Sometimes from far away
They sign to me;
A violet smiles from the dim verge of darkness,
A raindrop hangs beckoning on the eaves,
And once, in long wet grass,
A young bird looked at me.
Kathleen Raine, ‘Exile‘
It was a cold and drizzly day when we visited Pieve Santo Stefano, a town some 15 kms north of Anghiari, near the source of the Tiber, which runs right through the middle of the town. Pieve is close to the birthplaces of both Michelangelo and Piero della Francesca. It was almost completely destroyed by the retreating German army during the second world war, and the non-descript postwar buildings contributed to a bleakness about the day of our visit. By contrast, what awaited us was yet another experience of the gracious hospitality we had been shown while staying in this part of Tuscany. Continue reading National diary archives, Italy
Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at a humanities postgraduate symposium held at Macquarie University. The organiser, who used to be a student of mine, asked if I would share some of my experiences of the PhD. Thinking back to my time as a student, I realised that among the most formative and character-building moments of the dissertation process were those that involved some form of failure. The periods when the research and writing progressed smoothly didn’t stand out. Instead, the most memorable points were when things weren’t going to plan and the process felt out of my control. Continue reading Sitting with Failure
On my recent visit to Sicily and Crete I was reminded repeatedly of the place, in South Australia, where I grew up. Looking at a hillside of olive trees in Sicily, I would find myself in a primary school geography lesson, lost in pictures of ‘the Mediterranean’. I couldn’t now say if my fascination with ‘the Mediterranean’ had been a fascination with places in the Mediterranean or with South Australia’s classification as ‘Mediterranean climate’. But, while in Sicily and Crete, I had an overwhelming feeling that these seemingly faraway places were somehow inextricably connected with the place of my childhood. Continue reading The time and space of childhood
I know you are suffering. You tell me that you feel broken, exhausted. Your horizons are diminished. You feel as though you have lost a better self and have no way to regain it. In spite of the specialists, the doctors, herbalists, clinicians, the diets and disciplinary regimes, a cure eludes you. You are beginning to despair. I can hear the anguish in your voice, the distress on your face, when we speak about your condition. You are suffering.
At times you see your illness as the cause of your suffering. It is the insurmountable obstacle that prevents you from realising your true, happier, self. At others, you blame yourself for not being able to accept your condition and forge a life within it. You see your suffering as a sign of failure: your great and perpetual failure to be happy. As if happiness was an achievement. As if us non-sufferers were somehow better at living than you. Continue reading Letter to a friend