The performance poem I wrote for the exhibition, Solastalgia, at Fabrik, in Lobethal. More details about this series of exhibitions, here.
The drawing is mine, drawn with charcoal from my burnt home. It ended up being about 13 metres long on the beautiful wall of this gallery. It is as ephemeral as my home apparently was, and will be washed off that wall eventually. But all kudos to Melinda Rankin (director of Fabrik) for facilitating it.
Also kudos to all of the people involved in the exhibition, especially Jo Wilmot (creator of Solastalgia, The Exhibition) and Evette Sunset who said I mentored her when it was the other way around. We all learn from each other anyway, so who needs labels.
unfurling sunflower my son’s spirit whispers on ashen wind
Our son Miklós loved sunflowers, and when he died, there were sunflowers at his bedside and sunflowers on his grave and sunflowers in the house for weeks. So when my granddaughter’s sunflower begins to unfurl in the horrendous heat with such determination and resilience, and so soon after our latest disaster, it feels like a message from him.
Well, honestly, it feels like his warm hug is around me the better part of the time lately. And it looks like I don’t need the physical symbols of his presence that I was keeping. Like the hat he gave me one day. It was tattered straw and last year I wrote this poem about my relationship to it.
Wearing Your Hat
Sometimes when I want to be me I wear your hat.
You were a person who accepted everything that I am and loved me, foibles and all.
I miss you and I wish I loved me half as much as you did
so sometimes I wear your hat.
But it is gone and a lot of other stuff, that now feels like baggage, is gone.
After I found out we’d been burnt out, I felt an odd lightness when I realised my possessions were gone. Not all of them of course, everyday we have small griefs for: his 500 year old Hungarian vase, a four leaf clover leaf that I had carried since I was a teenager, my knickers. (Not really, I don’t really mourn my knickers.)
We keep things for weird reasons and attach stories to them. Was I possessed by my possessions? Were they an actual weight on me, that I now feel lighter?
Already we have been given things that belonged to the deceased relatives of well-wishers. But these things arrive with a note that explains their attached grief. The oddest thing is, it changes the object to know these stories, and suddenly we have a responsibility to care for the object. We feel a little heavier, and they a little lighter.
Are we all insane? Or innately grief stricken.
I was talking with Hana (my daughter with whom I’m staying) about objects and the stories they hold. I said, ‘I would like to have as little as I need,’ and she said, ‘You have as little as you need. You have three pairs of knickers and I do the washing twice a week,’ and we laughed. I didn’t remind her that her maths was shot.
What is it about knickers? How have they become the symbol of necessity? One has to laugh. Perhaps an ironic laugh, or even a maniacal one, but one has to laugh.
On the morning of Friday 20th the electricity went off. Two fire engines went past. Looked on internet, saw fire very close. Packed the computers, a few coats, his camera kit, some important files, and random sundry items. Drove out with car and van, went back for his walking sticks. We did a sort of stop start journey, realising each time that we were still too close, eventually ending up at my daughter’s place (much to her relief). Watched the CFS maps with our hearts in our mouths.
Drove up home on Saturday 21th, with son and daughter. Were let through the closed roads by police. Hope in the main Street because it looked from there like the trees were green. Drove around the last bend and saw that it was all gone, every building. Walked up the hill, to find odd things still whole. The compost drum and the tiny garden shed, a standing spade, the odd ceramic object. Nothing else except twisted metal and noxious ash.
Had to ring my neighbours to tell them they, too, had lost everything. She was in a shopping centre, surrounded by noise, preparing for Christmas, no doubt.
Posted a picture of my keys on Facebook telling people how useless they are and received an absolute avalanche of love and support from dear friends and total strangers. It is incredibly humbling. We feel so nurtured and supported. One of them even set up a Go Fund Me campaign and even total strangers are contributing! So I have no doubt that we will make it.
There is a long way to go with this, I know. Sometimes you suddenly remember an odd thing. Today one of them was two rocks our grandkids gave Ervin on his eightieth birthday. They said something like, ‘You’re not an old man, you’re a spring chicken’. Yesterday morning it was my thirty years of journals. Later I found some of them in the rubble. Strange beauty in amongst the carnage.
At other times, it feels strangely light, like an unburdening and this is really interesting. I’ll post more about that later, I hope.
Second to last time I saw this tree it had been burnt by a bushfire. It had a blackened trunk and its leaves had turned orange. And now it’s knee deep in water, surrounded by young trees.
#flood #bushfire #murrayriver