It’s my last day in the Clarke Cabin at the Katharine Susannah Prichard (KSP) Writers’ Centre in Perth. It’s been a varied couple of weeks for me – brights and darks – but that’s life. Someone dear to me is dying from cancer and I felt very far away from my family at times. But yesterday, I discovered the guest books that are kept in the Aldridge Cabin – I wish I’d read though these on the first day of my stay. So many inspirational writers, so much practical advice on where to walk, where to eat, and where to go when you need to get away.
Like other writers have mentioned, it seems to take a few days to settle in here. After living in regional NSW for years, I’m not used to the sounds of the city. But after a few days, the noise from the planes and the traffic didn’t bother me as much. Instead, the sounds of the birds in the garden and the buzz of the bees humming in the tree outside my cabin seemed to intensify. I loved living amongst the garden at KSP. On sunny days, I took a blanket outside and lay under the trees, reading Tracy Farr’s novel The Lives and Loves of Lena Gaunt – marvelling at the fact that I was lying outside on a blanket, reading. Such a simple joy.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve made some good progress on a new memoir project, and I feel very fortunate to have stayed here with Cath Drake (all the way from London!) and Jen Mapleson (all the way from Roleystone 30 minutes away!). We had some fun times – sharing meals in the kitchen, laughing about the cats, visiting cafes in Mundaring and Darlington Road, and talking about writing. One afternoon, we had a very special time ‘clearing the energy’ up at the old house where Katharine and her husband Hugo Throssell once lived. I’ll always remember that afternoon – the smell of sage, rosemary and gum leaves, the bouquets of wildflowers, and the honesty of our intentions.
Another highlight was an impromptu tour with garden volunteer extraordinaire Fern Pendragon – where I heard the story of how Katharine and Hugo created the clay path which Fern is painstakingly restoring. I also enjoyed seeing the inside of Katharine’s studio, and was impressed by the writers I met in the Thursday Night Writers’ Group and the Nonfiction Writers’ Group who meet at KSP.
Other delights? Cath’s ‘Sundowner’ poetry reading was enlightening, the brownies at Café Mojo in Mundaring were superb, the natural beauty of John Forrest National Park was majestical, the railway tunnel was a spooky thrill, and the dinner at the Principal Bar & Restaurant in Midland with my fellow writers and Mardi May was delicious.
To quote Leonard Cohen: ‘I came so far for beauty’ … and I’m glad I came so far to experience the atmosphere and beauty of KSP. I often thought of Katharine while I was in the kitchen or when I wandered down the path to my studio – of her living here for fifty years, of the tragedies she experienced, and of her creating the foundation of this writerly haven in Greenmount.
What a woman. What a gift.
Thanks to all the dedicated staff, volunteers and writers who make the KSP experience possible!