Other people’s words about … hard work
He worked construction down on the river, where they were putting up a new footbridge. His own job involved the careful freighting of materials onto the platform where the crane rested on the water. There were times when he thought he’d get sick from the motion of the barge, the constant shifting underfoot. There were times when his hands hurt from lifting and pushing and turning, tightening the straps until they wouldn’t give, tightening them until it seemed impossible that anyone would ever be able to set them loose again. Days when his back ached and his stomach hurt and his hair was peppered with grit, when his eyes burned, and his nose burned from the stench of oil and of the river, which was dying a slow, choked death via a series of minor diversions. But then, on bright winter days, he’d look up and see the geese tracking across the sky, moving up there free as air, and he’d think that there was something beautiful left in the world. And he could go on like that, as long as there was something beautiful left in the world.From ‘Filthy Animals‘
by Brandon Taylor
I work in a call centre, an office job, unlike Brandon Taylor’s character Hartjes in the passage above. It’s not a physically demanding job. Even so, there are days when my head aches from breathing in stale, recycled office air, when my hips ache from sitting too long, when my voice croaks from talking for hours on the phone, when my stomach hurts from choking down my emotion after a difficult phone call. In the end, just like Hartjes, I feel my job in my body.
Neighbourhood frangipani tree, Taperoo, April 2022.
What grabs me most in the passage above is the river, in all its symbolism, dying its slow, choked death. Like Hartjes, I find myself looking up from my day, seeking the sky, seeking the air, seeking a glimpse of beauty and wonder.
That brief hint of beauty. That brief reminder of how to carry on.
Lately I’ve been reading …
- He was telling me how he liked writing, but he had a real block because it never came out on the page how it felt in his mind, and he just couldn’t stand the gap between the two: Aimee Bender on writing by the seat of your pants.
- If Miocene Earth had the same amount of CO2 in the atmosphere as we have currently, why aren’t we living in the same conditions? It’s a matter of time lags: there’s a delay as the climate equilibrates with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The planet will eventually catch up. A Miocene climate is coming. It’s like seeing the flash of a far-off explosion, but the shockwave hasn’t yet reached us: Mark Bullock on how the human body will experience global warming.
- We can never entirely escape from human-centric narratives of nature; they have always been our primary means of interpreting and coming to terms with the landscapes in which we find ourselves: Richard Smyth on why nature writing must not descend into poetic self-absorption.