So, I’ve spent all day procrastinating rather than writing. The topic is death, which I, regretfully, suggested to my writers’ group. We spent much of our last session talking about death so I thought it would be a good theme to be challenged by. Initially, I was going to write about the 367 Aboriginal prisoners who died on beautiful Rottnest Island while it was a prison in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Why? Because not enough people know about this atrocity and it also relates to a Young Adult manuscript that I have written.
I generally do my best writing in the morning but today the morning came and went, then the afternoon came and went. Now it’s 5.30 pm and I’ve stopped Googling and reading Facebook posts. My fingers are on the keyboard and I’m finally writing.
Now, back to the topic: death. I’ve had an interesting few days which included working on a short story which touches on suicide and talking to one of my adult children who struggles with depression. And when I rang my mum on her 97th birthday, in response to my ‘Happy Birthday Mum, how are you?’, she said ‘Now I’ve got two leaky heart valves, and I’m not going to be around much longer so you’re going to have to come over (I live interstate) and sort everything out (after I die).’ When I tell her I’m going to visit in a couple of weeks she says she’s not sure that she will still be around. I ring the aged care facility and doctor, to discover that nothing has changed and it’s likely that she’s going to live as long as her sister who recently died aged 105.
After all of that, I don’t want to write about death. So, I’m not.
Instead, I’m going to write about rebirth: not in a religious sense, but in an ecological one.
I mourn the damage that we’re doing to our planet but find it amazing how the environment fights back. For example, when bush has been ravaged by fire, soon after the first rains the blackened branches drip with a flurry of epicormic buds (a special kind of bud that sits dormant under the bark of Eucalypts and only erupts when a significant amount of its leaves have been removed, like during a bushfire, and grow into a new canopy within months).
I love the way masses of Acacia (wattle) seeds germinate after a bushfire because the heat of the fire has changed their seedcoat, enabling them to sprout. And the way native orchids proliferate in the first winter after a fire because all the weeds that they usually have to compete with, burned up.
And how amazing is it when naked, inhospitable islands birthed from the sea by volcanic eruptions are covered in vegetation and animals within a few years. Or a man-made groyne around a marina forms a home to numerous species of fish, and other creatures, which become food for gulls, cormorants, pelicans, egrets and terns and the cycle of life continues.
It seems that death brings new life, which is a fitting reflection for this time year: the Easter season.
So, after all of that, how hard is it to write about death? Quite hard, or if you go on a different tack, not so hard at all. It does, however, help to stop procrastinating.