Lately, I’ve been returning home from my sorties in bookshops with titles that tell me my interests are shifting, and my mind is wandering, from this idea of place and writing to something more embedded in and engaged with the landscape. I like how the word sorties is an anagram of stories – and I mean sorties in a way that is not so militaristic.
Here I might have to flag an emerging project – another ‘-ing’ project to extend the sense of doing and becoming that is implicit in Wording, Placing, and Changescaping. This ‘-ing’ is about the land and, in my ruminations about what that might be, the title of ‘Landing’ has come to resonate. Landing. Not so much as a coming down to Earth but the land or ground as something that speaks and rises, though never in a language of its own. The land as something that is and does. Writing ground and grounding writing.
Scanning my books, I know all too well how I arrived here: the books on cartography, psychogeography, travel, cultural geography and the like; thoughts about soundwalks and field recording. My recent and distant travels into rural and remote parts of this country, including the desert and the plains, and my sheer exhilaration when experiencing the magnitude of its expanse. At this point, I reach for the bundle of photos shot during a road trip from Brisbane to Alice Springs, about 25 years ago, via New South Wales and South Australia. That salty red earth felt magnetic. Or, some years ago, a short residency at Bundanon, nestled in the writer’s cottage, looking up from my computer to cast my eyes across the herds of grazing cattle to the trees framing the banks of the Shoalhaven River. A time spent walking and writing in ways that are impossible in my urban and suburban lives.
It was triggered not so long ago, when I returned home from a sale with $10 copy of Jonathon Raban’s The Soft City, a book I know well but which I have never read in its entirety, only in fragments and excerpts. While in Placing, I have explored a range of ideas about practice across planning, design and art, primarily in an urban context, in Landing, I hope to do something else and I approach it with some uncertainty. Perhaps my recent work related trip to Queensland’s Central West has sparked a desire for knowing. But I felt strongly – as I listened to people talk of their love of the land, as I track Native Title claims, and as I watch other natural resource management conflicts erupt – a sense that the politics of the land are coming to head. But that could well be a minefield, a potential diversion from the kind of ideas and writing about land I might prefer to explore.
Beginning is always difficult. So perhaps I am, initially, charting a course of readings and research to frame this project more carefully and thoughtfully:
- George Main, Heartland: The Regeneration of Rural Place
- Barry Lopez, Crossing Open Ground
- Jonathon Raban, Bad Land: An American Romance
- Paul Carter, Ground Truthing
- Mark Tredinnick, The Blue Plateau: A Landscape Memoir
- Julia Horne, The Pursuit of Wonder: How Australia’s Landscape was explored, nature discovered and tourism unleashed
In writing that list, I have become acutely aware that one of these works is written by a woman. A new writing project is now made somehow more real and possible, somehow more grounded.