Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Populating a landscape

I have been writing a short piece on Australian singer Kathleen McCormack. I vaguely remembered the name, but had not realised her connection with my own area. Its been frustrating because of lack of information.

This is an example of her work. A brief comment follows the clip.

After all these years, I think that I can claim to be a reasonably proficient historian. So far as Northern NSW is concerned, the New England I write about, I can claim a substantial degree of expertise.  Yet I am always learning.

As I learn, I populate the landscape. This is quite difficult to explain. Kathleen sings of the bushranger Thunderbolt. Like Ned Kelly, he has become something of a mythic character.

I know the geographic names in the song. I know the country. I like the song because it talks about part of my country. But its more than that, for the landscape has become populated in my mind. Each place or name mentioned has multiple things attached to it. There is a texture. My own experiences meld with history. I go to new places because I want to add the physical memory, to connect locale with the things i read.

The personal effect is quite profound. It's not just my writing. Each week, I write between 500 and 2000 words on New England history. Then I read and read. I cannot drive a road anywhere in Northern New South Wales without having some history attached.

I am using the word history in its broadest sense, Increasingly, it includes thought, literature, film, song and painting and the trivia of daily life. This is a painting of a wool dray on the black soil plains. It's bogged. Why? This is another painting of the Upper Clarence goldfields. Look at the techniques they are using to search for the gold. Now follows a lecture on water shortage.

The distinctive thing about my writing is that it's regional, using that word in its broadest sense, I write because I am populating my landscape and wish to share. This year my big writing target is to finish my New England history, to share that populated landscape.

I am constantly distracted. That is why I am sharing my objective, setting a most public target so that  shame might overcome overcome problems of distraction and focus. We will see how we go.         


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

I am sorry to have contributed to the constant distraction from your major target. It is a very worthwhile task you have set yourself, and I hope (no, make that know) you will achieve it this year.

Anyway, I thought I'd just scatter a few crumbs over here for the benefit of your other followers :)

With thanks for, and acknowledgement of, your patience.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, kvd. And you are never a distraction, just sometimes distracting!