Lost in Place: writers’ favourite parts of the world

As part of the Weather Stations project, Tony Birch has been asking writers to share images and vignettes of those parts of the world that are the most meaningful to them. Here, Emily BittoChris FlynnLorna Hendry and Sophie Allan share brief recollections of warm nights beneath pepper trees, purple dreams and ancestral Scottish stones.

Clouds

– Emily Bitto

I know we are intimate with this place because of the way we have named its parts: good hillthe finding stonesacacia flatthe bracken. I walk around my uncle’s studio, past the water tank, and see the den between two rocks where I used to lie for hours as a child, watching the adults through green wattle branches. This is granite country; time passes here in glittering dust or sheers off the sides of boulders in fire season. The bird my aunt named for its strange call whistles out as we near the dip where the bracken starts: purple dream, purple dream.

Emily Bitto is a writer and bar-owner. Her debut novel, The Strays, was awarded the 2015 Stella Literature Prize.


Wilson’s Promontory

– Chris Flynn

Every March I go camping, hiking and swimming on Wilson’s Prom, a national park peninsula four hours from Melbourne. The Gunaikurnai and Bunorong people call this beautiful place Yiruk and Warnoon, respectively. As an old Edgar Rice Burroughs fan, I just love the name Warnoon, as it reminds me of one of my favourite books, A Princess of Mars (made into the unjustly maligned film John Carter in 2012), wherein Earth is called Jarsoom, and Mars is Barsoom. There’s something otherworldy about the Prom, and when I’m there it feels like I’ve been transported to another planet, or into the past of our own.

Chris Flynn is an RSPCA animal handler and author of the novels The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden.


My ancestral stone

– Lorna Hendry

In my hand is a small grey stone, about the size of a 20-cent piece. It comes from the tiny village of Luib on the island of Skye in Scotland. To be specific, it is from the ruins of the croft where my great-grandfather was born 140 years ago. Each of my four cousins also has one – the plan is that the last one standing returns all five stones to Luib. I have never been to Skye. I left Scotland when I was seven. I’m not wishing ill on my cousins, but I really hope it’s me.

Lorna Hendry was born in Glasgow but has lived in Melbourne for most of her life. She is the author of Wrong Way Round, a travel memoir about a three-year camping trip around Australia.


In Balance

– Sophie Allan

I once slept with a lover in a grove of pepper trees by a bike path in North Fitzroy. Romantic with drink in the warm night and too broke for a cab, we hoisted his swag from the boot of my Corolla and each took an end. A streetlight shone moon-like as we felt for a flat spot to spread the bedding. We sank into deep sleep, hidden in the inky dark. Whirring bicycle wheels and heavy metal trams woke us. We became self-conscious; we were uninvited. Workers pumped along Nicholson Street towards the heart of the city, and over on the Merri the spotted pardalote still cried ‘sleep dee-dee’. Above us the leaves of the pepper-tree hung like the picked-at skeletons of fish. 

Sophie Allan is a writer and publisher who lives on Wurundjeri country.  She is the Editor-in-Chief of Chart, a publication that explores the ways our stories are woven into environment and place.

Portrait of Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.

Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio, and a regular guest at writers’ festivals. He lives in Melbourne and is a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

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