‘On Tim Winton’s This Island Home’ and work in progress, ‘From Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay’ by Shannon McCarthy
‘On Tim Winton’s This Island Home’ and work-in-progress, ‘From Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay’ by student Shannon McCarthy was developed in Building a Strong Narrative in 2022.
On Tim Winton’s memoir of place, This Island Home
I admire Winton’s skill at immersing the reader in a felt sense of relationship with land. The writing and the technique behind it, is impactful. As a reader, I’m there, pushing through wet tropical rainforest.
Winton layers words that evoke the bodily experience of wet – ‘sucking’, ‘perspiration’, ‘choking’, ‘spitting’, ‘rushes’, ‘swirls’ – with words that evoke abundant life in motion: ‘wild’, ‘prickles’, ‘crawls’, ‘psychedelic’, ‘plenitude’.
Words do double work – ‘soupy’ is wet and full of bits, ‘fizzes’ is water in motion.
When Winton reveals the hackneyed simile of Moses and the Red Sea, it’s fresh with the weight of the words that have gone before, and strong enough to segue smoothly to the statements about being a traveller from another world and time.
The challenge I set myself in responding to Winton’s writing is to start small: move beyond the intuitive and deliberately use the metaphorical weight of individual words to strengthen the impact of my writing about relationship with environment.
From Horseshoe Bay to Balding Bay
On the beach by the cafes, families laugh and eat fish and chips washed down with slushies, the air gummy with the smell of coconut sunscreen and backpackers’ beers. The sand is palest brown sugar, powder soft. I walk just above the waterline to avoid sinking and being stuck.
Past kayaks for hire. Past a sunset-cruise sign. Past the gelato shop at the end of the road.
The sand coarsens, crystallises into tiny fragments of shell and dead coral tumbled smooth by the tides. I crunch percussively across calcite chips varnished with brine. When I brush my fingertips along the surface, speckles of exoskeleton cling to my skin, pinpricks of white, beige, apricot, rust. A lick confirms the taste of seaweed.
I trudge across the salted expanse, following a stranger’s footprints away from the sea and up to the scrub. The transition is a dry narrow inlet, a thin line of low-growing mangroves in grey silted sand. In the Wet, I’d be in fecund water up to my knees. Now, in the Dry, fertility sleeps, and the earth hushes my footfall.
Author Bio: Shannon McCarthy is a writer and Zen practitioner who, parents, gardens and crafts in the Darebin Creek catchment, on the land of the Wurundjeri people. One day she’ll go back to dancing Argentine tango. You can contact her at starsonmyfur.com.
Photo credit: Shannon McCarthy
Winton, Tim (2017) Island home: a landscape memoir, Milkweed Editions, Minneapolis, Min.