In Praise of Summer (Novel)
here, in the interspaces of the world,
but the world does not care about our dreams.
This novel is being written here. You can read extracts from this story as it is being written (for free). The full story will be published in book version.
Copyright 2017-9 Peter Quinton
Published by Peter Quinton
InvocationTouch 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 (1789-1844, Being, c-Mary 1819 30)
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."
Margaret - II
Margaret - III
Mary (1819-1899, Emotion c-Hanora 1860 21)[Hawksbury Farm/Picton]
Mary - I
Mary - II
Mary - III
Hanora (1839-1899, Beauty c-Mary 1860 21)[Dance Floor Cave]
Hanora - IThe 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 - IIWhen 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.
Mary (1860-1905, Emotion c-Eliza 1878 18)[Oberon]
Mary - IBlind, in his mind, Hanora's husband still saw the fields of green and gold. The sun touched him, and he mumbled into the air. Cut and dress the ironbark for the eight-foot posts. Five cuts for each base with a sharp iron. Eight cuts for the supports. Five and eight, again and again. All the while, the day breaking from daybreak to sunset, as his youth drained into old age. Cut the white box stringers for the rails. Eighteen foot if the stringers could be found, nine if not. Load the dray and trudge to the unfinished fence. Burrow into the deep fertile soil and build the long fence a little longer, straight and true.
Five and eight again and again, as the fields drifted from green to gold and the sky and age clouded his eyes.
Five and eight again and again, then home to Hanora. The smells of a lifetime of mutton or rabbit and tatter stew mixing with harmony and strife across the years. He had long ago shut his ears, but not his tears, to the misery of their daughter. The loss hurt enough to question the will of the Almighty. He had always pursued honest work, if hard: why had the world turned so grim.
The question hung heavy on his sightless face: if the Almighty were so blessed Good, why unleash such Evil on the world?
He drowned the question with a cough and mumbled louder over and over, five and eight again. Over and over, one more time, he tried to fence his life from the questions that roamed like the warrigal in the deep gorges.
Mary - II
(Stubb: Mary (45) is seriously ill. Her daughter Eliza (27) travels from Springwood to Oberon to sit with her mother. She brings her own daughter, Eliza, born 6 mths earlier out of wedlock.
Mary - III 1905
They have been estranged since the death of Hanora (1899), Mary's mother. Mary's husband died of tuberculosis in the Sudan War of 1885, returning with Eliza to live with Hanora and her husband.
Mary is tormented by Eliza's situation (which becomes part of the theme of Good and Evil to be explored later) and they continue an old argument until close to the end.
The flash concerns a partial recollection between Mary and Eliza before Mary dies, with Mary recalling the relationship between Hanora and her husband (the ugliest man ever born). Eliza recalls Hanora as elderly, Mary sees them differently. Mary attempts to retrace her family tree, concentrating on dates and places, but both use Hanora's langage and concepts, bringing them together.
The discussion is on Life and Death - here explores the stoic view (Aurelius) of one universal soul, and the idea that parts of each of us find a way into the hearts of those we love, and so never 'die', even though we may be unaware of this.)
Eliza - (1878-1918, Life and Death c-Kate 1905 27)[Springwood, Lindsay]
Eliza - I[1917 Brothers Cavehouse
Eliza (39) travels by horse to the Cave House with two brothers. She has a daughter (12) remaining at her bedsit at Springwood. The two brothers have enlisted for the Great War. They spend the week at the Cave House.]
"Jesus! You can't mean that we ride down that path! I can't do it."
Eliza - II
She tossed her head, "Lead your horse if you must Mister Light Horseman. I have brought dozens of parties to Jenolan without mishap. Stop your whining."
Jack added forcefully, "Shove it, Dave. It is not that steep, and I am sure Eliza will take it easy. Won't you?"
She laughed, "The track is pretty dry," and she added just for him, "and your brother's mare is a sensitive soul."
Jack looked at her and her horse, picking her way carefully down a small bridle path. The horse was slight, and she gave her its head, letting it avoid rocks and loose shale. She leaned forward her knees tight against the old stock saddle, wearing an old grey-green dress the color of the boree trees, the color of the bush. Jack asked, "How long have you been taking this path."
She glanced back at him, and he saw the signs of age around her eyes. She watched Dave's horse choosing its path and nodded to herself. As they rode down the cliffs, she answered with threads of her life. "My parents had a cattle run in the Burrogorang. Before the war. Not this war, the old war. The war with the Boers. I rode all over this place as a kid. I love the bush and the mountains. To me, heaven is finding a storm and having my bones rattled by thunder. I started bringing parties down before the first cave house was built." Her voice sang a wry tune, "Bring 'em down, and cut flowers for Sydney town."
Dave recovered enough to call her a tom-boy, but Jack put him in place quickly, "She is a better rider than both of us. Show respect."
Halfway down, they stopped in a clearing, and she collected water from a nearby fall. While the horses picked at the fresh grass, they sat a boiled a billy and sipped tea. Jack apologized for his younger brother, "He hasn't seen much of the world. Since mother died, it has just been father and us at Dripstone, on the flat country out past Wellington. Good country, once."
She ventured, "Why come to Jenolan. You are fish out of the water up this way."
Jack said, "Father arranged this journey as a gift. A holiday, one moment of calm, before we go to war."
She could not help herself, "Why are you going to war?"
He dodged the question, "Everyone has gone. Father had reason to keep us, but now the herd has been sold for the war effort, he had no excuse."
Dave piped up, "I want to see the world. Nothing happens back at the farm. And we will get paid good money for touring the Empire."
She said, "Nothing good comes of war. My father was killed in the Boer War. They were all full of promises, but my mother got nothing."
Dave started to speak, but Jack cuffed him silent.
In the deepening silence, voices were replaced by the sound of water falling and birds calling. Wind brushed leaves played over storm swept trees.
A small bandicoot appeared at the far edge of the clearing. Both men reached for their guns, but Eliza clapped, and the bandicoot disappeared. She turned on them, "And what would you have done with your gunshots and the horses bolting down the hill?"
She kicked over the coals, and they set off again. On the way, she asked Jack once more, "Why are you really going?"
Jack nodded at Dave, "I am going to look after him."
Far below, at the cave house, Jack thanked her for her patience. Then, unexpectedly, he invited her to an evening meal. She hesitated, wondering if the owners would think it appropriate for her to join them.
Jack saw her hesitation and said, "I have already booked a table. I will truck no nonsense from the owners here. You must come. I have a question I need to ask you."
She looked at her hands, sunburnt and creased. Then she looked at the young man standing next to her, "What answers can an old storm chaser give a man like you?"
Eliza - II(b)“What are you thinking? You have fallen deeper than you know!”
He was sitting high in the shadows of the rock wall, watching the two soldiers, Jack and his younger brother Tom walk on the track down past the Blue Lake.
Eliza turned sharply, “What are you doing Chillan?”
He laughed,”Living the hard life. Too hard in smoke town. It is time to take what we deserve.”
Eliza spoke fast, “Take your hate somewhere else.”
“Never you mind about me. I have business here, and then i will be gone.”
She said, “You have no business with those men. They are under my care. Take care you listen to my words, thief!”
“Never a thief, girl. I just take what is due me. Twenty years of hot dirty work in the blast furnaces, old beyond my years, am I. I am owed a life.”
She exclaimed, “They still have a warrant out for you, Chillan. They haven’t forgotten the riots before the war. This is not some inn in the scrubs, you have no friends here.”
“Hush girl, I understood you once. You have more reason than me to hate these toffs. Why are you hanging with them?”
“Honest work. I don’t cling to shadows looking for easy marks and then go brag about your private revolution in your church of grog.”
“That is not an answer. I didn’t expect to see you here. Revolution will come when the soldiers return home. The old order will crumple. Your rich friends will be taken out and made to work. And the factory owners will hang from the windows of their palaces.”
She looked at him with alarm, “You are losing it. The riots finished years ago. No one will follow your ravings.”
“Your boyfriend believes. He believes in a better world.”
“I don’t have a boyfriend. Not anymore.”
“He is here, with a new girl. I saw him doing sketches of her at the weir yesterday morning. Come with me and I will show you.”
Her voice rose, “That is their business, not mine. I am not interested in your gossip. Nor your company. Stay away from me!”
He took a swig out of a flask and coughed, “Where is your life going? You have a daughter with him and yet he treats you with disrespect. Once the revolution comes…”
“Cease your ramblings about green pipe dreams. And stay away from those two men. They are young. They are not responsible for the sins of those who hurt you.”
He coughed a lung wrenching miner’s cough, and spat blood, “He is all over the new girl. The filthy old goat. I do not…”
Eliza suddenly felt unsteady, “Stop!”
Chillan shifts balance on his rock shelf and sheaths a knife.
Tears crowded her eyes, “Stop tormenting me. There are things alive and things that are not. My life is going no where. It is the fate of the living to die.”
“You are a flame that dances bright with delight. You should be beholden to no single man for life. Especially not that artist.”
She said, flat, “A flame can be blown out. Once extinguished, it cannot reignite. Only my daughter keeps me from leaving the room.
He has gone too far, and tries to back-track, “Live and un-alive – what is the difference. We are no different to all the things around us. The waterfalls here grow with the seasons. They cut new channels. They call to the sky for more rain. They live!”
She cries, “Your living waterfall is not more alive than a bladder blown full by children. I am hardly alive, nothing more than a clock, about to stop.”
He says, “Selfish brat! You don’t deserve that. What would your death prove?”
“Every moment is a horror for me.”
He rambles, “You deserve to live in a world of beauty. To have a full belly. You should be able to come and go as you please. We all make mistakes, A couple of bad mistakes don’t change the sun rising. But the world is changing, wait and see.”
There is a crack of a branch breaking on the path and Eliza turns. Chillan disappears.
Jack appears next to her. Eliza stifles a cry. He asks, looking towards Chillan’s rock, “Are you alright?”
Eliza tries to regain composure and sniffles, “Places like this attract the best and worst.”
Jack says, “I know you can look after yourself. But let me invite you to come sit with my brother and I at the diving pool.”
She hesitated for a moment.
Eliza - II(c)She looks at him.
She thinks fast and is blunt, "What did you want to ask me?"
He dips his eyes
She lets him flap in the silence for a moment as two elderly men in full suits with pipes alight stroll past. They hear a shred of the conversation, "...and, as yet, no cure has been found... spreading..."
She watches their departing backs and adds softly, "You think your brother and you are going to die in the Palestine."
He looks at her, tongue-tied.
Other men are starting to return from the waterfall along the path back to the cave house. She takes his hand and leads him up the hill. Out of earshot of the way, she turns on him with fire in her eyes, "You want him to kiss a woman before that happens."
"No!" he stutters.
Hunting a small dragon off the path, she whispers, "I don't kiss children. So don't ask me to kiss Tom."
The dragon turns and hisses at her.
She ignores it, "I have been here a hundred times, Jack. With a hundred different brothers or sisters or fathers."
The sun starts to set. She watches him struggle and regrets her tone. She looks at him, "It wouldn't be right."
He explains, "He has never had a sweetheart. It is so unfair."
She mutters, "Don't take him to war. Let the royals fight it out. This isn't about democracy; it is a war between the rich."
Tears come into her eyes, and her voice rises, "They don't care how many men and women and children die. I know. My father went to war for the Queen against the Dutch. He died a poor death, a cough rather than a bullet. They let him and thousands more die. Our family was left crow poor to starve."
A tribe of Kookaburras farewelled the last of the sun, and silence descended on the path.
She looks at him and shrugs, "It is easy. Take Tom home to your dad."
Jack turns her suggestion, "Is it right, you have a daughter?"
She feels a chill between her back, suddenly worried about what he overheard.
His eyes tell her he heard it all.
She tries a different tack, "Chillan is frail of mind and sick."
Jack shakes his head, "He seems dangerous. I stayed and listened because I was concerned about you."
He looks directly at her.
She shakes her head, ash hair catching the sun, "I can't report him. The Irish would not forgive me..."
He finishes her sentence, "And you have a daughter. Look here. Trying to talk a man out of his oath and consorting with a revolutionary will get you into serious trouble."
"What will you do?"
"Nothing. I might agree with everything you did. But others will not be so agreeable."
Below them, the Blue Lake started to glow: a crowd of men, women, and horses taking the evening air near the unearthly bright mirror.
They turn to it.
"Thank you. We should return."
He stays his ground, "Please. I was not going to ask you to kiss Tom. I was going to ask you to dance with him."
She glares at him, "Same swill, different bucket."
"A dance after dinner. Something to remember when death is near. Something to kindle hope and happiness. But now, I am confused."
She held out her hand, and they started down to the cave house.
"I can't imagine you mixed up."
Jack said slowly, batting a swarm of insects, "There have been no women folk in our lives since mum died, years ago. You confuse me. What I heard before set a fire raging in my heart. You are beyond my understanding."
She dropped his hand.
"Eliza, you are safe from me. I am not going to kiss you either. You are, with respect, our mum's age, if she had lived. But I can't leave you here with that man."
"I can deal with Chillan, he is damaged."
"Not Chillan. The other man. The artist. Your daughter's father. The man who treats you with disrespect."
She feels the emotion in his voice and for a moment, is lost.
She dimly hears him continue, "We have never eaten in a fine house like this. We came for memories. Help us through this night."
Eliza - II(d)"Your name is Eliza, is it not?" The young woman spoke with a slight accent, hinting of palaces far away.
Eliza looked up, startled and a little embarrassed. "I am sorry, I did not hear... Do I know you?"
The young woman laughed. "I am Mabel. I have been playing tennis with Tom Roberts, your friend. He has confided in me that he has invited you to this evening's entertainment."
Eliza's face blushed and looked down at the dull green dress she was trying to wash in the fast flowing stream. "It is a foolish idea that Jack, his brother, has concocted. Jack wants me to dance with Tom. I will just bring shame to his family. And, I have no clothes to wear."
Mabel laughed, "Perhaps, if this were Europe, but this is here. The people of this land are classless and free. We choose to be who we are and who we dance with."
Eliza looked away remembering the riots in Lithgow with tears in her eyes, "That is a dream of youth, that dream of equality."
Mabel said quietly, "Then how do you account for the daughter of the Governor of this State, and a horse woman from the Burrongorang, sitting down on the banks of this river to talk about dancing?"
Eliza turned suddenly, her mouth slightly open, for once no words to hand.
Mabel was serious, "Go ahead and swallow the bush flys."
Eliza said, "What are you doing here?"
Mabel was grim, "I am human too. Here I can do what I want, go where I desire. At least today, for my mother is ill and we are about to be transported into slavery back to one of father's palaces in Malta."
Eliza cocked her head, "A palace does not seem much like a prison."
Mabel smiled, "I would change places with you in a flash, if that was possible."
Eliza said, shaking her head, "Then perhaps you would take my place tonight, and dance with the brother soldiers."
Mabel said, "Tom said you and I were the same size, and now I see his eye is true. I have come to this place to dance with another, and ask for your discretion. But in return, as I have no further use for these, please take this small gift." She took a bundle from the pack on her back and placed it on the ferns fringing the stream.
There was a sharp crack from the other side of the stream, Eliza turned and stood searching for the source of the sound. When her eyes returned to where Mabel had stood, there was no one there. Just a bundle of clothes.
Eliza - II(e)She walked into the corridor light, an evening shawl across her shoulders. She heard his sharp intake of breath, "You don't half confuse a man."
She said sharply, "This isn't me. These clothes are not mine. This is not my place."
But he offered his arm and, to keep balance more than out of gratitude, she accepted.
He whispered, "Thank you."
On the way, Jack pulled Tom out of the smoking lounge. Tom's eyes lit up when he saw Eliza and coughed as some of the smoke went down the wrong way and then tripped up the carpeted stairs up to the dining hall. Jack cuffed him, worried less any adverse impression be reported back home.
At the top of the stairs, they waited in warm candle light to be seated. It the distance the soft shuffle of a busy kitchen and the smells of meat roasting. A piano played quietly next to an empty dance floor. All around the wooden panels of the vast room, sat tables full of the men and women of the country, old and young, soldiers and civilians. Jack removed his cap and some of the nearby men nodded in appreciation at his uniform.
From shadows near the kitchen, Chillan stood cold and dripping wet his angry eyes searching the room. He sent a silent curse in the direction of Jack's party, and faded deeper in to the darkness. He watched them being guided to a table next to the great bay windows at the front of the dining room. Candle lit, the windows were closed against soft summer rain. Chillan growled to himself, "...the eyes of a mad rich already weeping."
From behind a molded mask, Mable studied Eliza. She nodded, the clothes fitted Eliza well, but Eliza was out of her territory, and on flat carpets moved awkwardly in the elegance of those caught by candle light.
Kate froze, startled by a familiar voice. Norman Lindsay stretched back in a seat and shot an indistinct word to the young woman sitting next to him. In peripheral vision she saw him eyeing her cautiously, and then he called her name once again. She recovered, and without meeting his gaze laughed and held Jack's arm closer.
Then the rhythm of the night caught the room. Bright eyes, soft murmurs, glances and side comments around tables stocked with finery and bush garments. And on the great bay windows, the summer rain fell.
Eliza - II(f)They were seated in front of the old bay window, the table held rigid by starched linen and a king's ransom of ironware. Tom looked at the service with alarm and Jack whispered a silent plea to Eliza. Tom picked up a butter knife and touched the blunt blade experimentally. Eliza kicked him under the table and smiled a warning at him. She said to the salt and pepper shaker, "Watch me carefully, and you might come out of this with your hats."
Courses of food were conveyed into the dining room on wheeled conveyances, carrying great soup tureens and tubs of meats and vegetables worthy of the residence of a European Prince.
Behind the din of hall, Eliza heard the soft clank of a smithy's hammer and remembered her grandfather's forge: glowing hot iron beaten into shape by heavy rhythmical blows. Great nails to hold the world together. Heavy hinges that allowed doors to open and close. Tears formed at how she closed that life. She saw Lindsay looking at her, and she imagined the anger in his heart. In the noise, she suddenly felt the silence of the world.
She turned to Tom and asked, "Why are you going to war? Why not stay at home and help your father?"
He spoke without thinking, "I am going to kill Huns for England and the King. Barbarians!"
She thought of the German speaking painters who had wandered to Oberon and the Burrogorang years before. Ill prepared for the Summer, they had come to paint scenes of the sublime 'in plain air". One had painted her grandfather in his forge, sweating as he shaped iron on the large anvil.
She asked sharply, "What have they done to you? This whole sorry mess started with the death of a germanic prince at the hand of a revolutionary. Whose war is this?"
She hear Jack asking her, "Please, not tonight."
She felt faint for a moment, all the pieces swirling in the air around her. She shook the tears out of her head, "I dont want you to die for no reason."
Tom said, "I will not die. I am a crack shot and..." He was going to mention horse riding but let go. "...and i will kill every Hun I meet."
Jack shook his head, "Let us not talk of the war or death tonight. I want to remember the lights in this window, the flash of eyes and smiles, good company and..."
The pianist starts playing softly in the background.
After dessert is brought and, under Eliza's guidance, consumed, Tom leaves to smoke his pipe.
Jack asks, "Who is that man who keeps looking at you."
Eliza says downcast, "He is the author of my shame. He seduced me as a child with gifts and promises of marriage. I abandoned my mother for empty promises."
"He will pay in hell for all those sins. But why does he look at you."
"He probably wonders what I am doing, and why I am not sleeping in the stables. Jack, I am frightened that my presence here compromises your name and the dignity of your family."
"I will be the judge of that. Would you like me to deal with him, before I leave?"
"I often think of taking a pig knife to him, but he is the father of my child, and she will be lost without us both."
Jack looked at her, "I have a better idea. Come with me."
She took his hand and led her to the back of the dining rooms. Shadows danced in the arches of the kitchen. He took he onto the dance floor and she began to protest. He caught Lindsay's attention and said softly to her, "Shut up, and dance with me."
"Do you even know how to dance?"
"No. But I have learned knives and forks and all manner of spoons tonight. Dancing cant be harder than that."
(what are you doing here. I have come to start the future and kill the past. Go. Help me! Tonight we start the revolution anew. Her life is nothing compared to the misery of the workers. Lead me to her, or get out of my way)
(She shouts in alarm, 'An assassin! and points at Chillian. Instantly he is seized and a great kitchen knife fall cutting his foot. Blood spurts onto the dance floor. He shouts at her, "You are a traitor to your own people. You sold yourself to that Sydney artist and now you sell yourself to every passing soldier.)
(I didn't want this, she turns and runs.)
Eliza - III In Parva Gradus (1918) (Leura)
In the fading light, she let him see her on the edge of the escarpment, the cold chill of change in the air.
He stands back from the edge and pleads, "Storm-Chaser, come back here. The edge is unsafe."
The wind plays with the edge, picking sharp crystals of sand and throwing them at the ferns and mosses.
Eliza shuts her eyes against the wind, shakes her ash-blond hair. She sips from the bottle and considers his request, "No. Sit with me. Help me finish this."
Her faded frock is the grey-green of the bush.Her hot pink handbag balances on the slope next to her: open, disclosing the handle of her bush knife and a collection of hard bush flowers. She clutches a bottle of elderberry wine in her hand and takes a deep draught.
He shakes his head.
She queries the wind, "Are you happy?"
He interrupts, "Your daughter is asking after you."
Eliza corrects sharply, "Our child."
He murmurs, "Kate is asking after you. I told her you would be searching for waratahs over here."
She tells the wind, "She can be such a burden. I have no one to help me now. I have lost my mothers farm. My daughter and I are adrift."
Wisps of cloud swirl into the void below her and evening light starts to catch the wave tops with pulsing energy.
She slurs, "You said we would be forever, but each day you leave me a little more."
He sighs, "You mean the world to me. You give my work color..."
She turns so fast his heart stops. She spits, "Why did you follow me here? You should be working on one of your concrete women. or spinning a tale for one of your guests."
She finishes the wine, and speaks to the bottle, "What life you had within, I have drained from your entrails. Just like this miserable man did to me."
The wind catches the lip of the bottle, and it moans agreement.
He rushes, "The bottle would beg to differ; it calls to be refilled and enjoyed anew."
She looks at him with scorn and throws the empty bottle in a high arch spiraling up into the vast, empty, desert and inhospitable sea of the evening escarpment.
She watches it fall, and for another moment seems to lose her balance, "Like me, it was never alive. It and I are the dust of nothingness."
She caught herself she shouted to the wind, "I want to go dancing. I want to be young again. She took that from me. You took that from me. I will never dance again."
He shakes his head, "Come away from the edge; you are frightening me. You are still worth a pound of flour. Your daughter needs you."
She is suddenly sober, "I gave you my youth. I posed for you. I swam for you. I rode for you. I was just a young girl when I met you. you were a middle-aged artist, a sheep in wolf's clothing."
He mutters, "I am not that old... but you did that and more. You have given my art meaning and color."
She twists her face, " Which mask are you wearing now? I do not pretend I am an innocent. Men are easy. I am used to animals; I can ride a horse as if I was born in a saddle."
The night air cools, and her tears freeze as they hit the edge.
Eliza - IVOnce 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."
Kate - (1905 -1973, Love c-Johanna 1928 23)
Johanna - (1928-1973, Hypothesis c-Sarah 1955 27)[Teacher, around state]
Sarah - (1955 - , Immortality c-Jemma 1984 29)[Doctor, Ulludulla]
GenerationsThis book follows a continuous line of mothers and daughters over a 200 year period.
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".
ArgumentThis 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. Others who have pursued the theme underlying this book (Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange World) have resorted to a very large canvas.
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', Margaret 1804, Hawkesbury River
Margaret feels 'empty' (Hegel, Philosophy of History, "'Being' is the emptiest of terms precisely because it is the commonest.") The ex-marine tells Margaret 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.)
'Good and Evil' Mary, the Burragorang
In the great debate about Good and Evil, one question remains unanswerable. Some call it "the problem of evil" and it remains the source of popular and theological misgiving. Simply stated, the problem might be framed: "if God is almighty and Good, how are we to understand Evil".
'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
Eliza’s story explores themes of life and death. Chillan’s character is loosely based on the mine leader Pillans, one of the miners that rioted in Lithgow 1911. The ruins of the blast furnace are still carefully maintained by the community, which today is fiercely pro-mining, despite the desperate pre-year clashes between unionists and unbridled capitalism.
The reference to ‘Leaving the room” is to Epictetus’s commentary on the problem of suicide, “The door is open.” Contra Plotinus, “if there be a period allotted to all by fate, to anticipate the hour cannot be a happy act…”
The discussion is on Life and Death, and the three talk about death from different standpoints, mechanistic and spiritual.
In writing, i am meeting all manner of interesting folk. Here I met Mabel - Daughter of Gerald Strickland, 1st Baron Strickland and Lady Edeline Sackville (1899-1918). At this time, Strickland is Governor of NSW. Mabel was unconventional. She rode horses, played tennis, read and memorised a great deal of poetry, which she would recall to illustrate stories. Although she lived her life out in Malta, she grew up in Australia and retained affection for Australia. She had an enduring love of animals and birds - sharing her house with parrots, dogs, cats, deer and even fish. A powerful woman, she never married. She established a newspaper dynasty and pursued a conservative political career in Malta. At this time (1917) she was about to leave with her family for the Villa Bologna in Attard in Malta - her mother was very ill (and would die a year later). Mabel's rebellious nature is about to get her into trouble, with an assassination attempt at Jenolan.
The distinction between life and non-life, considered fundamental to the problem, is raised from animist and mechanistic standpoints.
Some have speculated that Lindsay's "Age of Consent" (his story of a middle-aged artist meeting a young girl at Bateman's Bay on the coast to renew his flagging career and becoming his muse) is based on an undisclosed event in his own life. I wonder whether the novel's setting on the coast was simply a ruse and that the 'sea' was the evening mists that fill the deep escarpment void near his farm, which Darwin had described as akin to the coastline of a vast sea. His novel is not often seen these days, and the movie adaption was enhanced by suggestions that the censors had banned the book (a myth spread by the publishers).
Animism, the belief that everything is alive (even Eliza's bottle), is commonly dismissed as a primitive notion. Recently, this has been given new impetus with the idea of a world-mind, Gaia, although it was a relatively essential element of Stoic thought. Aurelius wrote, "There is one common substance, though it is distributed among countless bodies which have their several qualities." Still, we commonly assign life-like qualities to the wind, sand, bottles, and plants, although the great thinkers of the last century doubted the link between organic and inorganic life. Darwin argued that "The most humble organism is something much higher than the inorganic dust under our feet: and no one with an unbiassed mind can study any living creature, however humble, without being struck with enthusiasm at its marvelous structure and properties." Today, of course, science focusses at that gulf, and practices bridging the seemingly different.
Others argue as Eliza does to the bottle, that life cannot be attributed to man nor bottle for all is but an illusion.
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.
Additional SourcesAustralian Historical Sources
Thematic History of Oberon Shire, Philippa Gemmell-Smith, 16 March 2004, http://oakycamp.com/_pdfs/History_of_Oberon_Shire_2004.pdf
Aquinas, Summa Theologica
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Darwin, Origin of the Species
Descartes, Objections and Replies
Diotima via Socrates via Plato, Symposium
Hegel, Philosophy of History