Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Nice weekend, but emotionally all over the place. I guess I was a bit tired, what with losing two weekends straight to the press, and all the excitement of the exhibition set up and opening.

Saturday morning, I went to the markets, and stood in the line for fish with Annie Trevillian, where we chatted about the opening and then, overworking women that we are, discussed ideas on some workshops we could hold together -- printing your own bookcloth and then using it. Doesn't that sound yummy?

Then I grabbed the chance to go to my life drawing group, the first time this year! I got there late, which was a shame because our model was a fantastic man who understands artists (being one himself) and gets into uber-interesting poses, and I missed the really short poses. Still, the rest of the session was brilliant, and I wished I wasn't so rusty. It made me determined to turn up as often as I can, and I think most of my upcoming weekend teaching commitments are on the alternate weekends: phew!

Saturday afternoon was the floor talk for the exhibition, and it was lovely, of course. We counted 36 bodies, which is fantastic for something only advertised by email and this blog, and Rosemary Dobson herself came, which made the afternoon really special, and I'm pretty sure the group knew it.

That night Best Beloved and I just flopped with a bottle of wine. We went to bed really early, because we were both buggered, and I read to him while he played his gameboy. A friend had emailed me during the week and asked if I'd read Rosaleen Love's article in the latest Australian Book Review. She said it was really, really good. I had the issue, but I hadn't even looked at it, thanks to busy-ness. So I thought I might read it, and that I'd read it aloud for BB.

The essay is called 'Treasure Hunt', and it's been longlisted for the 2009 ABR Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. I've always loved Rosaleen Love's writing: she's normally a Sci Fi writer, and a very good one. I have a signed copy of her Total Devotion Machine, and that's because I used to work with and for her late husband, Harold Love. I've only met Rosaleen maybe once, maybe twice, and then only briefly, and I'm sure each time I gushed slightly.

Harold and I and his research assistant, Meredith, once worked on a scholarly edition of poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. They did all the really hard work, and I got to make it pretty, using Caslon and working out the correct usage of obscure ligatures like 'st' and when to use the long 's' that looks like an italic 'f'. It was painstaking, nit-picking work, but hilarious because of the subject matter -- John Wilmot was the bawdiest poet on the planet.*

Harold died a few years ago, after a long bout of cancer. It's one of those situations when most of your sadness -- as an outsider -- happens at the early stages, and by the time they die, you're almost used to the idea, and so you're sad, but not overwhelmed. I took the news of his death shamefully easily, considering how much I'd liked working and talking with him.

On Saturday night I started reading to BB a few paragraphs of an essay that promised to be very interesting: about the aftermath of living with a book-collector, and realising that the books will lead you to discover more about your former spouse. Then I startled him by faltering, pausing, bursting into floods of tears. He didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. Eventually I pulled myself together and kept reading, but kept stalling as fresh gales of tears stormed through me.

I thought at first that it was a delayed reaction to Harold's death, and it was, in part. I'd been told about it second- and thirdhand, in abstract. I didn't really take it in properly. Then I realised that it was a lot more to do with the main theme of the essay: how little one can really know the people you're supposedly closest to, and the loss that one can feel when one realises that there will *never* be a chance to change that situation. And I also know that I cried (and still cry) at the excellence of Rosaleen's exploration of these things. It's SUCH a good piece of writing.

Poor BB doesn't cope with crying very well, it makes him uncomfortable. Is that a male thing? So I pulled myself together again as much as I could that evening, but it's very hard to close the door on a room stuffed to the point of overfull with grief, both old and new. My door stays closed much of the time, but if something -- anything -- turns the doorknob slightly, the door starts bending and threatening to fling open. I start leaking.

We went to the movies on Sunday morning, to see The Baader Meinhoff Complex. I sat in the cinema waiting for the movie, and leaked rivulets of tears down my cheeks, silently, wishing they'd turn the lights down properly before anyone noticed. Luckily the movie was too rivetting to encourage tears, but back in the car driving out to Fyshwick (to buy BB a deep chest freezer for our newly-emptied garage), the leaking started again. It's subsiding now, but I still feel that there's a really good cry left to schedule in sometime this week. Maybe I'll find a quiet place later in the week and read the essay again... And you should all rush out and buy a copy. Then tell me what you think. Did you cry, or is it just me?

*Funnily enough, this ties in beautifully with the launch of the new Trunkbooks volume, 'Hair', which I'm in, because my piece is completely informed by my time working on the Rochester volume with Harold and Meredith (not the same Meredith who edited 'Hair'!)


fifi said...

That was a beautiful post.

I cry often and wholeheartedly, and I am happy to do so when things are sad because it reminds me, among other things, that I have a heart and my feelings are intact.

There have been times when I have been emotionally anaesthetised for various reasons, safeguarding myself.

You have lovely weekends.....tears and all....

SCB said...

It's funny, isn't it, how grief seems to push upwards slowly, without you realising, until something unlocks it and off you go: sobbing not necessarily because of the thing infront of you but still mourning things gone but clearly not properly dealt with. I find this in myself too, but think it's a good thing in so far as I usually achieve a slightly different perspective on whatever it is that I finally work out is upsetting me. Then after a while I can put it away again, and take it out next time for another look and a bit more sobbing until I've dealt with it. And I know what you mean about never really 'knowing' anyone. Just the sort of existential angsty thing that sets me off! I had the faith bone removed at an early age and I think I envy those who believe in some sort of higher purpose in life, or rebirth, or heaven or any of those things that mean you don't have to worry about it quite so much. I'll have to read some of Rosaleen's writing; I don't know her work. Take care, S.

Mrs Slocombe said...

Oh ducky: big hugs.

Helen said...

I've been to a renewal of vows and a funeral in the last month. Not a dry eye at either.
I think there was more crying at the renewal of vows now I think about it.

I think tears are healing and anyone who tells someone grieving to Just Move On deserves a good knee in the groin.

byrd said...

no point trying to stop em, just let the tears run em selves dry.Could be good to have a handy trigger though.

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

totally. just wish it was possible to know when triggers were going to pop out and bite one on the bum.

doorbitch: weaps