Max eats grapes

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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.

Noah and Max play in the sand

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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.

The Tap

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Paths are good because they always go somewhere. And if you can’t see the end of it, you can leave that out and just enjoy the moment for the moment, but always holding like treasure, in the side of your eye, the end of the path. That never comes because it is a treasure in the side of your eye. Playing here like a child is child’s play.
Max is just learning to walk, and his feet urge him on and on over any ground he can get. He still needs a helping hand to grasp as he walks, large careful steps with the knees lifted as high as possible in case the shadows rise up for tripping. He is not interested in the beginnings of paths as there aren’t any. He has no interest in the end of paths as he is already there. Everything he can imagine so far has arrived.
Instead, like babies do, he helps himself to every inch of the available minute, the breathing light, the slanting heat, the lawn mower that is not allowed, his pumping legs that cover a mere metre over an eternity and now there are ants.
He toddles across warm bricks and cool decking, through sand and over gum leaves that break and cause him to pause, over wind washed bark, through cobwebs and dropping branches. When he comes to the pot of hydrangeas, he stops and taps the pot. The hydrangeas are drunk with heat, they lean over with their heads against the pot, asleep or unconscious, they do not stir just because a baby knocks on their house.                           He goals the trailer, the bins, the tool shed and each time is swept back to sensible. He angles for the lawn mower, a favourite magic. But he is guided on and around it, it is not safe. He frowns, rocks to and fro, looks down to examine something he thinks is in his hand, suddens upward to look aghast at cockatoo. Then he drops abruptly to his hands and knees, and moves fluently again in the old language, across bricks, faster than walking, he is breathing fast and making for the tap, remembering that it is the greatest living treasure after all and at the end of all paths.

 

 

Noah leans back.

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It is nearly the last day of our holiday and we are having lunch, by the sea, in summer, in the heat, under cool glass and next to the blue. Morgan and I have chosen mussels, I remember these from a year ago and they made me happy so I have ordered them again, mussels in shells, a thousand of them, too many, whirling in tomato and garlic and other things with chilli, red wine maybe. I am wondering if the chilli will be real and it is because when we lift the lid, the steam comes out angrily and the chillies lie there, amongst the mussels, obscene and arrogant and not knowing their proper place, perfect.
We are elbow deep in mussels and shells and ciabatta bread and there is too much food and too much sky through the windows and the babies are hooting and eating things and Noah is at the end of the table, between his parents, supreme amongst food and family and spoons and forks and garlic bread.
He and his baby cousin Max are hurling things to the floor and gazing open mouthed at the response from family, they are filing away the satisfying response from family.
I cannot eat any more food, but there is still too much food waiting to be eaten. I can only stare at everyone else. Family, ordinary and ordinary but still defying understanding.
Morgan, is gone, lost in the mussel pot, the good cold beer and hunger, and his son, Noah, is leaning back superbly into the armchair of summer, and his parents gaze over at the floor and the scattered food and the toys and they look down at all of this with joy.

Noah and Max unpack the entire tent

2018-01-12 12.34.59.jpgNoah and Max have so much to do. There is an entire landscape of camping supplies to process and record.

They are each making new maps, superior charts that include sound, shape,  heat and hunger.

Babies are master cartographers. No corner that is valuable will be missed. Nothing that is useless today need be included. The maps of babies are not cluttered with regret or objectives.

Instead they are inked with the tiny details of small details such as the pull of muscle against saucepan, the tight clang of enamel bowls and the wind under canvas. They both want the broom. They record the hands of each other,  sticky on the broom handle.  They blink at light through mesh.

Abruptly there is a new sound,  it is footsteps on gravel and the pace and weight of this noise has been recorded before.  This information has a high yield. It is Pa, passing by with fishing rods and both infants become still,  noting the intrusion,  mouths remain open and then he is gone.  They taste the retreat, process the loss and Max allows a short scream of rage.  Noah maps Max’s scream of rage.

Then they press faces against the mesh windows again,  snuffle at sunlight and heat, sand and dry grass, three seagulls and the sea in the distance and somebody filling a bucket with water. A plastic cup is breezed off the table.  They stare at the cup rolling on the ground.

Suddenly there is no more information they can contain, the maps are full. They reject every new voice and ward off every new idea. They hurl strawberries to the ground and tie their distress to their parents with loud and elaborate knots. For the next few hours they can only be towed.

 

This morning it was not possible to sleep.

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This morning, it was not possible to sleep past five am because the air was spoked through with bird call, too much of it, and mostly it is the pink and grey galahs and also the white corellas that moved in before Christmas and have not yet packed up their campsites. Sometimes they all shout at once.

The lemon light is already warm, and it is stitched through with too many birds. I am outside on the lawn and can see through the window that Max is awake, standing up in his cot and looking out with his hair sticking upwards, rumpled, warm. He is looking out through the window into the green, holding his head, with the sticking up hair to one side, looking gravely into the feathered and beautiful morning which is where I am standing, right in it, wondering what it is I have right now, joy or sorrow. I can see Max listening to the birds as they inform him that he is awake.

Noah and Max and Christmas

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Noah and Max are under the Christmas tree.

Max emptied the lower branches days ago and Noah gazes through the empty spokes with interest. He accepts an angel to chew. Both babies can now sit on a firm base with no toppling, they have crushed the nativity under their bottoms, they have pulled down the silver tinsel and it is their first Christmas. There is so much to do.

Wrapped gifts are, as yet, dull. Those smooth surfaces offer no angles or handholds, they contain nothing that can be seen and therefore nothing that they want.
An emerald green bauble that hangs from a branch, however, holds movement. And also light and shine that keeps changing. It has a promising surface that can be tasted. There is often an accompanying spoken warning which is predictable and comfortable.

The wooden Santa that contains another Santa inside it and yet another inside that is delightful. One piece can astonishingly go inside of another piece and come out again.
There is a bottle of good milk lying nearby which nobody wants.
It is possible to pull the loop away from every hanging element so that they can no longer hang at all. Max can jolt a decoration downwards with superb strength, it knocks him backwards and he must rebalance each time. Noah sits close by, supporting the work, a team.
It is hot, there are lists of things to do, there is still a week until Christmas, there is complaining and rushing and not enough carparks.
But Noah and Max are travelling Christmas from a stronger position. Willing to be grazed by new ideas, able to breath in colour, calling for contact and exchange, uninterested in efficiency.

Max is discarding each broken and lovely decoration to one side, he is sighting up the tree, reaching for higher profits, still out of reach. Noah is examining each shape consistently and carefully, tasting the edges, processing the contours, understanding the value.

 

Max puts one decoration on the tree.

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And this takes all morning as it is delicate work.

Max’s Christmas decoration is three nappy pins joined together.

He thrusts it into the tree but the branches bend. Other decorations fall down. The tinsel is annoying, it annoys his eyelashes. More things fall. He does not blink and he does not mind, things falling are not his concern.

He kneels on top of the nativity, he does not notice that the whole nativity has toppled, the pieces stare upwards into his concentration.

The room is filled with concentration, Christmas has gone quiet. He has chosen a superb place for the nappy pins to hang, the lowest branch but the lowest branch, although looking solid will not support his clutching fervent hands or his loud breathing. He falls, the pins fall, an angel and three green baubles fall, then some purple tinsel falls with a sigh and he stares at the purple for a long time.

Max is not perturbed, the branch is still there, the pins are still there, the work can continue.

He thrusts the pins onto the lowest branch over and over and suddenly, they stay there. He sits back, regards them steadily. But he is unimpressed. He pulls them off and hurls them to the floor, they make a noise, faint, the faint noise of pins falling to the floor when they are joined together. He picks them up and shakes them, and again, and again.  Now there is new work to do.

He turns his back to the Christmas tree.

 

Yesterday was hot.

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Yesterday was hot. Any visitors there were, fell through the shop door and said: it’s so hot. And the summer came in through the door after them. One man held the door open while he told me about the first fleet. He allowed in the hot air, some blowing sand and all the gum leaves that gather next to the bakery along with his first fleet.

But in the evening after I got home, it became dark and cool. We were at the edge of the heat, the very rim of it and then suddenly the evening tipped into rain that fell for hours. And so the house was hot, the brick pathways were hot, the veranda posts were hot but the rain was cold.

My grandson held up his nose into the superb air, he rearranged his face and blinking eyes to take in the cold rain, he knew he was hot, everything was hot, but now he might be cold. He needed to rearrange his senses, too. He hung on tight to family when outside, consuming the new details of a rainstorm in summer, unsure of the singing downpour, unsure of safety. Also, the birds were screaming their own deafening joy into the still hot and blue evening.

Artwork by Hajin Bae

Digging

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The most important exertion at the moment is packing, digging and throwing.

Max is in the garden, he has found a rectangular brick planter full of lovely earth. At the moment it is only growing some rogue basil. He grasps the earth and hurls it out. He does it again. It is physical and substantial work, and difficult, it requires coordination and regulation. He does it again and yet again.

He regards the thrown earth on the path, he is breathing hard, he dribbles but does not notice the line of saliva that falls, it represents his intense link with living, with movement, with sensation, with the smell of earth, water, basil, sunlight, gumleaf, and the ticking of the summer sprinkler. The dog lies nearby with the hopeful tennis ball, sometimes the earth scatters over her ears, she shakes her head kindly, keeping watch over the young.

Max pulls on the basil leaves, the air is poked through with basil, he grimaces against the basil, it is lovely.

He regards his warm, starfish hand, it is covered with hot soil, he frowns, dribbles, turns his hand over and back again.

Maisie the kelpie is barking through the fence, Max regards the walkers on the dirt roadway also through the palings, his mouth is open in amazement, he slants his baby head to one side, seeking the sliding voices through the hot fence.

It is a warm, gum tree evening, the birds are frantic with this evening, Max stands, covered in this evening, in warm earth, he is regarding the sky, the trees, the galahs, the basil, the breathing of the garden. He cannot close his mouth and does not swallow, this would take up valuable time.

Then there is a voice he knows; his mother, calling for bedtime, he drops to the pathway, preparing to crawl, there are basil leaves clinging to his thighs, he arrows for the door, still looking backwards at the outraged galahs, crawling toward the mothership and clinging with ecstasy to his warm, baby life.