forgive me, sir. I need to know about my past. I don't think I belong anywhere. I don't fit in. I feel empty."

"Welcome to the world. You 'are.' That is all the assurance I can offer you, and if the truth is known, all you need. Being in this world is a marvelous thing."

They drift in silence for a moment.

He continued, "Listen to me carefully. Eventually, everyone fits in. We are all part of God and his creation: the stars, the water, the ducks, the fish, you and I. We are all here for his purpose. We make our space in this great domain with his blessing according to our needs." 

She argues, "The priest from Annadale says differently. He says that the divine is separate from us. He says that the first people are different from the convicts and the Irish and the freemen and the women and the soldiers and the slaves. He says we are all different from one another. He says we are different from the moment of birth, and that we should accept our lot as God's will." 

"Don't pay any mind to such talk. Your father would never have accepted such talk. He was a learned man, and your mother, in her way, was as well. Pay attention to your heart."

The boat drifts along the marshy floodplains of the great river. He points and whispers, "Look at the swans."

"Please do not shoot them."

He smiled and lowered his old  Brown Bess musket, "They would make good eating. Tell me why we should confine our diet to the fishes."

She said, "They are a family. If you take either of the large birds, the family would be lost. Besides, you do not want the Irish to find us."

He thinks, "You see qualities in the lives of the swan family that you see in the lives of people around us: love, compassion, attention, care, relationships."

"You are teasing me. Tell me about my parents. Where are they? Why have they left me in the world without them."

"It is natural to feel emptiness, sometimes. Apart from you, I have lost all I once thought important. Your care is now my only duty, and blessing."

She bends her head, "I honor you for your love."

"These are difficult times. Vinegar Hill, rum and Irish rebellion threaten you and I. What I tell you must not be repeated to any other."

The boat drifted back towards their settlement with the tide as the old man told his story.

"With the first fleet, one of the greatest scientists to have ever lived came to study the stars and built an observatory to measure their movements. You can still see the posts of the building, although the rest is long gone. He was not used to the stars of this place, for they are different to those of the location of his birth. He objected to the cruelty of the first Governor Phillip and befriended the first people.

In return, the first people sent to him a woman skilled in the knowledge of the skies, your mother. She showed him where to watch, and what to watch, and the names of everything he could hope to learn. 

These were your mother and father. But the hostility between the Governor and your father grew. Eventually, it could not be contained, and both were grievously harmed by it. The Governor ordered your father to return to London. Before he did, the pox broke out and killed many of the first people. My children died at the same time. Only you survived."

"My parents are gone?"

"Yes. But you are still here."

"Who am I then? I am different. I feel so empty."

"Pay no mind to the preaching of that old crow. Why Governor King has two children of the convict Ann Inett, and they are properly treated with respect: the same respect, mother and I give to you."

She was quietly weeping.

"You are a child of God. There is nothing more wondrous than to live as part of creation."


Hanora - I


The dance floor was small; just big enough for couples dancing awkward, slow and tight. Only the firelight danced without restraint, throwing herself high up to the Dance Floor Cave roof to fall sparkling through the veil of water cascading along the overhang. The firelight also played with the dancers, casting their shadows onto distant walls. Hanora caught her breath, and in a world of dark and light saw colors.

The sound of the bullock drover's fiddle and the sawyer's tin whistle filled the cave. Locals clapped encouragement and stamped their feet, their dust joining the haze stirred up by the dancers, the smoke of the bullock drover's new tobacco in their clay pipes, and mist from the creek below. The rising clouds softly brought other sounds into the cave: the music of the bush. Hanora heard the noise of the veil hitting the rocks below, the wind breathing through the casuarinas, the lowing of cattle and snickering of horses in the dell below and the final call of the kookaburras as the last rays of sun burned in the sky.

She thought about the long trail she and the bullock drover had taken to this place. He usually trod these paths alone with just the howls of the wild dogs for company. He took wool, cattle and sometimes pigs to Picton, a two-week trip through the wilderness. Then, after a week's rest, he faced the passage home to the Burragorang with the loading: a collection of letters, implements, salt, sugar, spices and tobacco. His path took his steps away from the quiet, safe farmhouses on the Picton plains, up into the mountains full of wild cattle and brumbies. Until finally, on the last day of the trail, he would reach the high plateau above the Dance Floor Cave and send smoke high into the air. Then folk from all around would gather to meet him at the cave.

This time, he had brought her with him to the Burragorang.

That last day on the trail had been the hardest for Hanora. Footsore, her world was full of pain and hurt. She remembered that most of all, she had been frightened: full of doubt about a new life and a husband she had never met.  She had cried silent tears.

The old man said gruffly, "Keep away from the edge." The warning was unnecessary. Her world was now full of cliffs, rocky beds, hardtack, and flies. The edges were all around her, they came unexpectedly out of nowhere, threatening death at every turn.

"We will be there soon," he promised, "Tis a place of rare beauty, seen by few."

She thought, "What would you know of beauty?"

He continued unbidden, "It would bring a tear to the coldest of hearts."

She said silently, "Old man, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I see  no beauty in this cursed place."

The old bullock drover led his pack horse over the flat granite rock of the plateau, picking his way through pools of water. He stopped at the edge of the world and sat to drink from one of the pools and light his pipe.

"How far to my new home," she complained. She waited for his response, looking at the dark clouds chasing the afternoon sun and dipped her cupped hand to drink from the nearby pool. The water was cold and crystal clear. She watched as the ripples faded across the water. She remembered, with a sudden chill, that for the first few days they had walked soaked in incessant rain, never completely dry.

He passed her his pipe, and she took a long draught. He cut his tobacco with dry grasses on the mountains to help it go further, and it burnt warm and dry down her throat. For a moment the pain flowed out of her, into the hot rock, on which she perched.

He said, "What do you see?"

"A lonely desolate place," she said, without looking, "Tell me that this misery will end soon."

A lyrebird called from the path in front of them, and they stopped to listen. The sun was warm, and the wind dropped. For a moment, the surface of the pool of water became still. The lyrebird appeared a little way in front of them, his tail high in the air. The old man reached for his gun. A female lyrebird appeared nearby, scratching for food, and catching Hanora's eye, the old man paused and whispered, "Have you ever seen such beauty?"

Hanora dropped her eyes and shrugged. She searched her mind on what she had learned about beauty back home. Instead, a picture of her mother came to mind: teaching her to draw with charcoal and working on needlepoint. The lessons had been gentle; about regular forms, of tamed farmland and quiet certainties. Her mother had taught her the three rules of beauty: "Integrity and perfection are first. Proportion and Harmony follow. And to complete the mix, Brightness and, above all, Clarity. All three combine to build real beauty, whether it is in dress, or face, or cake. Only when you learn to see the beauty around you, will you be able to see the divine."

As a young girl, she had laughed at this attempt at science, probably garnered from some churchman's book. Back then, Hanora saw beauty in different places. She saw it in the tilt of a face, the fall of hair, the feeling of freedom, of the potential of a full, kind life.

Anger boiled in her belly; beauty was behind her, just toil and uncertainty ahead. Weariness returned with a vengeance, as the pack horse caught a whiff of wild dog and stamped a hoof. The two lyrebirds took to the wing, and in a burst of song, they flew in an arc, over the pool, and down the cliffs to the west.

But that moment on the plateau now seemed a lifetime ago. Hanora caught the old bullock drover's eyes, staring at her above the fiddle, a kind smile on his face. She turned away from him to the new man who held her body on the Dance Floor Cave. A new man she had met when finally they had descended to the cave. He was a man of different smells. A younger man of likewise soft and rough hands. A man who lacked the confidence of the bullock drover; a man who stuttered when he first came to greet her. Her new husband.

For a moment her mind returned to the plateau high above the Dance Floor Cave, She remembered standing next to the pool and looking at the ground. All around her, in the shallow pools of the plateau, the dark blue sky with clouds were reflected. She took a step among these clouds, suddenly unsure of her footing.

Around her bruised feet, the clouds had come to Earth, perfect in the still water. For a moment she touched a different type of harmony. And clarity and brightness were suddenly all around.


Hanora - II


When she had first stumbled through the waterfall into the Dance Floor Cave, Hanora heard a murmur of voices and saw shy searching glances directed at her. The bullock drover had told her that the bush community would be welcoming. There was something else unspoken in his voice, but he had dropped his eyes and would not be drawn.

She heard a rush of small feet and, then, the sound of the bullock drover laughingly caution the young children who were mobbing him in search of boiled lollies. In turn, the gaunt sun-browned women of the Burrogorang separated from their men-folk and came to greet her. 

A gust of the sunset wind blew bush kitchen smoke back into the cave. Hanora tasted the fine mist from the overhang waterfall mixed with the slow cooked mutton and onions. Then the sound of voices rose, in anticipation and concern. She followed their eyes to the dim outlines of the last arrivals as they hobbled their horses on the meadow below. As she watched, the last rays of sunset caught the waterfall along the overhang that made the cave and turned it into a cathedral wall of sparkling stained glass. One of the mountain girls laughingly placed a garland of native flowers on her hair as the wall took on different colors. Then she leaned into Hanora and pointed to a man coming through the veil of water. Hanora stood open-eyed, catching a glint of fire in his shadowed face as he looked back at her. Then he turned to greet the bullock drover. She took a breath of air but then tensed as she watched her husband to be limp into the cave.

Bush dances are crowded affairs with scarce room to swing a cat. Every rock shelf in the Dance Floor Cave was crowded with the young and younger. The bullock drover carefully unpacked his fiddle, and everyone started to speak. At a bush dance, sometimes the best you can do is to surrender to the night and clap or stamp your feet. The nights can be loud and long, with musicians bashing out a steady rhythm to drown out talk of potato blight and straying cattle and the hurried making of wedding vows. But casual talk flickered and died as the evening shadows lengthened. Unfinished drinks rested unloved in the fading light when even the old folk join in the dance. And then the world starts to become fast and blur: the young seem old and old feel young.

Later. In the glow of the coals from the fire, Hanora and her husband sat. He did not say much, but it did not matter as Hanora was suddenly full of words. He listened, nodding and smiling. Their faces were partly in shadow, as the voices of others slowly faded into the deep night and became silent. Her voice became quieter and finally stopped. Then she reached out to his face, and with a finger traced a scar up his right cheek and to a nose that still showed the signs of an old break. She touched the wound gently, asking with her eyes if her pressure was too great. 

He smiled and then grimaced, trying to stutter an explanation.

Deeper still within the Dance Floor Cave, from where he watched, the old drover shook his head slowly and turned away.

Hanora's new husband creased his face in remembered pain, and he clenched his fists white. Hanora watched a single tear form and fall to the sand upon the ground. 

She took his hand and smoothed the ground. She wrote her name in the sand and silently turned to him. He looked at her intensely and then stared at the sand. He smoothed the sand around her name, and she watched him start to write.

They had been rounding up brumbies, the wild horses, in the valley below. Almost at the yards, the horses had been spooked and turned and fled. He turned to chase them but fell onto rocks, and he lay there still and broken for an age. In time, the scars had knitted awkwardly. In time, he got back on his horse. Finally, half a year later he brought the brumbies safely into the yard.

She watched patiently, encouraging him with smiles and written questions about a thousand unimportant details. 

Towards dawn, the bush folk slipped quietly away into the night. Last, the old drover bid his farewell, and they were left alone. 

Hanora looked at him. Everyone had gone, but she could still hear the music from the night before. 

He climbed to his knees and held out his hand. He said, "C c c c c...". Then he dropped his eyes, embarrassed. On the ground, he saw the words and drawings of their conversation, in the sand. He looked back up at her and tried again, "C c c come." She turned to reach her pack, but he pulled her away, towards the cave entrance lit dimly in the early morning light.

She hesitated for a moment. Then she stood and followed him up the track leading to the plateau above.

He took her to the edge of the cliff, next to a waterfall cascading over the edge. He threw his legs over the cliff face and held his arms out to help her sit next to him. Together, they watched the dawn slowly color the sky. On the edge of the world, they looked out and saw a landscape so wild and vast, and it took their breath away.

Hanora thought, "I am small. So insignificant. If I fell now, no one would every know, nor care." Then she found his eyes and knew he would not share that thought. The light of the sun suddenly burst into the world, and detail and color lit the scene. He put his arm around her.

Hanora said, "This is beyond my understanding, I am just a speck in the world. It is vast."

He turned to her, his eyes full of the sun and said, "Sublime."

Her heart soared, and she surrendered to the moment, "I want something just like this."

Her life was hard as might be imagined. Full of floods, fires, miscarriage, heartbreak and ill health. But it was also full of his quiet silence and the cycle of the old drover's passage, the music of the cave, and the sound of her daughter's laugh.

...

Eliza - I


Once upon a time, far far away, there was an old house that lived so close to the sea she could hear the waves at night and smell the salt in the air. And as the house breathed in, her curtains blew gently across the bedroom floor, and she smiled.

She smiled because of the certainty of her existence. The house was neither shallow nor pretentious. When she asked questions; they were meaningful questions, to which she knew the answers. She lived in the order she had created at the edge of the chaos swirling around her. She saw the confusion and plunged her hand into it to take the things she needed. And as she pursued her life goals, she smiled, a little more complete with every breath.

But within her bedroom, all was not as it should be. He stood in a state of uncertainty at the window looking out. Certainty and Uncertainty are living with each other.

He said to her, "My uncertainty results from the order you impose."

She said, "It would not be the start of a week without you telling me that you must go."

He said, "I have no intention of 'leaving' you. You breathe for us both."

She said, "Order is about uncertainty. All around us is uncertainty. Order is something that comes to each person individually. You make sense of part of the world, understand it, appreciate vulnerabilities and risk. Just because I have established order in my realm does not mean that you or others suddenly 'get it' as well."

Then she took a deep breath, and the curtains blew around him, encasing him in a gentle prison. She continued, "But I hope that the order I establish is infectious, can be transmitted and can remove some of the vulnerabilities and risks that others might need to face. I fear your disorder; it may be destructive. It may serve only to advance your desires for a world free from the need for self-doubt. This 'negative' order becomes a prison for yourself and a burden for those around, where everything you do is fixed in purpose and does not vary according to the way the uncertainty impacting on others changes the way you should act."

He struggles to unwrap himself from the curtains and said, "I thrive on change. In uncertainty, I can test ideas and emotions. Someone once told me that it is the right-hand side (the emotional) side of the brain at work while the left-hand side controls things out there in the world. But, I have told you all that before. I do not believe the right/left brain theory, but there seems to be some mechanism that allows the brain to explore and test that is quite natural and powerful."

She said, "Let us not argue. Let us imagine us sitting together looking at the ocean, and hearing you tell me your life story from the start. That is something I hunger for."

Norman said, "When I read your letters to me, I still hear your voice. It is pure and crystal clear. It is hard to be content from a distance, but the tension of losing you rips at my heart. It causes me to howl at the deceit of the world."

She sighed, "Let us focus on innocence, rather than deceit. Deceit is a word of power, one of many that held countless many in misery. Innocence is a word of gentleness and freedom. The love you have for the world can never just be taken for granted; it always must be innocent. When you look upon the world in rapture, it must be the world you see in the moment, not your reflected self. In the same way, when our fingers once touched, the spark was twixt us."

He said, "Today, I tried to paint the beauty of a field daisy. A friend mentioned that its original name meant innocence. Again, I can think of nothing more innocent than sitting on a beach, and watching the day pass, listening to talk about life and dreams."

He stamps, tears in his eye. He shouts, "That is something I can understand! It is something I can preserve."

The house took a deep breath, "Then, come sit on the shore of your uncertainty. Let us trade stories of our youth. I may be long gone from the world. But in your memory, I still live."




(New parts will be published as time permits.)


Appendix


Argument

The theme i have been exploring is beyond my power to summarise, and perhaps it cannot be simply talked about. Others who have pursued the theme (Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange World) have resorted to a very large canvas.

This series is a gentle consideration of the impending, dramatic increase in the age we humans may walk upon the Earth. Through the main character, Jemma, the story embarks on the gradual exploration of generations of ideas and lives.

It is not inconceivable that within the next decade, people may live comfortable and productive lives well into their second century. From a personal perspective, this is an exciting possibility, hard to refuse. From a practical perspective, it now seems tempered with the realisation that it will only be available to the very rich. From a social perspective, it comes with the chilling possibility that long life comes with an undesirable side effect - displacing the potential lives of many other generations of people (on average there are 11 generations in a 200 year period). These issues are attendant with great risk. The defeat of death may prove as great a loss as the removal of the Palladium (wooden likeness) of Pallas Athena from the city of Troy (the Palladium, a gift of the Gods to secure the eternal safety of the city was stolen by Odysseus, precipitating the fall of Troy).

Each part of this story presented here is intended to capture opposing generational and intellectual approaches to specific topics such as beauty, love, good and evil, being.

'Being', Elizabeth 1804, Hawkesbury River

Elizabeth feels 'empty' (Hegel, Philosophy of History, "'Being' is the emptiest of terms precisely because it is the commonest.") The ex-marine tells Elizabeth that 'being' is sufficient, and wondrous (Aquinas, Summa Theologica - "being taken simply as including all perfections of being.")

The marine continues, "We are all part of God and his creation: the stars, the water, the ducks, the fish, you and I." (Spinoza, Ethics, sums up: "What ever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God.")

The preacher from Annadale says differently. According to Margaret,"He says that the divine is separate from us. He says that the first people are different from the convicts and the Irish and the freemen and the women and the soldiers and the slaves. He says we are all different from one another." (Descartes, Objections and Replies, differentiates between the infinite which causes finite beings to exist.)

'Beauty', Hanora 1856, the Burragorang


In relation to the subject of Beauty, Hanora initially takes the voice of relativists such as Montaigne ("paint [beauty] according to your appetite and liking"), Darwin (views on beauty are "various and contradictory") and Hume (there is "no objective basis for arguing on beauty").
Hanora's mother (Mary, Picton) and (perhaps) the bullock drover might be assumed to take a positive approach such as that promoted by the seeress Diotima (the ladder to the divine), Aquinas (a statement of objective conditions of beauty) and James (resonance and beauty within musical scales).

Hanora's story concludes by exploring the concept of beauty in a more complex setting where the Aquinas (conventional) 'objective conditions' are absent and concludes by examining the appreciation of the sublime (Kant, Judgement: the natural sublime is limitless and appears to "...contravene the ends of our powers of judgement, to be ill-adapted to our faculty of presentation, and to be, as it were, an outrage on the imagination.") Despite some characterisation of the sublime as an immediate apprehension, the sublime here is presented as a complex artifact: appreciation of vastness -> humbling experience - > understanding through surrender.


'Life and Death', Eliza 1904, Jenolan and Springwood


Today the debate about Death has narrowed to the economic consideration of the cost of prolonging life, although there is a far broader debate about life and death of concern to each of us, whether it be based on some aspects of the biological economy, the normal and abnormal cycles of human experience and our curiosity with death and its ceremonials.
The painter Lindsay operates within the philosophical breadth of the 'mechanism doctrine' of the Sophist the Emperor Marcus Aurelius: "There is one common substance though it is distributed among countless bodies which have their several qualities. There is one soul, though it is distributed among infinite natures and individual circumscriptions."
By placing Eliza's 'spark' in an 'inanimate' house,  Lindsay introduces the controversy between mechanistic doctrine and its opposition, sometimes referred to as the 'vitalists' that initially drew a black and white line between the living and dead - starting with the Hippocratic writers but including reason based theories of Aristotle and more practical evidence based work of Galen. Of much more recent times, vitalists progressed from denying a soul to the merely inanimate to excluding it from all non-humans - and in some cases considering it be exist only in those who share your own ideas of the divine.
There is comfort in Lindsay's notion that we do not lose someone for so long as we remember them. That part of another being might move into the house of your mind and start eating the meals you prepare might be a tad more distressing.
Lucretius would deny both possibilities (as he denies the soul as an immaterial principle), but Descartes opened the door to both possibilities, in his separation of the great physical automata of the body from the immateriality of the spark of an individual.
Of course, the question left unanswered by Lucretius - whether an automata could have a soul, hidden somewhere within the complexity of the clockwork, is again becoming one of the great questions of our time. 

Generations

This book follows a continuous line of mothers and daughters over a 200 year period. A brief summary of the women are included here. Those names in bold have been the subject of published writing, those in italics have been mentioned or foreshadowed in the text.

1. Margaret (b. Dawes Point, NSW, 1789) "On Being"
2. Mary (b. Hawkesbury, NSW, 1819) "On Emotion".
3. Hanora (b. near Picton, NSW, 1839) "On Beauty". In 1856 (17 years) she travels to the Burragorang, meeting her husband at the Dance Floor Cave at Kanangra Walls.
4. Mary (b. near Oberon, NSW, 1860) "On Good and Evil".
5. Eliza (b. near Springwood, NSW, 1878) "On Life and Death".
6. Kate (b. unknown, 1905) "On Love".
7. Johanna (b, Picton, 1928) "On Hypothesis".
8. Sarah (b. Ulladulla, 1955) "On Immortality".


Additional Sources

Australian Historical Sources
Thematic History of Oberon Shire,  Philippa Gemmell-Smith, 16 March 2004,  http://oakycamp.com/_pdfs/History_of_Oberon_Shire_2004.pdf

Philosophical Sources
Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Aristotle, Ethics
Augustine, Confessions
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Darwin, Origin of the Species
Descartes, Objections and Replies
Diotima via Socrates via Plato, Symposium
Hegel, Philosophy of History
James, Psychology
Kant: Judgement
Montaigne, Essays
Pascal, Pensees
Spinoza, Ethics





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