Bundanon gate

It’s my last night at Bundanon, where I’ve had a residency since the 4th January – which feels like a long time to be away from normal life, but what a way to start 2018. I’ve loved being in this country again … walking all over the property, swimming in the river, working in my studio in the Fern Apartment, having breakfast on my verandah, and meeting an inspirational group of artists – painter Natacha Mankowski, photographer Svetlana Bailey, singer-songwriter Joe Mungovan, and writer Rosalie Ham. I’ve said it before about Bundanon, and I’ll say it again: How lucky am I?

I’ve seen cows, wombats, echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos, kookaburras … and cicadas. When I first arrived at Bundanon, the local cicadas were so loud I had to put my hands over my ears, but I soon became accustomed to their deafening daily soundtrack. I’ve also seen and heard far too many speedboats on the river – but it is summer, after all.

And the writing? Well, I worked on new material for Tattoo Songs, my next collaborative project with composer Christopher Purcell. Then, on the Capricorn new moon,  I worked out the secret ingredient that was missing from my memoir manuscript Yahtzee and the Art of Happiness … a manuscript that has been simmering on the back burner for far too long. And I also put together 15,000 words towards my next major writing project – a biographical work which brings to life the German Occupation of Amsterdam in World War II. Not a bad effort for a two and half week residency.

Huge thanks to Arthur & Yvonne Boyd, to all the staff who make Bundanon such a magical and welcoming place, and to the Aboriginal custodians of this land, past and present.

Bundanon bush

We meet at six on the stone verandah.

I bring merlot, spiced pear paste, blue vein and crackers;

the others – a Mexican artist and an opera singer from Melbourne –

bring roasted almonds, an opened packet of Granita biscuits,

and five squares of dark chocolate. I wave off their apologies –

shopping day for car-less residents was a week ago.

In the fading light, we settle on wooden benches

and prepare to share wine, food and stories.

When she heard only two other women were here, my mother said:

‘Hopefully a man will arrive soon … more interesting then.’


During their time at Bundanon, the two women before me

collaborated on a site-specific event involving seven tree-based mesostics

and performed it for groups of visitors, and for me, on Open Day.

As the opera singer stood by each tree in the garden –

Jacaranda, Orange, Weeping Willow,

Olive, Quince, Red Cedar and Magnolia –

her hair blew wildly in the wind, and at the end of each song

I said ‘Oh!’ in surprise and gratitude.



John Cage once wrote a mesostic for a stewardess when she asked.


I knew nothing about any of this.

More interesting when a man arrives?

I don’t think so, Mum.

I’m interested in anyone who gives themselves over to creativity.

Like Arthur.

And I’m curious when someone gives it up.

Like Yvonne.

In the gift shop I found a photo-card of Yvonne in Tuscany;

dressed in a blue-patterned skirt and white sleeveless turtle-neck,

she turns away from the camera, her feet hidden in long grass.

I like the way I have to imagine her face,

just as I have to imagine why she stopped painting.

On her stone verandah, the three of us raise our glasses to Yvonne,

and to Arthur, and to my artist-friend Sabine,

who died in a car accident two years ago.

Then we sit back and watch the goings-on in the paddocks.

‘Look at the ducks,’ the Mexican artist says, pointing.

‘Over near that wombat … can’t you see? Just behind the cows?’

The ducks, like us, are on a huge adventure –

from dam to paddock, from artist complex to homestead.

Before we leave, the opera singer – a mezzo soprano –

performs her composition of the Jacaranda mesostic;

her voice, unencumbered by wind, floats poignantly over the garden,

honouring a tree planted in memory of a father and daughter,

long ago drowned in the river.

Bundanon has seen sad times. Joyful ones, too –

like this impromptu communion of artists.

Wombat tours! Stampeding cows! Kangaroos! Kookaburras! Giant Bogong moths! Disco dancing! Fabulous al fresco dinner parties! Candle-lit violin concertos on the veranda of the writers’ cottage! Where else but Bundanon? The last two weeks have been life-changing, in so many different ways. It rained for nearly two weeks, the Shoalhaven River flooded, the road out of here was under water, and I should have packed a pair of gumboots. I’m leaving early tomorrow morning, and I’ve just said goodbye to my fellow residents – Madeleine Cruise and Karen Therese. I’m feeling a little sad, but I’ll be laughing all the way home to Armidale, thinking about the adventures we had – especially when we had to leap over a gate (twice!) to escape the supposed bull (but really a red-eyed demon cow) which was running towards us while we were out wombat spotting the other night. It’s surprising just how many things can look like a wombat out here – but a stampeding cow isn’t one of them. The Sydney folk who arrived tonight didn’t quite appreciate the wealth of fun you can have whilst wombat spotting at Bundanon, but as Karen just said to me, ‘We made our own little world here,’ and that world was very special. I’m going to miss it.

And did I do much work on the memoir? You bet I did. I’d planned on leaving Bundanon with a complete draft of the reworked manuscript, but it wasn’t possible for me to reach that goal. However, I did write good drafts of ACT 1 and ACT II, and I dealt with the ‘Varuna blah’ and took from it what I needed for ACT V. Phew! Dealing with the blah was full on … but I relentlessly worked my way through it. I’m weary now, in need of a rest. Earlier, my companions and I were chatting about different artist-in-residence opportunities, and those amongst us who’d been overseas spoke of how Australian artists are often recognised as the ones who work, work, work … usually to fulfil the expectations of funding grants and so on. But, in many places, artist-in-residence programs are less focussed on producing than they are about being in the environment, and experiencing what is on offer – people, surroundings, workshops, food – and allowing yourself time to be influenced by what is happening around you. I like that idea. Because I have a family and work / study commitments, any time to devote entirely to my writing is precious, so whenever I’ve been on a residency I’ve always worked super-hard. But I reckon I could learn to ‘chill’ a bit more in places like this – to spend time on the veranda looking at the view, to converse with other artists, to reflect, to walk in the bush and to enjoy the beauty and inspirational qualities of a place like Bundanon.

Bundanon is the perfect haven for artists of any discipline, a remote bush paradise, and I want to go wombat spotting here again. Being here, and meeting artists like Madeleine and Karen, has opened my mind to exciting new ideas for future projects. Thank you fellow residents – (humans, animals and birds), thank you Regina for welcoming me so warmly, thank you Gary for the sexy legs, thank you Onni for the beautiful smile, and thank you Arthur and Yvonne Boyd for your generous gift. Until next time…


Hello again. This is a quick post to share some good news. Out of seven recent applications, one finally came through for me. I have been offered a 2012 Artist-In-Residence position at Bundanon, Arthur and Yvonne Boyd’s old property on the banks of the Shoalhaven River near Nowra. I will stay in the one of the ‘writers cottages’ – how affirmative is that! A much-needed boost to the writerly self-esteem. Thank you Bundanon Trust.


Here’s to good news. And more of it, please. Until next time …