That’s grandson 1, looking through the door and noting how the hot coloured slabs of glass bake the light into something we can digest.
I said, ‘That’s from the door slamming.’
‘I do that. And Finny and Noah’, he says, pleased.
‘Maybe close the door a bit more softly.’
‘Maybe. Where’s all those bits of glasses from?’
‘From a bridge?’
‘Near a bridge.’
‘It’s good how that glass looks like superhero clothes.’
Then he lays his head and shoulders on the table in a dramatic gesture to show me that he is under the light, and the light is on him and he is not melting, but maybe some of his bones are melting, but luckily it doesn’t matter because they will just grow again. And we sit there together under the evening light melting.
There’s a couple outside my book shop. They are standing at the kerb looking into the boot of their car. She has lost her bag.
‘I’m looking. I’m looking.’
She has striped hair; pink, purple, white and silver and it is beautiful. Her shoes look like running shoes, and they are striped with pink, purple, white and silver.’
She says, ‘Give me the keys.’ He does. She disappears along the street. He comes into the shop. He says, ‘I’m retired now, and I have a shed full of engineering books where I spend all my time. There’s not enough time.’
He muzzles along the shelves for a while. ‘Very nice here. What made you do this then?’
‘Don’t know really.’ I have to put down Elizabeth Jolly to answer. Elizabeth Jolley has just said that old age is like flipping over pages in a book at a deafening rate and not reading any of them. I am shocked because this is true.
‘Don’t really know.’
‘Well. It’s nice here.’
Suddenly his wife blooms against the door with a sacred pink purple white and silver presence.
He shouts, ‘Are you lost, lady?’
‘I’ve just been over the lady’s toilets over there. I have to tell you what I saw.’
It’s cold. Her breath frosts on the door. They leave.
Yesterday at home I noticed that the windows have changed colour. I mean, the glass in the door holds different colours because it’s autumn. Maybe the light has a different angle. Maybe the temperature of the light is different. It was morning when I looked at the glass. Hot grape becomes cool rose. Thick sage thins. Hot lemon chills to its rind. Pink fades and becomes tough. I look at these pieces of glass all the time. With Elizabeth Jolley.
I went walking. It rained a bit. There is only six minutes to the edge of town. Then it’s paddocks.
On the way back through the short streets I saw the empty wheelie bins wearing their lids like yellow capes down their backs, and they sit there, mouths open drinking in rain that lands in their bin throats with tiny fast liquidy thumps.
A man is standing at the counter in the shop in front of me with Gail Godwin. I say, ‘Oh, she’s GREAT’. He asks me for Haruki Murakami because ‘He’s GREAT. Look what HE does with reality.’ I say, ‘Oh yes’. And decide to start reading Haruki Murakami. The man stands there beaming. There are no words to explain Haruki Murakami. This man has grey hair, worn long, and he wears a sapphire blue sweater and good boots.
In autumn where I live, the evenings are grey like steel and beautiful.
In autumn, unnecessary belongings start bothering decent spaces. We sort and prune like mad. I fill the green wheelie bin’s mouth with green stemmy food.
The grape vine is as yellow as a pair of bananas. Soft, and with conversations going on in black ink.
It’s not possible to keep up with autumn. The windows are an authority on what’s out there. Each colour has an opinion.
I wrote this in December 2015, when the windows were completed, but I had no image of the glass taken in the evening.
“Linden has given me some squares of glass for Christmas. These will be fitted into and around my front door which receives a drench of light every afternoon. I imagine a cathedral, but really this is just my front door. I had my colours organised, but the glass artist changed them because he said my colours were not going to obey me. He said that colours quarrel. My dark rich colours would go black and sulk.
He changed my panes to rose, champagne, sage green, ice and an invisible gold. I complained that now there was no colour. And there wasn’t. He said there would be, that now the colours would cooperate and allow each other a fair go in the light, and that they would change as the light changed and show all of their personalities. My dark colours would just turn their backs because didn’t have enough space.
I said I didn’t know. He replied that it was understandable, everyone is busy. But there is nothing so busy with its own concerns as a piece of stained glass. Each piece of glass thinks it’s right. They needed to be treated subtly and with cunning to get them to all do what you want without them knowing.
Well, my glass panels are up and fat with warmth and light – and they are beautiful; the artist, with his dreadlocks and tools and dusty workshop was absolutely right. In the morning they are quiet and smooth and rich, in the evening they are hilarious, and show blue and purple even though this is impossible.”
Cold and quiet and nobody coming in – except one lady who was delighted to visit and walked around and around admiring everything except the books and who finally asked me if I might sell either the peacock out the front or the cat by the doorway or the stained glass Winnie the Pooh in the window.
I had to say that these things were not for sale and that most of them were gifts and that here, I only sold books. She leaned back in an attitude of devastation and said surely, not really…
Then she said she thought (sadly) that I probably don’t sell very much then…and then she left again (cheerfully) without Winnie the Pooh. He is still here. 😊
The thing about Hal Porter is that I do not know why I am reading him. I found him by accident and the volume was dull, without a dust cover, neither new nor old. The title, The Tilted Cross was quiet. It did not look at me.
This book came to me within a library that was gifted to me, an enormous and unexpected gift that will take me the rest of my years to discover. The reasons that libraries are put together and the decades it takes to put them together makes each one its own province with an understood currency and an exceptional climate. This library is a monarchy and this book, by Hal Porter, is now my favourite so far. The library is now blended with mine, and after the usual difficulties of integration and acceptance of minorities, is now settled mostly comfortably. It sheds more light, merged light, so different light and it is very beautiful inside it.
Now I am reading this book, The Tilted Cross, which is bizarre and difficult to read and difficult to understand and set in Hobart Town, Tasmania, convict history and ugly.
But what it is about is just the skin. The characters and the places are all just skin. What happens is just skin. What it holds is really it. It is not entertaining and not reassuring, and it is not clear. What it is, I am not clear on either, but it is important to me. I am unable to analyse the book, I am only able to read it.
It is something like a glass jug, held and turned and regarded in every light, upside down and inside out, bottom and handle, lip, glass, base and translucence. Regarded empty and fallen or full and erect. What is it and why.