Saccharum Officinarum

“The white writing desk replaced the timber shack I’d known since I could understand the concept of time.”

I grew up in the Tropics – a small cane farming town – Gordonvale, Queensland, Australia. It shaped me in such a way that even though I adore my new found four seasons in a year and sitting by the fire with a Dostoevsky novel & hot chocolate, there’s still something about heat waves over bitumen which send my bones into a shiver. I maintain I dislike the heat of course, (eww muggy summers) in fact just yesterday I was whining because it was, what, 40% humidity – I grew up in at least 80%  … but the past is the past right, our childhoods were idyllic and a bit of salt water never hurt anyone.

“The town was a tired selection of bitumen aligned in a grid and at the end of our street, the main street of shops (pubs) was to the left, and to the right, past the overgrown dried up river (storm drain) was the A1 state highway. Further south Walsh reared his celebrated head. At 922m tall he was paramount to the tiny town and along with his brothers and sisters helped to provide a mind-numbing sense of security to the 4,420 residents.”

Sometimes when I feel lethargic, I catch myself on google earth or real estate listings from my home town to see the place that’s responsible for the world of my youth, to make sure that at least some of it still exists. It’s been nearly 13 years, as long as I lived there to begin with, and I’ve not been back yet. Perhaps I’m daunted by the changes it has endured, the city life encroaching, the cane paddocks cleared to make way for housing estates.

“I would no longer wake to the sickly sweet sugar smell each morning. Nor would I fall asleep to the crisp air, heavy with smoke, in the sweltering summer evenings. There was no burnt orange sky; no black columns rising and no fat brown bufo marinus lining the streets day and night. For the later I was grateful but the absence of Basquiat sky left me feeling a little philistine.”

Either way every time I sprinkle brown sugar on my porridge, or make someone’s tea with sugar I remember that little town; the plume of smoke rising each morning, the smell of sugar cane burning into the late hours of the night.


† quotes are from my own piece of memoir fiction, Saccharum Officinarum

§ header image: ‘Mulgrave Central Sugar Mill, Gordonvale.’ From Pictorial Grandeur of Cairns, Cairns, c1935, collection of Centre for the Government of Queensland, http://queenslandplaces.com.au/gordonvale 

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hello May

mornings melancholia coffee + sun peeling through the fog. telescope eyes watching we missed the aurora australis + sunday markets i’ve gotten out of habit with. family centric and i feel so fulfilled, books to the side, meandering thoughts, figs + feijoas.

autumn enraptures me, colours and crunching leaves although i prefer my oatmeal smooth (refined). dew sprinkles and i’m out for a walk, long black espresso with long loved friends the basil regenerates slowly after its run in with the monarch and i sit, shivers down my spine as the  day sets in, baby pink regenerated in the sun, regenerate, disintegrate (an acoustic kind of day) seep seep open the cache  and find

+ new recipes, it’s almost soup weather and the sun, like a pearl shines through the fog endless, scents of cyclamens and overripe fruit

there is no wind, and sometimes it’s as if you were trapped inside an apple and as the sun lights up your knees you feel in a letter writing mood, a beatrix potter mood and if you’ve a rabbit you ought to name him chamomile, but some days you’d prefer a salamander, whimsical hibernating angelic, and would she make the mess that is a wednesday feel lighter, a little brighter on the shoulders some days weigh heavier than others in my mind:

+ thursday – an overripe peach
+ friday – a distant moon of saturn
+ saturday – a country fête
+ sunday – an Austen novel, although I prefer Gaskell’s Cranford myself
+ monday – morning light fills the bathroom
+ tuesday – flowering thyme
+ wednesday – and we’re back to salamanders and the weight of the world on our shoulders, much like a yearning for distant woodlands in the late summer.

we drove in fog so thick i was reminded of my girl:

“The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells –
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.”

  • ‘Sheep in Fog’ from Collected Poems, by Sylvia Plath.

The days are crisper. i’m eating soft soft foods (and can now cross  ‘tooth extraction’ of my bucketlist) not my favourite excuse to avoid meetings and curl up in my pyjamas but it’ll have to do.

life sifting through like sand in the hour glass, wax nostalgic,
yellow chrysanthemums stare back at me
yellow feelings of contentment slowly
slide into disillusionment as
i sit under sunbeams
wondering, wandering
the simple depths of my mind
where do i go from here?
(wherever it is you wish my friend)

decay is yellow
sunripened basil, she regenerates slowly
hello May

what did you want to be when you grew up?
an observer of sunlight will do me fine.