The scale and pace of planetary time is too grand for most of us to comprehend. For a rainforest fungus that arrives and dies within a day, a giant myrtle appears immortal and unchangeable. The fungus might write poetry in which the myrtle is a static and enduring backdrop to the drama of its own brief fling with life. With global warming, the spectacle of change has been brought into a time perspective that a single human life can understand. The comforting illusion of immutable environments has fallen away. In my working life I engage in the environmentalist conceit of arresting change – saving the regent honeyeater, stopping rising greenhouse-gas emissions, preserving an old-growth forest in a steady state – but as a writer, I strive for a broader perspective.
I find the craft of writing drearily effortful, and both yearn for and resent the fluent, ecstatic altered states of consciousness that the ‘writering’ industry holds up as peak experiences. Leaps of imagination. Synaptic flashes of intellectual connection. The feeling that a story is ‘telling itself’, or that characters show up, fully formed, to narrate their own plots.
Whenever I have moved closer to town, I have missed the cleaner air and the instant sweep of a cool change. Most of all, I like that heart-expanding sense of a horizon clean of buildings, which persists even when you can’t see the water.
I used to think that internet time was flat, and that the internet was an engine for stripping texts of their temporal context. I can see now that internet time is infinitely looped, labyrinthine.
It’s now been over a decade since Indigenous activist group Black GST – Genocide Sovereignty Treaty – occupied Kings Domain, an ornamental parkland in the centre of Melbourne. The occupation, known as Camp Sovereignty, coincided with the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, which presented an opportunity to draw the international media’s attention to a range of Indigenous political struggles. What began as a two-week occupation soon morphed into a contest over place and memory, an act of resistance on a picturesque parcel of colonial land.