Terrain: An Exploration in Two Parts, by Rory Kennett-Lister

Rory Kennett-Lister is a writer of fiction, creative non-fiction and essays, as well as a creative in advertising. His work has been featured in SeizureThe Lifted BrowOverlandScum Magazine, the Australian Book Review and others. A selection of his writing can be found at rorykennettlister.com.

This non-fiction piece has been shortlisted in the Woollahra Library Digital Literature Award for 2017 alongside a whole bunch of other fine writing. Check out the full shortlist here: http://woollahra.nsw.gov.au/library/whats_on/digital_literary_award. This piece originally appeared in Issue Eleven of Tincture Journal.

Image By Peripitus: Xanthorrhoea semiplana or Yakka near the top of Anstey Hill Recreation Park, South Australia [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

“We need the tonic of the wilderness… We can never have enough of nature.”
—Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Part One

We rattle off the bitumen and onto the rutted dirt road, stones blasting against the underside of the car. It’s a mid-90s Citroën, effortlessly, incrementally disintegrating after years of subtle neglect, paint disappearing off the bonnet and roof, slowly offering itself to year after year of summer sun. And though the airy, French suspension is still a dream on covered roads, as we plough through potholes using the middle of the road to keep clear of the thicker gravel, it’s clear that the car is a long way from home.

In reality, my co-driver, Billy, and I are only one and a half hours outside Adelaide, near Rapid Bay, South Australia, on the western side of the Fleurieu Peninsula. We’re making our way to a plot of land—48 acres of untouched coastal bush—owned by a mutual friend, Björn, the idea being to help with the ongoing construction of his homemade shack with whomever else Björn has invited. Truthfully, Björn in no way needs our help; a transnational upbringing spanning the deserts of Africa to the ice of Northern Europe has left him a hands-on savant. But he’ll know how to put extra limbs to use and, to be honest, there’s something intoxicating about the idea of helping to construct this Crusoean outpost. When I was invited I agreed without hesitation.

Up to this point Billy has been charting our progress, the stuttering movement of a blue dot on an iPhone screen, giving directions as subtle forewarnings—“In about a k you’re going to need to turn right.”, “We’re going to be coming up on a T-junction.”—ensuring that I’m prepared for what each turn brings. But as we bounce along this final stretch, the directions become less certain, the car floating unpredictably over the vagaries of the road.

“Coming up on a right.” I can see the beginnings of the arc, but a patch of scrub obscures the rest. As I direct us around, keeping clear of the sharp elbows, a hill rises before us. Sealed it wouldn’t present much of a problem, but the wheels begin to stutter underneath us. Rectal tightening. I drop gears as we slow, trying to keep the revs up and the momentum forwards. If we had any illusions before, we can see clearly now: this is four-wheel drive territory. I seesaw the accelerator, feeling the tyres slip and grip, hopping from one hold to the next like stepping-stones across a rushing stream. We are delivered over the crest of the hill. Nervous laughter.

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The End of the Pier, by Louise Slocombe

Louise Slocombe lives in Wellington, New Zealand, city of shaky ground, challenging topography and amazing views. She has been known to write fiction and has had work published in The Yellow Room and Takahē Magazine, but these days she writes mostly non-fiction about nature, places and journeys and how we experience them. She is currently writing about birds, both living and extinct.

This creative non-fiction piece first appeared in Issue 16 of Tincture Journal. Please help us on our quest to pay the writers and buy a copy.

Princes Pier, Port Melbourne, Victoria. All images by Louise Slocombe © 2016

You come to a pier.

Let’s say you’ve been strolling along a beachfront, somewhere you’ve not been before. You’ve seen it from a distance, an indistinct line over shifting water, and it has caught your attention. Your step may have quickened ever so slightly as you got nearer. Without consciously realising it, you’ve made the pier into something to aim for. At the pier you will be able to make a decision of some kind—a decision about your stroll, or the rest of your day, or—who knows?—even the rest of your life. But this thought has not quite crystallised in your mind. It does not need to, not until you reach the pier.

And now you are here. The pier is long and straight, a timber boardwalk, the boards bleached grey by sun and salt. It extends out over the water, narrowing into the distance, its length regularly punctuated by lampposts.

You walk along it. Of course you do. You have to.

You step from the footpath onto the boards. At first, the pier runs across the beach. As you walk, you can look down over the railings onto the sand. But soon enough you reach the beginning of the sea, where the waves break onto the shore. There are scattered shells, and tangled clumps of seaweed caught up in the constant surge and pull of the foaming water. And there are gulls standing motionless, watching, on the smooth wet sand that in patches reflects the blue of the sky. And then you are walking out over the sea. You are aware of it swirling giddily beneath your feet through the gaps between the timbers. There might even be holes where the timber has rotted and you can glimpse the barnacle-encrusted piles down below, and you wonder—but only very briefly because it won’t stop you going to the end—just how safe this pier is.

As you progress along the length of the pier, you can look back towards the land that you are leaving behind, or across the water at the boats, if indeed there are any boats out there. But most of the time you are looking ahead to where you are going, fixated on that sensation of heading towards an end point, that might even become a sensation of watching your destination move towards you, becoming ever closer and ever clearer, as if you are a participant in a movie of your own life.

And so we are drawn to the end.

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