Bright Orange Cowboy Boots by Threasa Meads
The small blue-grey moths flit through the nodding grass stems that are pregnant with spiky seeds. My backyard is bald in places, overgrown in others. It’s still spring here in Adelaide, but the battle between summer and winter has well and truly been won: when the Lawnie comes tomorrow and tidies up, everything below knee-height will die off. The eleven fruit trees suck everything dry. They’re already laden with little green knots of promise. The figs will all be ripe by February, and I will stand under the fig tree’s limbs. The white sap will drip between my toes as I break off the soft fruit and push a finger in to feel their secret warm insides, and smell the promise of hot sticky sweet jam that I will lick and swallow after turning each one inside out. I never eat the skin. I drop it where I stand. All summer, the ground beneath the fig tree is littered with the remnants of my pleasure.
Occasionally, a pair of white cabbage moths dance above the small blue-grey ones. I’m forever fascinated by how each species of winged insect seems to dance to its own song. Half a lifetime ago, when I lived in a loft in the Far-North Queensland rainforest, I watched the tiny green lanterns of the carnivorous beetle of the family Lampyridae (often mistakenly called fireflies) write sheet music in the undergrowth, and at the time, I wished I could read the notes. Now, I’m content to simply witness the ebbs and flows of monarchs, bees, dragonflies, and so many moths that weave through the plants in my backyard; they dip and rise before coursing off into other yards, oblivious to the fences demarcating human territories as they navigate their suburban landscapes.
Not that it looks like the suburbs here. From my backyard, I can see hills and trees and blue-sky-expanse as though I am in a country town. I wrote about this when I moved here close to five years ago. I also wrote about the backyard, the fruit trees and a cabbage moth:
Through the glass doors, the wild green garden calls to Lolah. She throws the doors wide and warm air, thick with the sweet tang of ripe fruit, tumbles over her, filling her art studio. A white cabbage moth is flittering among the foliage, calling her.
Lolah glances back at the painting on her easel. She’s not sure what it is at the moment, or if it has anything to do with her PhD research. She’s just glad to be painting. This new house is bright and airy. For a studio, this sunroom is perfect. She’ll have to put her rainbow fingerprint tapestry away though, now it’s finished. She’s not sure what to do with it, how to incorporate it into the memoir she’s writing. Until she makes up her mind, she better protect it from paint flecks. She’ll buy some heavy-duty garbage bags.
Lolah steps outside into a summer song of buzzing bees and eleven swollen, pulsing fruit trees. There’s magic here. Something ancient and healing took root when the trees were planted. The townhouse was good, but this is different. This house feels like a home.
The white cabbage moth whirls past her and circles the trunk of the fig tree.
It’s funny, too, because even though they only live twenty minutes from the city, when she looks out the backyard and across the horizon, she’d swear she was in a country town. She keeps remembering the words of Officer De Silva. She can’t help but hope that maybe Officer De Silva was picturing this yard when she told Lolah she could see her being a writer when she lived in the country. Lolah’s lived in lots of rural places, but she’s never had this feeling. Living here, now, in this house, something within her feels as though this might just be the right time.
Lolah is me, and this is a piece from my liminal autobiography that I wrote as a major component of my PhD. I’ll be graduating in a few weeks. The confirmation letter tells me that after my degree is conferred, I may use ‘Dr.’ in my title. It seems funny to me now, to be a doctor of creative writing. I know it’s the recognition of years of hard work, but here, at the finish line, it feels as though it’s just passed midnight on New Year’s Eve and I’m clutching a dead sparkler that fizzled so brightly and too briefly, and now just stinks—lucky I wasn’t in it for the fireworks.
I am looking forward to the graduation ceremony. When they read out the words, “Ms Meads’s intuitive, practice-led Creative Writing PhD creatively and critically navigated, mapped, and interrogated the complex and shifting terrain of her ongoing journey of healing from child abuse,” I will try not to cry. I will try not to cry for the victory of surviving, for the opportunity and privilege I’ve had to do this research, for the achievement of finding the words to speak, and for the healing—that is still unfinished. I will try not to cry for all the people who have suffered, are suffering, and are yet to suffer from the trauma of sexual, physical, and emotional violence. I will probably cry. I’ve learned that if you put your tongue to the roof of your mouth it can stem the tears, sometimes.
Before I clomp across that stage, in my bright orange cowboy boots, to receive my parchment, I will search the audience for Cristian, my brave, magical, loving husband who has weathered the frontline with me on this journey. He has brought so much joy, pleasure, and satisfaction into my life over the last ten years. He, along with my friends and sister who will be beside him, will be some of the few people in the room who truly know what this moment means to me. And afterwards, we will head to a bar, where I will most likely drink too many gin and tonics, and call myself Dr. Meads too many times, and then this part of my life will be done.
A new part has already begun. As I sit here with my stinking sparkler, watching the small blue-grey moths dance to their music, I take pleasure in being a writer who has two books coming out soon. I have written my own, Mothsong, a magical realist labyrinth, a lyric essay that celebrates art’s capacity to facilitate and map posttraumatic growth, a testimony of healing from child abuse that peers into the chrysalis. Perhaps that’s why I’m content to simply witness the ebbs and flows of monarchs, bees, dragonflies, and so many moths that weave through the plants in my backyard, why I don’t need to see their notes. I have inscribed my own song.
I feel the urge to drop my sparkler, to step into the gentle frenzy of small blue-grey moths and twirl. I want to dance, sing, and write many more songs.
More work by Threasa Meads in apt:
“Tink Wildly” (July 2012)
Threasa Meads lives in Adelaide with her hubby and black cat, makes visual art, loves chocolate and cheese, and has recently completed her Creative Writing PhD at Flinders. Her experimental memoir, Nobody, was shortlisted for The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award in 2008 and awarded a Varuna Fellowship in 2009. Her writing across genres has appeared in various online and print literary journals. In 2012, she was emerging writer-in-residence at the KSP Writers’ Centre. At present she, is turning her thesis into a computer game and looking forward to the publication of her two liminal autobiographies, Nobody and Mothsong, which will be released by Double Life Press in the US on International Women’s Day 2016.