After my blog post last week which presented a connection to Australian artist Arthur Boyd, I was inspired to produce this short piece of creative writing. The narrative follows a memory of walking my dog in Bundanon; an Australian landscape surrounding Arthur Boyds studio.
The sleepy river murmurs low as it sweeps out to the sea in a vanishing flatness, and dotted down its lush and sunburnt banks ran a grand galvanized-iron town. Distinctly smelling of lawnmowers and steaming hose-water on hot bitumen. The dog and I spent the sticky afternoon lapping at the hose with an outstretched tongue, hot sun on thick black denim soaking through dirty rolled up jeans. Stirred by the ebb of the water we took off upon it shoulder. A river carved by tide and ranges, tromping knee deep in crackling grass towards the cool bank we could call our own. Around crooked bends and stretching ways, the dog picked up scattered sticks along the brim in his wet foaming mouth. The further we travelled the more feverish he became. Nostrils flaring, inhaling and exhaling as he picked up he scent of the water. He bounded ahead, urging me to come quick, shaking down grass and shrubs, no fear of brown snakes.
I crawled down through a split boulder and landed on shady sand. The dog was already on the shore. Still. Panting. Parting clouds threw sunshine onto grey and gold water like heavy-handed brush strokes. We stood in the ghostly silence. The call of an Eastern whip bird broke the undisturbed air. The dog looked at me for a command. “Cooee!” I bellowed. Tongue out, he thundered down the beach, leaped from the bank and crashed down into the cool tea tree stained water. His splash rippled across the river and made waves on the other side. Gleefully the dog sloshed back up to my side to shake his sopping fur.
“A very well written and engaging perspective. I agree, beauty is subjective, but I disagree that the word holds “no true meaning” The word ‘beauty’ portrays a very positive and affirming concept. I believe it has a very absolute meaning. Leading on from your interpretation, across the spectrum of Australian literature the manipulation of beauty/beauty lost is so enduring in subject matter, I think you may have touched on a very grand notion: Does all literature connect, in some way to the concept of beauty?
The landscape of Australian literature nurtures a close relation between literature and art. Narratives become deeply rooted within the culture and context of our Australian history, but also connects us to memory. As an artist I believe that visual messages are part of our repertoire of memories, authors visualise these memories using language techniques as paint. The ethos of our national literature, and in particular our indigenous literature, is often compelled to paint a visual image of land, and the relationship of the narrative within the context of the environment. An environment we encounter in memory, connecting with our understanding of this earth and history. Which leads to an interesting question; Can an author create a successful Australian story without a link to the environment?
“And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars, And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.”
Banjo Patterson, ‘Clancy of the overflow’ (1889
Reading that particular stanza of Clancy of the overflow, I feel as if I’m being placed in one of Arthur Boyd’s paintings of the Shoalhaven. Having visited his Bundanon studio along the banks of the Shoalhaven River, I remember it as an incredibly tranquil and calm moment, immersed in an awe inspiring and rugged terrain. A beauty and lightness evoked by language texture in Banjo’s perceptions of an Australian landscape.