Walking the Dark Garden
This is a piece I wrote after I returned to Melbourne from my seven years of la dolce vita in Northern NSW. It felt like all was lost. My hero Nick had died tragically, my then best girlfriend Vanessa Gorman lost her baby Layla the day she was born and my troubled, on again off again boyfriend Pete had decided death was a better option than his painful existence. When he took his life in a rental car overlooking Byron Bay, I sat down to write myself out of inertia and depression. This work is not published anywhere and I don't plan to read it again until I am old.
This was my first attempt at long form writing. Already deeply invested in stage plays and some screen plays I took up the opportunity to study my Masters Degree at the University of Queensland and decided to begin a work about the small phenomenon I had been observing in a tiny town called Mullumbimby. It was my belief there was great merit in a tale of the underdog winning against all odds to unite a community and galvanise its strength against big development. I wanted to base the story on the local independent newspaper where I worked.
However the day I was accepted into my Masters Degree, the editor of the newspaper tragically died and I saw my community shift into a state of collective grief. His paper lived on and still does- now helmed by the sons and daughters of the original owners. It's called the Byron Shire Echo. www.echo.net.au
But for mine, the day Nicholas Shand died was the day Byron Bay and its surrounds departed from an epoch of love, peace and mung beans into shrewd fiscal muscle, seduced by mammon.
Growing up catholic in 1970's Australia has some benefits. The theological insight into what historically drives contemporary issues can be somewhat enlightening as much as it can be devastating. Like so many young faithfuls I evolved with the the idea of original sin, of a woman's sinister role in the lives of men. By the time I ascended into adulthood and took myself off travelling I was appalled by the number of things I discovered were said and done in the name of God. Like the Vatican- which struck me as a bloated use of power and real estate when so many surrounding it were suffering. But that's just me. No offence intended. Over the years I began to question what the real relationship between a man called Jesus and a women, a whore called Mary might have been? As a screen writer I was used to taking the advice of Harper Lee's seminal character Atticus Finch: to walk around in a person's shoes for a mile to understand them. So I began to wonder what it might have been, this relationship between Jesus and Mary. I also began to look at the religious response to social change, like invitro fertilisation, gay rights and marriage and parenting. I saw so much inverted morality and I began to write, in two worlds, two eras: one ancient and one contemporary. Whore is a fantasy fiction and made it to the long list of the Vogel prize in 2002.