from a work-in-progress

jocko creek horses

Four stones, one to anchor each corner of the map. A soft pencil to make the marks. A notebook with research materials stuck in at appropriate places: articles photocopied in the university library, letters from scholars, some phrases I hoped would let me get closer to these writers — “…the formidable power of geography determines the character and performance of a people.” (Love and Salt Water) A small album of pictures, some of them photographs I’d taken on previous trips, attempts to identify specific places; some of them images clipped from magazines or literary journals: Ethel Wilson in a kimono, Sheila Watson with the inevitable cigarette. My advisor kept, well, advising me to seek them out – both were still alive – to talk to them about their work but I wasn’t ready to do that yet. I didn’t know the questions I wanted to ask, not in words, though my map was dense with them. Rivers curled like interrogative marks, roads petering out, the dot of a community and no indication of how to get there, by water or by track. The pine needle I’d stuck to the map with resiny fingers showed me the distance I’d come from the Lac Le Jeune Road to the Deadman River. Four stones to anchor the map and a long-antennaed beetle finding its way across it.

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