AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES, OR A FLY IN THE EAR

SOON THE MOON will come up, big and round, like last night, beautiful, from where the lights of the port of Akaba stretch in gleaming dotted lines towards the Saudi port whose name I don’t remember, to cast a growing sheen of beauty across the moving waters before me. I have felt closer intimacy with the moon. Lying under a eucalyptus tree on a hillside some thirty miles out of Melbourne some sixteen years ago, aged thirty‑two or so, about an hour after letting the small piece of blotting paper with the drop of LSD on it dissolve under my tongue, I saw its beams streaming directly at me, and opened my mouth to drink them in, and felt their power stirring in me, and female forms danced among the branches, inviting and inciting me to join the cosmic orgy. Until I tripped off in another direction, as now my mind does, not remaining fixed on any memory or thought, for the sound of the small waves rippling onto this stony beach, incessantly repeating yet never the same, brings me to think of other beaches, and of scenes between my many visits to so many beaches since the first time I came to a beach, a ten‑year‑old war refugee, at Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. Not only scenes come though, also thoughts: still I wonder at this inexplicable response to beauty, in sight and sound, and again I ask myself what this remembering is for, and why I have this desire still, or rather again, to share my memories and thoughts, to write at last the book or books I have wanted so many years to write, so many beginnings, so many designs, so many subjects, so many styles, things I apparently cannot communicate in conversation, nor really want to say to any one particular person though there are many people I know and probably many I don’t that I would like to write them to or for, though I could not with any certainty now tell you why. At certain times I would have said I knew why, in my prophetic phases when I believed that what I was writing was important, that it would surely change the world. And there were phases like that even before I started with the psychedelic drugs. So much to tell, so much to make sense of, if one can. All those pages at home, all those stages I’ve been through, and nothing achieved – if achievement is what counts, and if it is to be measured by products and income. The waves wash in, the waves wash out. The sea’s surface can be beautiful, and beautiful too is its feel when I swim in it, cool still in early May after the blazing heat of the sun at midday. Beautiful, yet deceptive, or treacherous: a few days ago some sea creature stabbed me in the foot, stinging me with some poison, sending me into excruciating pain such as I cannot remember experiencing, yet reminding me of what I had not felt a long time, the reality of pain. So many things reminding me of so many things lately, especially since last weekend, the seventy‑two hours of leave I was given from my month’s stint in the reserves here at Taba, the disputed region between Egypt and Israel, where I’m serving as a liaison officer. I had to hitchhike back to Tel Aviv from Eilat, many memories, how I crossed the Jordanian border here one summer night a few months after I got married, and the kibbutz I was a member of the first three years in this country, and… There was an eclipse of the moon the Saturday night I was back, my second son knew from the papers, we watched it in spurts, I remembered the first time I’d seen one, unprepared, in Townsville, Queensland, waiting for a ferry to take me to Magnetic Island on one of my lone excursions, just me and my small stash of hash, into the unknown. That same Saturday morning there’d been a phone call, a publisher’s editor who wanted to meet me, and we met and she wanted to know the story of my life, and telling her as much as I could in speech in the time we had, I knew again that I wanted to write it. How is still a problem.
“You have to know what it’s about,” she said. “Is it about being born in Warsaw and growing up in Shanghai and in Melbourne, or is it about idealism and kibbutz, or about drugs and messianic psychosis, or what?”
I thought she meant my life. “I don’t know, but I think what it’s about is what it is, what it has been, all of it.”
But she meant the book. And how to put it together. I told her about how many ways I’d tried, never satisfied. And about the time I spent a whole day, burning hundreds of pages. Sydney, Avalon, in the house by the beach.
Book, life, so many flows, like these waves. “An embarrassment of riches,” someone who understood my problem about all the different things I thought I wanted to write about in one form or another wrote about me once. She’s dead now. Anne. At the Writer’s Retreat, 1967, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales. Before Jonathan was born. Before my mother died. Before I tried the drugs.
I don’t know any answers. I have no opinions to push. Can’t say I believe in anything. Whatever I’ve learned, if I’ve learned anything, must emerge in what I do, whenever. I have no precepts to pass on to my sons, and much I would like to tell them. I think this is a very special time of the world, and then I don’t think that. Thoughts, like memories, come and go. I don’t know what doesn’t. I think what seems to return is really something else. Sometimes, like now, my mind teems with these things. Enough of standing here and letting them just flit. I’ll get a pad.
Soon the moon will come up. Big and round, from where the port lights of Akaba gleam. I won’t need it for light. A large projector behind me lights up yards of rippling sea and the long lines of quarried rocks spread along the shore. I’m sitting on a large rock, my back against another, writing pad on my knees.
Into the wash and slap of the wind-moved waves comes the voice of my “partner” in this liaison post, in Hebrew. “Are you writing letters or drawing?”
Even here people ask you. How many times have I heard such questions, in how many places. Me with how many pads.
“I’m writing. Not letters. Not drawing.” Some people can always think of funny answers. What is it with me, always trying to be close to truth?
Not drawing? Maybe I am, drawing what’s here, drawing on memory.
Writing, again.
I said I wouldn’t start writing again until I knew where the narrative would end. I know now where it’ll end. Round about here.
Here, where I brought my pad some fifteen minutes ago, after standing here for some fifteen minutes, seeing and hearing the beauty, feeling the wind, thinking, remembering, wanting, knowing and not knowing.
The moon didn’t come up that night. Clouds hid it. And I wrote no more until I was home, away from the military atmosphere and routine.

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