Picnic at Hanging Rock

Nov 22 2016

Leaving my wife and child at the front door, because this is my day for my fishing trip, to be alone. Not that I need time alone from them, but that I don’t seem to be able to handle myself very well lately. It’s not them, it’s me. Jane calling to me (as I close the boot) to drive safely. My wife and child smiling. Waving goodbye to me. Wave to Daddy. Daddy loves you. I just need a few hours to be alone.

As I am driving into my journey, I am remembering what my mother said to me on the phone. She is a volunteer in a fabric shop run by a charity and one of the other volunteers worked on the wardrobe for Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. They say you should write what you know. Or say what you know, or something like that. It gets confusing, because it isn’t certain. Do you know anything at all? That’s something to think about, whether you know anything or not. How do you know that you know what you know? How do you avoid saying something about something you don’t know? Would you know if you didn’t know what you were talking about? You’d just think you knew.

As I stop the car for petrol and bait, I wonder whether what was Weir doing saying things about young girls? What was it about him that wanted to say something about their lives, and why? There must have been something about it that he had to say. Do not appropriate others. I don’t know why I am thinking about the film. Ah yes, it’s because I remembered my mother’s phone conversation. But the film, it’s a separate thing from the conversation, it wasn’t part of it. Removed from it, we didn’t talk about it.

I can hardly remember the film, but I never read the book. Was it written by a woman? What was she writing about anyway? Was it the Pied Piper? It seems like it was about a colonial landscape. No, but a landscape that had been colonised. Why then the girls in the landscape? Being eaten up by the landscape like that? They seemed to choose to go into the landscape. But apart from that, apart from the landscape, they went into the mountain, like the children in the story, the Pied Piper. Were they lured into the mountain, or why did they choose to go there?

As I reach the river, I put my box and rod and chair and things on the bank where I decide to set up, but I find that I don’t choose to fish just yet. Maybe not at all. I’m in the air and the wind. No, not the wind, the breeze, whatever you call it. The pale air, the thin moving air, moving across the landscape with me in it. I decide to walk along the bank.

It is that time between early afternoon and late afternoon, when it is no longer midday, and “the sun has passed its zenith”, as they say. (Who says that? I think I read it in a book.) The sun is shining on the water and the world is pleasantly hypnotic; you wish that this world, in this place, would last forever, perhaps. But that’s not reality. Was “Picnic at Hanging Rock” based on a true story? I think I read that somewhere. But that’s not really what it was about. It was fictionalised, which is to say, that through its telling, it became a telling of something else.

Along the bank, there are flies on the surface of the water. Not flies, although I thought they were flies, but waterskippers. Or maybe both but I can’t tell the difference. It is hazy, or not hazy exactly, but bright, at this time of day. The sun is on the water and the water is bright. It seemed as though the girls went into the mountain, but they didn’t go into the mountain. You can’t go into a mountain. The place where they went is the space in the mountain, between the parts of the mountain through which they stepped. There was an absence of mountain there, and they went into the absence.

I am stepping along the shore, and the water is white with the sun. Not white, I realise, and remind myself, but bright. Bright is not a colour, it washes out all white, all colour. It is a nothing, a banishing, between the water and the sky. It dazzles, blinds, effaces. I could drown here in the river. But instead of drowning, I don’t drown. I step into the bright nothing.

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