May 172012
 

AUGUSTA SNAPSHOTS

 

I have American fans. Meet the Talk the Talk Ladies Book Club from Augusta, Georgia.

They have been blogging my book: lively, engaging, challenging online conversation.

chocolateamethyst, their leader, said last night, when she introduced me to the crowd at the Augusta library – they have been sharing my journey so SERIOUSLY she cried when she got to the last page because the journey itself was over.

The TTT Ladies love my book. And according to my publisher, my talk was a hit with the crowd. Although she coughed, loudly, to drown out the words ‘Hillary Clinton’ as I spoke them. Not that my speech was about Hillary, and all I was gonna say was ‘a certain Democrat woman’.

We were discussing American politics, only briefly, in response to a question.

I laughed out loud when she coughed; we are, after all, in the heart of the Republican bible belt. And it is, after all, her territory, not mine. The publisher’s, I mean, not Hillary’s.

She was being funny, by the way.

I think.

Her father is in his 80s. He has always wanted to walk from Aiken, where he lives, to Augusta. After listening to me speak about the pilgrimage I shared with my son Ben, he’s gonna pull on his boots and make that 20-mile walk.

A couple of days ago I walked Harry and Mee-shu, my publisher’s dogs, down to the Savannah River. On the way home, right at the moment I noticed the sheriff’s car idling in the car park by the river just up ahead, I glanced down and noticed the fly in my shorts was undone – not just politely unzipped, but wide open gaping at the world.

I nearly died! If that cop was lookin’ in his side mirror he would have seen my undies through that circle of zip!

At best, here in the bible belt, I felt slothful. At worst, down by the river, like an weird ol’ lady pervert.

I met a woman yesterday who had 12 brothers. More than this, she was the seventh child – six older brothers, six younger. I pictured her at the apex of a mountain of brothers.

‘No,’ she said before I had a chance to say anything at all. ‘I was not spoiled.’

I was more thinkin’ ‘at least you got new clothes’.

There is old man’s beard hanging from the trees overhanging the Savannah River.

Now I know why it’s called ‘Old Man’s Beard’.

In Australia it should be called ‘Teenage Stubble’.

They have a saying here in Augusta, about worry.

What do we know about worry? It’s like a rocking chair – gives you somethin’ to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.

 May 17, 2012  Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
May 122012
 

AUGUSTA, GA

 

There is a lake down the road called Lake Oconee. This picture is not the lake, but I’ll get to it in a moment.

Lake Oconee struck at my brain for two reasons – first, I’d never heard of it and I was surrounded by signs to places I’ve been singin’ about and hearin’ about all my life.

Places like Chattanooga, Montgomery, Birmingham – Lake Oconee?

As we sped across the water of the lake. on a massive cement freeway that carved Lake Oconee in two, and diminished this huge body of water to a glimpse and a few seconds, I stared into the wilderness and realised that this was the kind of water you saw Indians drinking at, along with deer and bear, in the old westerns we watched on TV.

And I was stunned by how you can take a photo of a place in modern urban America and it looks like the wild places are fully alive and present – yet they are pockets, remnants, fragments.

Like the little creek in my photograph, which I came across yesterday walking Harry, my publisher’s dog.

To Harry’s disgust I sat awhile on the rocks by the bubbling water, marveling at the scent on the wind, the high and low notes of the cyprus pine, quite different to the gum of my own land, yet earthy, just the same.

As I stilled to the air and the water, again I was keeping company with shadows among the trees. Only this time the shadows were not those of the fearful dark skinned people on the run, they were the first nation peoples – because I know it’s not nearly okay to call them Indians any more and in truth I can’t quite come at ‘first nation’ either; although I like the words, the pedantry of the ¬†journalist now buried deep within inhibits me from employing the word ‘first’ any more than I could use the word ‘unique’ – because nothing ever is, either unique or first – but ‘first’ is all I have because I’m not sure ‘native Americans’ is much better, now that we have so many native generations from so many different sources.

The politics of time and tide hijack me from the shadows . . .the deer, the bear and the people who rarely chopped down the trees in the forest, who lived in skin and hide, who ate and drank and worshipped the earth their home and the animals who shared it with them . . . and learned to paint with all the colors of the wind.

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sunsweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth

The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends

How high will the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know
And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon

For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountains
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind

You can own the Earth and still
All you’ll own is Earth until
You can paint with all the colors of the wind.

 

 May 12, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
May 112012
 

ROTARY & CARL, AUGUSTA, GA

 

When Carl Thornton Jr, one of the most intelligent radio interviewers whose microphone I’ve had the pleasure of gracing with my breath, asked me about obligation today – and what I meant by that in my book – I knew I was on thin Georgian ice.

I answered by speaking about the obligation of the feminine to please, that as little girls or grown women we are expected to smile at the masculine world. And there are consequences, major or minor, for not responding as a woman should.

Notice how I avoid using the word ‘men’? This is so folk will listen, maybe, without falling into man-hating-holes and thus hijacking my point.

Women are encoded with the pleasing gene. Whether its an obligation to smile or an obligation – and I knew it was coming, I am skating close to that thin ice – I am about to say ‘sex’ on Georgian radio . . .

This is a state that jails teenagers for having sex with someone on the other side of that fine line called ‘minor’. And jails them for a long time.

In the time it took to think the words ‘I am about to say sex on Georgian radio’, the word was out.

And I moved on. And the interview moved on.

My publisher, sitting in the station foyer during the interview, said the phones ran mad for a time – perhaps because of a small word, perhaps for reasons this particular foreigner may never know.

This morning I helped the Rotary Club hand out dictionaries and coloring-in books to kids at Stevens Creek school, up the road from my publisher’s house. As I was

Handing out Rotary's coloring-in books to first graders

being photographed left, right and center I read the back of the coloring-in book and blinked at Rotary’s impressive mission.

They have four principles they borrowed from US businessman Herbert J. Taylor, known as the ‘Four Way Test’ for ethics.

Of the things we think, say or do:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I wonder what I would have thought about a coloring-in book with a small speech about this on the back when I was five.

 May 11, 2012  Tagged with: ,  2 Responses »
May 082012
 

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA

 

This big house in Augusta, Georgia is my now-home.

The room on the right with the open windows is mine.

The house belongs to my publisher, Lucinda, whose welcoming smile and southern sense of hospitality have carved out a space for me that is all mine.

All morning I wrote a speech, getting ready for tomorrow, the first true book event of my US tour, a couple of hours down the road in Atlanta.

This afternoon I took a walk down to the Savannah River rapids. If I’d heard that name, Savannah, when I was pregnant with my daughter she’d be named for the power, grace and beauty of that word.

Like maintenance free communities all over the modern world, the wild places in Martinez, Augusta are to be found in scattered weeds, pine needles that refuse to be hemmed by trimmed lawns, treetops and puddles.

The temperature is perfect. Warm and humid, the breeze bringing stories from the east.

I find the river and sit on a low rock wall listening to the shush of the water over the stones I cannot see. I long to go down to the water’s edge, but the fact I left my windows open in that big Georgian house is pecking at my brain – I swear mine are the only open windows in all of Georgia and, after all, it’s not my house.

I walk back the way I came, for a moment scissored between clipped urban woods, a mile or so back up the road. In the house, I follow the darkened corridor to my room, the slow fan twirling on the ceiling, afternoon sunshine shooting through those wide open windows, and I close my door against the chill of the air-con ranging through the rest of the house.

. . . there’s a reason warm and sultry places throw up warm and sultry women.

 May 8, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »