The Long Drawer

I wrote this seven years ago and wanted to draw on it again today. I was stuck for a topic so this is my ‘go to’ box.

long-drawer-box
My Long Drawer – box

The value of the Bakhtinian notion of the “long drawer”.

I have been a researcher since childhood. I have discovered that my researcher persona seldom takes a holiday. Conversations I have—and have had (or overheard), the books I read and have read, the events I participate in or observe become intrinsic to my life. The garnered information is stored, often in a journal, sometimes in memory, sometimes on tape or in pictures, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, but is there to be “drawn” on when I need it!

Connecting my familiar to what is, at first, strange carries it with me into my writing. Remembering stories and myths allows me, indeed provokes me, as author, to use my ‘long drawer’. A colleague mentioned (in passing) ‘the long drawer’. He was speaking about Bakhtin’s custom of ‘drawing’ on material that he had written many years earlier. The play on the word ‘drawer’ (I imagine the material was kept in a bureau of some sort) and ‘drawing’ upon it, befits the way I work and research and remember. These things I keep: letters, essays, and notes; I write down dreams, conversations and memories of conversations; I eavesdrop and take notes. I keep journals, diaries, taped interviews, lists, and newspaper clippings—many of which I draw on at various stages in my work.

When the dreaded block happens, I plunge my hand into one of the various boxes that serves to house the bits and pieces. I find in my ‘long drawer’ journals and diaries that go back forty years or more; scraps of paper with notes are even older. I remember the journals and letters I destroyed when I left Africa and regret that I was so imprudent and impulsive in burning them. The papers and letters I did keep take on a meaningfulness that makes me realise I was an historian, an ethnographer, an anthropologist, before I knew what the words meant. Among the treasures that remain in the cache, my ‘long drawer’, are my father’s handwritten notes of the eulogy he gave at his mother’s funeral in 1967—the year my daughter was born—and just by seeing his handwriting I feel and savour the threads that link the generations: I remember the fountain pen he used, I remember my grandmother’s funeral, and most of all, I remember my father.

The correspondence and conversations with friends, relatives, Australians, Zimbabweans, and expatriate Rhodesians is evident and the anonymous others whose words and conversations, overheard, are stored for retrieval when I need them. In the long drawer, past impacts on the present and the present on the past and traces of autobiography are spoor to draw in the reader.

This post is now part of my long drawer and in it I have drawn on my doctoral thesis, emails to friends and other hoarded sources.

long-box-inside
Looking tidy today!

Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975)

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The Long Drawer

light on the eucalypts


light on the eucalypts
Originally uploaded by Eleanor V

The forest giants at the end of the road where I live. There are a pair of ospreys that nest in one of the trees in the grove. Occasionally we see one of them, probably the male because of it being nesting season, soar overhead with a fish or a snake in his talons. I think of the story of Aeschylus who was killed (so the story goes) when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his bald head, mistaking it for a rock! Perhaps I’d die of fright if an osprey dropped a tiger snake on my head!

light on the eucalypts

Yoga in the Tingles

Truly magical yoga at Valley of the Giants last night. Quokkas, birds and the clearest sky. I invented a ‘salute to the Tingles’ and ended with Tree of Life meditation. At the finish we all just sat there and gazed into the forest, nobody wanted to move. Thank you to the students who came along, it was an experience that will remain with me for a long, long time.

Yoga in the Tingles

Now that the silly season is over.

Now that the silly season is over and things are settling down again, I find time to catch up on writing here in my blog.

I had to take my car to the smash repair shop after the close encounter with the steel roo bar on an old 4X4 ute (that happened to be stationary at the time) thereby wiping out the rear lights on my trusty Toyota. Why do people need massive roo bars in the city? Well, I returned to Walpole and after discussion with the insurance company, took my car along to Walpole smash repairs. Check out the track to the panel shop! Taken slowly it is OK but a few bumps and bounces … the standard of work is excellent and the colour matched up perfectly.

25 December was warm and our menu was fairly banal – fresh caught tuna cooked on the BBQ and salads. There was far too much for the two of us so we ate tuna for a couple of days afterwards! So, that was much the same as usual – big fish, small appetites.

New Year was fun. My grand daughters were here and the youngest has at last found her feet and is up and running! She is so tall she can reach far so very little is safe from her curiosity. The flies and ants made life somewhat difficult but a good time was had by all. I, for one, didn’t make it to midnight and looking at the photos taken by Dean, I can see why! Red wine tends to leave a neat little moustache on my face! I’ve managed to delete most of them but this one, where I appear to be addressing a potato crisp (and probably was) escaped!

I went with the family to Yallingup for a few days. Heaps of sun, sea, sand and zillions of flies. One of the highlights was a visit to Simmo’s Icecreamery; a great selection of icecreams although, in my usual conservative fashion, I stuck with vanilla! The gardens are a delight and the girls had a great time. On the way home to Walpole I got horribly lost, the Busselton bypass is confusing and to get on the Nannup road took me a couple of false turns. The courteous service staff at the Vasse general store eventually put me on track! Then, I missed the shortcut turnoff after Northcliffe and took the tourist route instead. The 3-hour trip turned into a bit of a marathon and I arrived home hot, hungry and not a little grumpy. Heaps of road kill on the roads, mainly roos but also some small unidentifiable animals and many reptiles: snakes, goannas and so forth.

So, back to what we consider normal down here in the south west. Next week up to Perth for my brother’s 70th birthday, that’s a milestone if ever there was one!

Resolutions for 2010? Learn to be kinder and more tolerant.

Now that the silly season is over.