I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, February 06, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Friday House Day (2). My "passionate history"?

Last Friday I looked at some "classic" bluestone pitchers that had been lined up in a row in the chookyard. Today it's a different form of uncut stone not far away in the garden.

Some of these Paul picked up from the side of the road; some he paid for; and some he dug out of the ground. So some of the sharp edges he made with the jackhammer when he dug out the cellar. At first I couldn't quite see the point — or comprehend his deep love — of big stones and rocks, but the rocks are an essential part of his landscaping style: to build up the soil with compost and use the stones to hold the higher level together. Because our house sits on the typical Merri Creek terrain (big round boulders held together with sticky black clay), the soil is extremely heavy, and it has taken years of composting to break up our soil so things can grow in it. So these garden beds, always with rounded edges and never in straight lines, I now realise, are testimony to decades of household composting and mulching: the endless recycling of food scraps and garden refuse, always being turned over into the garden soil.

These photos were just taken in all the wrong dappled morning light, but you can see the magic compost bin against the brick wall (by the way, those windows were salvaged from the Old Arts building at the University of Melbourne over twenty years ago), and the weirdly shaped kale plants (I pull the bottom leaves off for the chickens). Also the new apricot tree.

One of the questions these stones raise for me is quite a big one. Is my subject the bluestone used for building and recycled into a thousand uses? Or is it all the Victorian volcanic stone? Some of the stones, I gather, take a different appearance (colour/texture) depending on how long they have been under the ground, and under what pressure. The Organ Pipes, for example, out near Tullamarine and sometimes under the flight path as you fly in, are volcanic Victorian stones. Very gorgeous.  But are they bluestone? Or basalt? Do I have to write about everything? Or just what I want to?

There's a part of my scholarly training that says I have to be really clear from the very beginning about what my topic is; that I should make logically consistent decisions about what it is and isn't about. But there's a part of me, I must confess, that is seeing this project with some rather fuzzy and pleasant edges: it's an emotional history, so I may be able to write rather more fluidly, following streams of thought rather than laying everything out geologically, so to speak. Iain McCalman subtitles his book on the great barrier reef "A Passionate History" though it's rather a careful and scholarly, and well-written history of passions, than obviously driven or structured by desire. I like the idea of writing a passionate history that is a little freer, a little more channelled by desires. There are going to be lots of things I leave out, though, as I have already started to see; and the things on the margins of this project are also quite intriguing (Sydney bluestone, Melbourne sandstone, for example). But simply to say "It's my book and I'll write what I want to" does not quite answer to my sense of this project either.

I am also going to have to get out of Melbourne quite often over the course of this year, and perhaps sooner rather than later, so my sense of the project doesn't get too skewed by my urban and domestic daily encounters.

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