Rain Memory

Mitchell Library July 2010

The Mitchell Wing NSW State Library

Australian rain-memory has been revived. This winter marks the return of the puddle and the sloosh, sloosh sound of cars on streets. The threat of our red centre encroaching on our coastal edges has abated and on the whole we are delighted like children in gumboots.

I am warm and dry inside the Mitchell Library Sydney waiting for my manuscript box, listening to the echos of things dropped and the hushed tones of librarians sharing the wisdom from shelves. The Miller manuscripts consist of 24 volumes separated into two based on how the library acquired the materials. There is also a pictorial file, a box of photographs I dragged my mother up to identify in 2008. The key research tip to share at this point is never assume that in this day and age all that you will require will be a) digitised b) disclosed to you through the main catalogue. Libraries still have a way to go due to time, volume and funding. Therefore it is worth going back and checking card catalogues and folders holding further records. This is where librarians come into their own – they know how to take you deeper into the collections and provide invaluable direction, both to find and to care for the materials discovered.

Today I am looking at a volume of carbon copied letters to Miller’s brother Lewis. They are faded, as so many in these volumes are and my neck started aching yesterday. The wonder is how my eyes adapt to translating, from almost invisibility, Miller’s words as written in the 1930s. The carbon copies were made by Miller so that his brother Lewis could share his philosophical musings even when the letters may be going to someone else. Miller shares the statement of this idea in a letter dated June 1935. The letter I am looking at today is 64 [faded] pages!

Yet nothing, not the weather, nor the asylum seeker debate or even my neck ache dampen the moments of revelation, when it appears as if, Miller gifts to me thoughts and knowledge that step right into the rain that is Sydney at the moment. On my last trip he refreshed my memory on the Socratic method – the importance of the right questions to ask rather than demanding an immediate solution to a problem. This assisted me in a personal conversation I had with a friend on that trip – we are both at that mid point in life when all is questioned. This week Miller introduced me to Tagore’s ‘Gitanjali’, part of which, ‘Journey Home’ was the perfect addition to a side writing project. This part of the Gitanjali encapsulated the essence of what I wanted to share with my son who is off on his right-of-passage world trip. These are the joys, the moments when through your subject you learn how connected we become through the sharing of ideas.

For Miller it was his ideas that he wanted people to share more than the paintings. Although it will be discussed in another post how Miller’s paintings are invariably the visual representation of his philosophical positioning.

And just when the dark drops over the Botanical Gardens and my fingers struggle on the keyboard Miller offers:

“You will see I believe the purport of my comment in reply to your remark regarding the search for Truth to take things easily, not strain towards your objective. There I have given you page 30 Nietzsche’s scoff at truth. Go on: be patient till the thing manifests itself. Do not be down about it: we all get terrific bumps: in any case you may be nearer right than you think.” [Letter to Lewis in NZ 20/6/35 from London]

This is the best advice for a researcher and for life.

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