Day #6 of QLD Writers Week is here and once more, we are looking westward, into the ageless landscape that Helen Avery calls home.
Old Beyond Age
The world is intense. It has always been my best friend so I have never been afraid of solitude.
I have always immersed myself in whatever place I happen to be in. I spent much of my childhood belly up to the sky, belly down to the earth and I have never lost the need for that kind of intimacy.
So the places that inspire me most are those where I happen to have spent the most time on skin to skin terms. I’ve been a farmer for most of my life so the earth has never been extraneous. I have worked with it, on it and my dependency has been entire. I have travelled over it and my eyes have always been open.
I live on the other side of the coastal ranges where the landscape rolls out like a worn swag blanket. I like dust and mud beneath my feet. I like laying my hands against trees and stone. I like learning the names of plants and of the processes of creation that laugh at our paranoia about measuring time in fractions of seconds. I love the feeling of enough space around my shoulders that I can see the curve of the planet against the rest of space. I love the spin of seasons so subtle I can scent change on the wind and feel it on my skin.
It’s not about beauty or lack of beauty. It’s about awareness of where we are and the absolute exposure of the mind and the senses to this. It’s about somewhere old beyond age, something battered and wrinkled and unashamed and beautiful and vibrant beyond belief or definition.
How do I capture this for a reader? If I could, I would write without words, trace poetry on the wind. As it is, all I can say is that, I try, because it is in me to write and I love words. If they disappear on the wind like vapour … then that is okay and as it should be.
by Helen Avery
In the pre dawn I leave the ocean
at my back and drive west
looping over the coastal ranges.
Darkness hooks on
the harsh call of the first crows
and is drawn back from the valleys
leaving them drenched in mist and chill
until the sun eases out of the somewhere
ocean behind me and dispenses the day.
Beyond Boguntungun eagles swing
off the tails of thermals and the hills
and the dry scrub roll and flatten.
Helen Avery is a poet for whom a sense of place is as natural and essential as drawing breath. The ‘Outback’ holds iconic status in the national psyche but it is not a museum relic. It is a vibrant part of contemporary Australia. It is the honesty of a natural environment that exposes both landscape and those who live there with stark clarity that drives Helen to write and perform with sensitivity, passion and deep respect.