mort (part 1 of 2)

The Age weather report says this about right now*:

Fine. A hot, oppressive night with strengthening northerly winds.

This is the sort of heat that stings your eyes and throat when you cycle through the city streets. That burns what feel like holes into your skin when you stand in the sun. That melts the bar of Lindt ‘MINT INTENSE’ chocolate on your desk, which is fine because as careful research has shown, a Lindt bar is most delicious after it has melted once (and only once) and re-solidified.

It’s fucken hot. This has little effect on the topic of this post, but is a required remark – I spoke with no one today who did not speak about the weather.

Now that we’ve gotten that obligation out of the way, I can discuss what I’ve come to discuss: the glaring reality of life and of death, in my garden. A garden, in Australia, is a space around a domicile that’s got plants, concrete, woodchips, or indoor furniture placed outside. In America this might be referred to as a ‘yard’. I think this has something to do with the imperial system of weights and measures.

The universal truths of life and growth and death are manifesting themselves in the garden in what seem to me to be dramatic ways. From the time I began nesting here I had the sense that something was going on back there, which was confirmed when I’d find a torso here, a pile of entrails there, a coating of feathers and fur on the grass. (I have not determined to whom the torso belonged, but I can verify that it did not belong to a raccoon.) While of course this is slightly 0ff-putting to a city-dweller such as myself, I also sort of enjoyed the rather macabre goings-on in what is otherwise a sort of ‘Australian dream’ (Hills Hoist and all). I have a white picket fence. I have a few of them mod cons. I live a rather civilised urban-edge lifestyle, I drink peppermint tea in the bath, and there is a great murder mystery playing itself out in my backyard.

For a little while I poked my toes carefully around the garden for fear I would step on something killed. It was already rather Amazonian back there, with grass and creepers and weeds that hadn’t been tended to in quite some time and me with no scythe. But then I found this guy (well, this portion of this guy) laying on the path in the lovely morning sun, and it changed things.


He looks like he put up a fight.

And so began my obsession with photographing the dead and rotting things in my garden. I walked away from this one feeling a bit squeamish and a bit guilty – was I exploiting the pain and suffering of these poor creatures? What would my vegan friends think? What Would Jesus Do?

But there was something about the act of photographing, and of looking at the resulting images, that created some degree of distance from the visceral object itself. When we’re concerning ourselves with the technical business of obtaining the image, of capturing the rather gruesome detail of a severed head/jaw in the perfect light of a sunny spring morning, we make a shift to that task and to presenting some sort of ‘reality’ via image. I lost contact with my very human feelings about death (read: brutal murder) and sympathy during that time, and saw that this was simply what was, this was the reality of what is happening in my garden and what happened before I was poking my toes round it and will happen when I’ve moved back to San Francisco to be a juggling sexologist. There is some beauty in that – in capturing ‘what happens’, in looking at that image and simply accepting it. Curiously, I don’t get that same feeling when I look at the object itself, which is still back there, though now pared down from the state depicted above. For some reason the photograph, the mediated, interfaced image of the thing, presents something more ‘real’ to me than the origin, the thing itself.


Coming soon in part two…life!


*When I say ‘right now’, really I mean two days ago, since this post was interrupted and delayed by a midnight underwear swim/bike ride and a birthday.


3 responses to “mort (part 1 of 2)

  1. lovely macabre compositions, graceful dancing upside down legs of the dead bird, teeth of something seemingly primordial, mysterious indeed, this daily round of death in your garden…

    love you bee xx

  2. You know, I used to let things deliberately a way of accepting la mort, flowers and so on. And i have a few corpse souveneirs too of my own. There is something so infathomable about it all, you need to look at it , and smell it, and feel it’s texture, to even remotely comprehend it. I remember when my dog died I touched her body (it was two days old, smelly, bloated) and it was cold. So cold. I touched her ears too, but in the end I held her paw because it was the only thing that felt like her still.

    At Christmas time when I was driving down to Grassy, I saw a dead python on the road to Bangalow.. something about the beauty of it made me stop and go and drag it off the road, so that it could decay in peace, rather than being smashed into oblivion. I intend to go back and harvest some of the bones, if it is still there. Death has a certain dignity to it, that needs to be preserved, and I think the photos here portray that.

  3. In fact, when I die, before they feed my body to the fire, I think an open casket will be on order so all my loved ones can see the finality…

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