Recommendations for a Western Australian Coastal Pastoral
1. I am thinking about limits.
A. The gaps between limits. Liminal, littoral spaces.
B.The most fundamental part of ‘human’ consciousness is defined by lack of limits.
C. Unless it is limited by life and death which are themselves littoral rather than literal
2. The beach, we say, is a littoral zone. Do I repeat myself? I repeat myself.
3. In WA the beach is our playground, where our children grow.
A. A playground is a fenced space.
B. Putting a fence around the yard strikes us as being the easiest way of achieving order out of chaos, says Wallace Stevens.1
C. When we grow into our consciousness we find our own limits and no longer need the playground.
D. But Stevens is, of course, talking about America.
4. In the language of early settler Australians, there was no way to describe the landscape. Even the colours were limited.
A. To paraphrase early accounts, yellow, yellow, yellow, desert, death, where is the green?
B. Unsurprisingly, the fields in the WA wheat belt are many shades of yellow, none of them green.
C. The most obviously green thing of WA is the ocean.
D. So it rolls like fields and is most fertile.
E. But there are no sharks in the wheat fields.
5. Flaubert says that thing about being ordered in our dailiness to be violent in our art.
A. He is also not Australian.
6. The US shore lyric is defined by Bloom as one of confronting limits of existence through the impassable borders of the ocean (death)2.
A. WA literature is defined by being in the ocean, out past where your feet can touch the bottom.
7. After the second fatal shark attack at Gracetown, people stopped putting their head under.
8. If oceans are fields, then when you dive under the surface you are in essence burying yourself.
9. At the panel on sharks, the audience was asked who among them had ever had a profound experience in the ocean.
A. Everyone put their hands up.
10. The beach must be protected, said the Premier of WA, it is our way of life. It will be our children’s children’s way of life.
11. On a clear day with your head under water everything looks green.
A. On a less clear day, it’s the more familiar yellow.
12. From space, two things about Australia are visible: the clearing line–a yellow chevron through the wheat belt, and the Barrier Reef–dark green in lighter green.
A. The Reef is slowly lightening.
13. In the 1870s whipping was outlawed in WA, the wheatbelt was cleared and Australia entered the age of enlightenment.
A. A man’s soul might be disciplined separately from his body: rational man can be relied upon to protect his own.
B. Aborigines continued to be whipped, often for not recognising fences.
C. After failure to assimilate they became subject to the Flora and Fauna Act.
D. A man can beat an animal any which way he likes.
14. A country built on genocide is not going to preserve its intact ecosystems says the poet from the wheatbelt.3
15. The colonial Australians we are led to believe suffered from an exile consciousness.
A. The ocean bought us. It is how we try to get back.
16. To catch a shark you bait a drumline and wait.
A. If the shark is three metres: shotto to the head.
B. Drag it past the limits of where the shore.
C. Sink it.
17. Pregnant sharks do not feed for months. A green moss grows in each of their seven rows of teeth.
18. Around our bays we will place shark nets.
- W. Stevens, ctd in J. Kinsella, Contrary Rhetoric: Lectures on Landscape and Literature, Fremantle, Fremantle Press, 2008, p. 257.
- H. Bloom, The Anatomy of Influence: Literature as a Way of Life, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2011, pp. 235-247.
- J. Kinsella, Contrary Rhetoric: Lectures on Landscape and Literature, Fremantle, Fremantle Press, 2008, p. 292.
‘Recommendations for a Western Australian Coastal Pastoral‘ was previously published in Cordite 54: No Theme V (May 2016)
Photos in collage from: CSIRO CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons