At the Crossways
An author’s date snatched between appointments.
I point my aqua Laser toward the closest stretch of salt water
navigating on memory, road signs and intuition
pulling up when I catch the silvery glitter of sun's light on rippled surface.
Two unexpected treasures (re-)discovered,
eliciting memory like an unexpected gift -
by the road, the Full Moon Hotel, scene of my 50th celebrations
and, glimpsed at the base of the cliffs
the Victorian Gothic building conjuring its inner city cousin
where I said “I do” 26 years and one day earlier.
I walk back along the road
looking for a way down
flashes of white between the grey-green of trees
red-ochre tin roof slants in four directions
white clapboard, pristine and pretty, rose windows,
a miniature gothic spire spearing heavenward.
Descending the steep path beside an ant highway
birds and butterflies embroidering the faint breeze
the boisterous cries of enclosed preschoolers playing
counterpoint to cicadas, bird calls, the roar of cars,
above planes and a helicopter traced the skyways
with raucous chatter.
I venture out on the tidal flats
past the church now kindergarten
the growl of motors and voices
of cloud smudged
Rippled strand stretches out like canvas
snaking through fingers of cloud
marked with life tracks and water currents,
in lagoons dimpled by shells
and small rocky sentinels,
reflecting back a woman on a mobile and her dog
other stray walkers,
reflecting back me.
The lullaby wind carries the sharp, briny aroma of sea things
and the susurration of pygmy waves fingering the sand,
bringing the tide in with soft gasps and gurgles.
White cotton candy clouds merge
into the grey-blue smudge of sky and sea.
On the way back to the crossways
between sky and land, sand and sea
- the phone’s battery life draining, technology failing
sun hot on skin, sweat stinging eyes and muscles humming -
the white building sits at the junction
focal point, seemingly silent and serene
its image reflecting in the rippling waters
singing divine echoes
the beauty capturing me.
Jeanette O’Hagan 28 March 2015
(Author’s date on 26 March 2015)
The last unit of my course I’ve been pursuing over the last three years, focused on understanding and sustaining creativity as writers. Among other things, we were urged to keep our inspirational wells full (as suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way). We looked at various ways of doing this such as journaling, imaginative exercises, creative word play, dabbling in different media, reading – and artist’s dates.
'The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.' Julia Cameron
For the exercise for week 4 (Creative Play) I decided on an artist’s date. I was writing a short story set on an island. Time-strapped and with a full hour’s travel to a surf beach, sea cliffs or lighthouse (depicted in my story), I headed instead to my nearest stretch of salt water at Sandgate, a bayside suburb of Brisbane. In the one hour window of time available, I walked, used my senses, took photos, and made voice and sound recordings.
It was an exhilarating experience despite a low grade dose of sunburn, a flat battery and, the discovery that most of my whispered reflections didn’t actually record. Still, I took home a wealth of impressions, images, emotions – the pub and the church; the expanse of sky, sand and sea; the bold birds; flowers; the tracks in the sand; shells (including a sea cone – Turritella); and a numinous feeling of blurred borders, of the vastness and beauty of God’s creation. None of this was overtly relevant to the opening scene of my short story.
What took me by surprise was how the unexpected find of the (former) church building dominated my experience – from the moment I caught sight of it like a gift between the trees, as I walked past it and as I walked back towards it and the mundane world beyond, how it stood at the junction of “sky and land, sand and sea”. While it was hard to express in words, this white clapboard building became a symbol of how my homage to God, how God himself, is at the crux of my creativity – intersecting the sacred with the profane; the finite and temporal with the infinite, eternal God who became human, lived, died and rose again in our midst.
Mudflats aren’t quite sea cliffs and there wasn’t a lighthouse to be seen - but I hoped to evoke this feeling of immensity and wonder in my short story. Driving to my next appointment, I knew I’d be incorporating artist's dates into my schedule as a regular thing.
Jeanette has recently had a short story published in the general market Tied in Pink Anthology (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) . She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology. She is currently caring for her children, in her final unit of post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series. You can read some of her short fiction here.