Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wintery wonders

It's really winter, at last. Yesterday Bumblebee and I were riding to school, swathed in knitted headwear, wind-proof jackets and thick gloves. He looked at me and said How much longer is winter? with a big cloud of fog leaving his mouth as he said it. All I could say is A lot longer; this is only the first month. To his credit, he kept riding stoically.

Glebe Park

I've spent the last two days over at the Canberra Institute of Technology, sitting on an assessment panel for their art and design diploma students. I've been riding my bike there, and on the way I ride through the above park, next to Civic. This photo was taken at 9am this morning.

There's a calm about Canberra at certain times of the year (and day) that really appeals to me. I love feeling like the only person left roaming the earth... this morning was one of those moments. Usually I only get that sensation on a Sunday night at about 9pm, or in the wee small hours of any Canberra morning. This morning there was a light mist in the air, and I felt like I was moving under water. The trees were stretching up, the same way I'd been stretching up in yoga the night before, trying to remember to keep my shoulder-blades down and my side ribs up.

winter sky

They didn't look naked, or shivering, or thin, like so many winter trees do. They were reaching, breathing, and loving the cool damp air as much as I was.

I've been embracing the cold, enjoying the chance to make comfort food (tonight we had our favorite beetroot risotto followed by a wonderful nutty quince cake that BB made yesterday) and reading good books (in my nice warm bed, of course).

I was very excited a few weeks ago to discover that Joan London had released another novel, a long time after her amazing first book, Gilgamesh. I adored Gilgamesh because it was so dense with layers and thoughts and yet seemed so simple. It was anchored to outback WA, yet roamed into exotic territory in Europe and the Middle East. Her latest effort, The Good Parents, again has its roots firmly in rural WA, and again roams, but this time she doesn't leave Australia's shores, and instead of being set in the past, she stays firmly in a contemporary scenario. She still explores issues of loss and intimacy, but it's a tighter circle. It seems deceptively simple, but I think when I revisit it (I like a gap of about 12 months for words to lie fallow) I'll find similar archetypal layering to the first novel.

On the weekend I started Sophie Cunningham's latest novel, Bird. I found it very hard to put down, and last night found myself unable to turn out the light as I was trapped in Leningrad under the most horrific circumstances. I can't praise this book highly enough; it just kept me rapt the whole way through, and I learned -- ingested -- more about Buddhism during the course of the book than I have from flipping through countless 'Buddhism for dummies'-type volumes over the years. Which is not to say it's a boringly didactic book. No, it's an international romp with sparkle, depth and feeling. I read a review that praised Sophie's ability to maintain such distinct voices for her characters, and it's true.

Now I've started her first book, Geography, which I know is the wrong way around, but I have a habit of wanting to read batches of books by the same author, and Bird just looked too luscious to wait for. I know the third novel is about Leonard and Virginia Woolf, which excites me greatly, and may I just say here, Sophie, that if you want a glossary of printing terminologies (I heard you fumbling around for 'printing metal' today on The Book Show) to add authenticity to Leonard's voice, I'm your girl. Of course, you may be thoroughly well-researched, and just had a blank moment this morning :)

By the way, that Book Show link was about the latest Meanjin, if you missed it. Good stuff.

I'm not sure which direction I'll head when I've finished Geography. Either it will send me somewhere I need to go, or I'll do my usual re-reading of something classic until inspiration hits me. I may need to go back to Mansfield Park, just to reassure myself that Jane really did know best.


kris said...

I know what you mean about Canberra allowing you space to feel like the last person on earth. I travel back to Melbourne a few times a year and often spend time on my ma's land at Springfield - it's one hundred acres of rolling hills and trees and there are no houses nearby and sometimes its beautifully foggy - but it still doesn't have that stillness that Canberra can carry at odd times. I love it! Thank you for recording that feeling!

Thanks also for the book links - have been looking for book inspiration!

Mindy said...

We drive past the local pool everyday and boychild asks most days when it will open again so he can go swimming. He doesn't seem to feel the cold.
When I arrive to pick him up from school the classrooms look dark and the playground is deserted and it's easy to believe that they might not be there at all. Quite spooky sometimes, especially when it's overcast, cold and wintry. Then children suddenly start spilling out of classrooms and the spell is broken. Thank goodness.

Martha said...

Dear Ampersand Duck,

You don't know me -- I found your blog by accident and I've been reading it for the last few weeks. I've been wanting to introduce myself, but I couldn't find your email address anywhere.

Last week, biking home from the dentist, I was thinking about the book I was about to finish reading, and wondering what I should read next... and I came home to find your post about Joan London and Sophie Cunningham. I biked up to the library and sure enough, they had a copy of Gilgamesh.

I've just finished reading it. I'm impressed with how spare it is, but then I look at it through the frame of the Gilgamesh story and I see its themes echoed everywhere -- unlikely friendships, travellers, the question of what defines a person as good or bad.

I hope you feel better and have lots of fun at Winter School -- I looked at the website and there are several courses I'd love to take (the airfare from Massachusetts would be prohibitive).


Ampersand Duck said...

Hi Martha
I'm very glad you de-lurked and over the moon that you liked Gilgamesh! I had the same experience with it, and couldn't wait for her to write something else. If you can find The Good Parents, see what you think of it.

Stick around... I love the name of your blog, but it doesn't seem to have any posts!

Martha said...

Oh, I'm a blog lemming: my blog is at LiveJournal...
I don't put a lot of personal info there, but you can see pictures of my hobby/obsession (quilting) here: