I have just finished watching Love and Fury: Judith Wright and ‘Nugget’ Coombs on ABC. It documents the clandestine relationship between these two intellectual Australians, mainly through their letters, which were released from embargo in 2009.
As The Australian’s article in the Review over the weekend warned, this is a powerful documentary, and I am moved to immediately record my thoughts. The relationship between Wright and Coombs is inspiring – the exchange of ideas led to each of them feeding one another’s passions and work.
Their relationship began the year Gough Whitlam came to power, and through the film clips of his three years in power I was first and foremost touched by the intellectual arguments of the day. There is often a sepia hue to the social movements and the radicals of the past, but Whitlam’s legacy has always been about the power of ideas to make change. Coombs was directly part of this, as a consultant to Whitlam.
There is a clip of Gough Whitlam in 1975 with a handful of red dirt, his hand poised over Vincent Lingiari’s as the soil slips from one hand to the other. There is Whitlam speaking of how all Australians are diminished while Aboriginal people remain dispossed of their land. These moments are part of history, yet Whitlam’s actions and words are powerful, and from across the decades I am moved. Continue reading
We were all rugged up against the cold
Scarves and coats and woollen socks
The sun came out, bright and glaring
Not warm, just sharp.
Casting light-shadows across our faces
Across the close dark weave of his coat.
In the south a storm brewed
But we were safe, here
In our slab of sharp sunlight
Surrounded by the cyclone fence
The graffitied wall, the empty showroom
The locked gates, the cracked carpark,
The weeds shooting through the bitumen.
We came for no thing, no solid
Thing to hold in our hands
We came for the light, the sunlight
Or, when the storm came, the cloud light
That fell in streaks between the rain.
We brought what we needed with us
And took only the light home
It is not a thing that you can hold.
But we will try, anyway.
It was yet another day that we could not hold
By mid-afternoon it felt all but over
It spilled away from us easily, too easily
We went to try and slow it down.
Only the capture of light, the taking-home of light,
Could slow it down, pause it for a moment.
We went home together in the rain.
The sunlight was gone
But we carried the light with us
Between us, around us, beneath the black umbrella
It’s not a thing you can hold
But we carried it, all the same.
Mist softens the world
Sharpens my senses
The cold air in my lungs
Is a moment of clarity
The footpath vanishes gently
Into a foggy distance
The birds are soft and clear
Their sound is everything.