I’ve been using writing as a tool to express my emotions for a while now. The first poem I remember writing and being proud of, was one about cockatoos in an umbrella tree, like the tree outside my parents’ house in Queensland. My brother and I use to play in the cubby house under that tree and swing precariously from the lower branches, challenging each other to go higher and higher until one of us piked and the other won. Both of us elated, yet relieved that the challenge was done.
I must have been about nine, when I wrote it.
Writing with emotion can be a tightrope between poignancy and verbose rubbish. I often wonder which side I’m on. It’s harder with poetry than prose. Words are slippery and often twist away from the meaning that I attempt to capture.
But then, why do I use the word “capture” to describe meaning through words. My purpose is potentially emotional flight and freedom through wordy expression. Some cultures believe when you take a photo of someone, you capture their soul. I wonder if people see my soul through my writing. Or if they just see bad writing.
There was a small group of young kids living in the houses that surrounded the park near where I grew up. It was a fantastic space for creation and play. We would race each other across the green and yellow grass poking up through moulds of dirt left by torrential rains in summer. I can’t remember ever winning a race. One of our favourite games was tying each other up with ropes and pretending we were horse and rider; seems a bit savage now. We made a circular coral out of large sticks. No one ever told us not to touch sticks. We’d be at this for hours, until the light faded or we realised as one that we were hungry and arrived, filthy and sweaty in some poor, unsuspecting parents house, searching for snacks.
We rarely went to my house for snacks, as we were all somberly aware of the peanut hunt substituted for lollies at my last birthday party. This most recent matronly transgression on my mother’s part had not assisted my social standing with the local kids.
I was a quiet and contemplative child. Sometimes I would spend an hour bent in silent contemplation of a lizard sunning or an ant at work. I don’t remember many moments of pure joy. I remember feeling intensely about things, and sometimes even now I remember a thought I had back then, as intensely as I must have felt it at the time. Though these grow more faint, as the years go on.
When I capture collections of memories like this, it reminds me of how much time I had then, and the freedom to explore and use each day to its full potential; although, I perhaps didn’t feel so free at the time.
I don’t know what happened to the poem about cockatoos. It was written in one of my many journals, most of which have sadly disappeared over the years. Perhaps when we try to capture memories, like words and pictures, they too eventually disintegrate, are forgotten or fly away.