It is the last week of my Montsalvat residency and I am solving mysteries one by one. I previously discovered who provided the floral gesture in the bluestone block and yesterday I discovered the mysterious gardener. It all came about through writing practice, as described by Natalie Goldberg. I had begun a little exercise of 10 mins writing on something around me and before I began my formal writing for the day I played with words to describe the mysterious sounds that have intermittently punctuated my days – the thumping of a shovel reiterates below my tower. The wielder of the shovel is invisible. When I look out the window or under the arch there is no one there, and yet as I move back up the steps and into my work once more; the thump, thump resumes. It is a hidden act. First a thump on earth or into it and then a thwack like the hammering of a stake. The sounds are intimate and close to me but the creator is unreachable. A Kookaburra laughs as I look again outside the window and get confused with the sounds of cemetery maintenance workers which dominate the soundscape below the Montsalvat slope. This thump, thump is a sound that is mystery.
Yesterday on stepping out for a cup of peppermint tea I descended the stairs, with perhaps more care than usual, and found that same laughing Kookaburra thumping and thwacking both himself and his beak against the window pane of Jean’s [Hakin] House.
I didn’t have my camera phone but was pleased and surprised to meet the mysterious gardener who of course was also the fellow that had been laughing at me from the trees! Well, for the rest of that afternoon for every thwack there was a tower exit in a vain attempt to catch him in the act. It became a game, I’m sure his activities increased just to tease me further and Sigmund, if he happened to look from his kitchen window, was probably getting concerned about the madness of the writer in the tower. Kookaburra danced from his home in the pitch of Sigmund’s roof, to the iron bench in the courtyard below me and back to the thumping and thwacking at the window. Today, though, as you can see from above, I caught him in the act.
The writing practice method is the most wonderful tool for both ‘breaking the ice’ for your formal writing and for opening yourself into a free space for the formal, structured work pieces. The principle is to have no ‘great expectations’ and just write, and push yourself further than you may have intended, push yourself until you are so in the zone you are, as Natalie Goldberg says:”hot”. In between my formal pieces and the warm ups I have the free verses written from the contents of Miller’s letters. This has been a great way for me to isolate the essence of Miller as man, brother, thinker, son, artist. Through the verses the essence of him is materialising and in addition I am making more sense of the letters as a whole body of work. I am frustrated only by the fact that the transcription of all the Mitchell Library volumes is incomplete. So with the end of the residency I have plans to hit Sydney as hard as I can, mindful of family needs and perhaps my own sanity too.
In this residency I have not completed what I intended, or at least I did complete the daily objectives I planned in a July post but I had also hoped to get 3 draft chapters ready to include in a proposal document. I didn’t know enough to do so. The time has been spent organising all my Miller materials, reading biographies, listening to biographical radio talks, practicing the craft of writing and making sense of what I have, so that I can identify all the missing parts that I now need to go back out into the world to gather.
It has been a journey of learning what I did not know – illuminated by a full moon at the beginning and a full moon at the end.