Ricky came to the shop today to pick up her book Farewell to Catullus. She is a reader of all things Roman and studies Latin in her spare time. She does not like her mobile phone. She loves having her adult sons come and stay with her even though they hardly ever can. When they visited the shop with her at Christmas time she was very happy and when one of them bought Narnia: The Complete Chronicles, she was happier still and could hardly speak. She laughs a lot. She has read books all her life, all books and any books and just keeps on collecting on and she is not impressed by or respectful of old age. She has 4 grandchildren. Said that her friend, an old lady recovering from having a new knee installed, started a fight at the therapy pool with another old lady and she had to intervene!
I said: oh no, that’s not good news and Ricky said: well never mind and not to worry, it cheered me up no end!!
That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.
No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea’.
W.B. Yeats, The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
Artwork by Eliza Wheeler
All along the side trellis, along the bricks, under the Chinese elm, toward the orchard there are grapes, dark, hot and suspended in a purple and silly way right in front of Max as he forages through the garden most days.
Now he returns to that exact place, balances in the soft dirt and picks and eats purple until he is found and removed.
He uses a superior grip, thumb and forefinger, not the whole bunch at once but one small grape a time, leaving the rest intact. He is witness to the tough and springy operation of the grape vine, the peeling barks, the spoky birds, the grapy colours that deepen every day under summer’s gentle simmer; now they are ruby red and falling into purple, the bricks underneath are inked with the overburden.
He balances on knees, well back, and leans in and in, mouth open, the other hand spread out, holding the air, resolving the balance, delicate as a watchmaker, suspended in time, missing nothing. Sometimes he examines the purple bead first, breathes at it noisily before consuming, sitting back on heels, the other hand still stroking the air, no part of him absent from the feast.
The garden sighs, exhales, unknowing of its cargo, the hot and furious cat, the drooping orchard, a dripping hose, somewhere a hammer, somewhere a family and everywhere the summer.
This young family came in carefully and steadily, out of the summer and containing neatly four young boys, brothers, and a young mother who warned everyone to take care. The boys then stacked their skateboards next to a bookcase. They stacked them precisely and gently, taking care.
They moved amongst the books, scanning, pointing, experienced. Soon one boy came to the counter and told me how his friend was reading all of the Cat Warrior books and that it was funny that I had those exact books in the window. Then he moved away again. Their mother was reading in the chair. Two of the boys were under the table reading The Eleventh Hour, which they had at their school. Another boy was high stepping neatly and soundlessly around everyone else, he was saying:
Strike one, strike two, pinto on the road…
The first boy returned to the counter to tell me about Inkheart. He said: Inkheart is really good.
His smaller brother is now over in Poetry and Plays, he holds the shelf and stands on one leg, he is still chanting: strike one, strike two, pinto on the road…he holds a copy of One Dragon’s Dream on his head.
The first boy tells me that Skulduggery is really good, and The Hunger Games might be good and Dragon Eternal is really good. A Wrinkle in Time is mental, it is so good.
Their mother reminds them to take care. More visitors came in, they tell me about the heat as they enter, they take off sunglasses and look down at the skateboards…
Strike one strike two, pinto on the road…
South of Darkness isn’t that good, His Dark Materials, ok maybe, Elidor is fantastic…
The boys under the table are making a stack of books to read, they haul them across the carpet, they glance at their mother and take care.
Beast Quest was good but not anymore…
…strike…strike….one for luck…
The boy at the counter is resting his head on his arms, drowsing as he thinks of all the books that must be listed, the shop is going to sleep, the hot day is going to sleep and the kindly chime in the front room ticks slowly onwards (strike seven, strike eight… no pinto on the gate…) he is taking care with it and he is taking us with it…
On Goolwa beach the evening was in waves. Down the twelve steps we went and across the fine, clean sand that is still releasing generously the day’s heat and the ocean is kind and my family are in it and to one side the beach is cool slate and to the other a dazzling promotion of silver and lemon, olive and gold, all in waves.
The beach breathes in waves. There is no wind, there is one lone fisherman, standing, gazing out into his life, there is a family running in circles, running in spirals, the sand coughing around their feet, it is so quiet I can hear them urging fair play of the rules, Dylan!
There are three seagulls, sitting on the wind even though there is no wind. I wonder what they are waiting for.
There is no space between the sea and the sky.
There is no space between the sea and the sand.
The light moderates all the colours and they weave together, except for the tiles of orange on the horizon, everything else is stitched together, like fair play, like gladness and grief, unable to get at one without the interference of the other and everything in waves.
The tide moves in pursuit and retreat, around and past me, unmoved by me.
The fisherman is wading out into deeper water, my family are finishing, the hilarious family are making for their car, the last child trailing a blue towel across the blue evening and being told to hurry, and then we too, going home.
And they cannot dig fast enough to satisfy the urge to dig. And they cannot move around enough to satisfy the need to move around. For the entire time that we are there they do not halt – it is warm and bright, and the sea is glass green and close by and noisy and the sand is endless in all directions.
The sand is also warm and pouringly beautiful and then it is chilled and firm and buildingly lovely. The babies cannot be still. They turn and twist and bend about, they drink the sea and eat the sand and frown around the seaweed that laces their lives and they mislay their balance and their knees move faster than their hands and they are nosing in surf, kissing sand, shoulder down and roaring rage. But there is no time to scan for family rescue, it is too slow, instead there is a shell, an exceptional pile of new sand, a pool of water with further possibility.
In fact, each time they turn around the landscape has refreshed itself, what was once travelled must be repeated, the new results are just as spectacular.
But then, suddenly, they are hungry. Everything dulls, the sand is now slightly irrelevant, they are deaf to the sea, gaze at faces, focus only on hunger and they move toward another recovery, each layering down already, a baby bedrock of experience and memory.