Monday, November 01, 2010

because the sun cannot last

Remember how to drive. Pull out into weekend traffic. Pull out onto the Ring Road. Pull out into rain, and rain, and rain, and rain, and rain. Cannot see the road. Cannot see the side mirrors. Rain, and rain, and rain, and the spray of cars on water. Watch the traffic ahead lift off. Cannot see the hill they climb. Turn the music up louder. Louder. Cannot pull away from Nine Inch Nails long enough to start driving playlist. Rain, and rain, and rain. Hairy moment. Rain. Louder. Hairy moment. Rain. Repeat. Pass Geelong. Follow the Princes Highway to Colac. Still cannot pull away from Nine Inch Nails. Pause at Information Centre to confirm road still open. Still cannot pull away from Nine Inch Nails. Leave the Princes. Chase the 155 down through the Otways. Rain, and wind, and rain, and wind. Too fast on the corners. Water bottle rolls off the seat, side to side in the foot well. Clouds, and wind, and clouds, and wind. Cannot see the drop offs to either side. Cannot see the ranges and valleys. Cannot see the corners as they come. Louder, louder, louder. Free of the old trees and old ferns. Down the hills to the coast. The sea enraged. The coast eats ships. The wind and wind and wind pushes the car. Repeat that song. Take these corners too fast. The cliff tops charcoal from back burning. Ash in the air, smoke on the tongue. No sun seen today. Port Campbell. Five minutes too early for reception. Overpriced cup of tea around the corner. Watch skinny boys come out of the surf. Flash of fish-white buttocks out of the wetsuit. The kitchen hands come out to watch the derby. Milk and butter and a bottle of cider at the supermarket. Hostel is new. Hostel is clean. Hostel is warm, bright, not at all the setting of a slasher movie as the other backpacker joint. Sharing dorm with a chopper pilot. She defies gravity every day. This borrowed car is heady freedom enough. Back out with the last of the light. No music. Loch Ard Gorge. Herbie the Camera out. The wake of fire. Girls stopping their parents to emulate me in the ashes. Down to the gorge. Herbie freaks out in low light. There is no colour. The wind pushes me over. Hands too cold to be steady. Ears ache. Face numb. Retreat. Sit on bunk bed. Choose to read. Choose between two books. Cup of tea. Comfy couch. Warm room. Read. Old comfort. Old delight. Pause. Heat soup. Butter bread. Warm full belly. Cider. Book. Surrounded by tour group. Make my own quiet. Content. Bed. Listen to the wind, the rain, the sea and sky. Wake. Listen to the wind, the rain, the sea and sky. Wait. Doze. Wake. Listen. Wait. Doze. Wake. Listen. Wait. Doze. Listen. Wake. Shower. Downstairs. Warm porridge. Cup of tea. Book. Couch. Read. Listen. Rain at forty-five degree angle. Read. Hostel empty. Read. Warm. Quiet. Read. Warm. Quiet. Read. Rain. Wind. Rain. Wind. Warm. Quiet. Read. Rain stops. Car. Too fast on the corners. Clear air. Loch Ard again. Walk to Sherbrooke River. Photos and photos and photos. Ears ache in the cold. Hands clumsy. Nose running. Lichen. Flowers. Leaves. Grass. Succulents. Distance. Wind. Wind. Wind. Prickles. Water. Tussocks. Trees. Decay. The river is fat. The inlet an apoplexy. A froth of sour milk. Pale air. Waves immense. Vengeance. Foot stuck in clay. Distracted by ant carrying birdshit. Slip on wet rocks. Cannot feel face. Watch the violence. Wait. No silence. Alone. Need toilet. Walk back. Vow no more photos. Break vow. Break vow. Break vow. Break vow. Break vow. Break vow. Stop at Broken Head. Waves dash so high. The wind carries the spray up over the cliff top. A bird taunts me. Break vow. Break vow. Break vow. Cannot feel fingers. Car. Stop at 12 Apostles. Toilet. Ponder hot drink. Too tired to wait in line. Sit in car. Sandwich of leftovers pilfered from last night's tour group. Apple. Popper. Watch tourists in carpark. Drive. Gibson's Steps. Wind roars at me. Shoves me. Deafens me. Takes my face. Creep down steps. Dead mutton bird at bottom of cliff. Take photos. Given funny looks. Turn around. Snap shots of sea. See shore covered in dead mutton birds. Many photos of dead mutton birds. Sea foam lifted and spun in circles. Like plastic bags in a parking lot. Photos of dead birds. Bottle without message. Photos of dead birds. Dead birds. Dead birds. So many dead birds. Turn and walk away. Live bird next to stairs. Leave live bird alone. Blow back up cliff. Sit in car. Wait for shakes to stop. Drive. Stop. Photos of the wake of fire. Cold. So cold. Drive. Past Port Campbell. First Scenic Lookout on left. Trail head for Discovery Trail. Bugs. Flowers. Stamen to end all stamen. Cliff tops. Wind. Alone. Howl. Unheard. Scream. Lost. Sky swallowed. Spent. Turn around. Go back, down, down, down. Buy milk, hot chocolate, some chocolate-vodka alcopop thing. Shower. Core warm. Cup of tea. Book. Couch. Blanket. Read. Chuckle. Read. Finish tea. Make soup. Butter bread. Read. Read. Warm belly. Make hot chocolate. Spike hot chocolate. Book. Couch. Warm belly. Warm blood. Finish book. Lose quiet space. Bed. Rest. And. Sleep. Wake. Rain. Doze. Wake. No rain. Dress. Pack. Check out. Porridge and banana. Cup of tea. Car. Petrol. Drive. Great Ocean Road. Too fast on the bends. Through Lavers Hill. Through the Otways. Through Apollo Bay. C119 at Skenes Creek. Stuck behind slow driver. Pollute the air with obscenities. Past. Play chicken with the laws of physics on the slopes and bends. Grass parrots play chicken with me. Turn the music up. Turn the music up. Between leaving and arriving. Moving. In control. Free. Equilibrium. Stability. Strength. Breathe. Some semblance of exhilaration. Any excuse to accelerate. Overtake. Overtake. Overtake. Turn the music up. The earth regained. Some semblance of determination. Some semblance of hope. Until the sun comes out. Until the Princes Highway. Until a glimpse of the city. Until the traffic crowds in. Until traffic lights and stop signs and roundabouts and cut offs and car horns and road works and the roar of a different world. Until returned to this life. Until this.

The sky was furious. The sea was furious. The cliffs and the bruised beaten life upon them an implacable wrath. The battery never ended. The howling and roaring beyond sound. The world conspired to be my state of being, and being in that turbulence took the turbulence out of me. Spent. For a moment, I could see a future. For a moment, even the present was okay.

Not enough. Not enough to bolster me. Moments are, by definition, only moments. There are days and weeks and months of this life to come. Sitting here at my desk, there is no wind and rain, only people, I hear people. Perhaps if I'd had longer I could return properly replenished.

But. Why. Why should this wisp of wholeness I find on the edge of the continent be used on you. This cycle always ends with my retreat. Incoherent and disintegrating. Retreating, fleeing and flying from you. Finding some quiet eye in the storm to stand in. To remember how to breathe. To- to come back and have you wear me down again. Flay me raw with kind words, harsh words, no words at all. Until I retreat. Again. And again. And again. Why must I spend the quiet I fight for on wading into your world again.

Why is the price always mine.