“I voyaged quite alone in the silence of this magic sea”

These images have been brought together in response to our experiences of confinement during the COVID pandemic. This period foregrounded the fragility of our way of life but also deepened my appreciation of space and beauty within our locality of Nairm (Port Phillip Bay).

Thinking about the pandemic I have chosen images, which evoke a dreamlike quality. They are centred on a place of belonging, while also encouraging contemplation, thoughts of reverie and wonder.

I am attached to the Bay, not as a pristine site of nature, but one clearly inhabited – although at times this habitation is barely perceptible. The sea and sky are wrapped in a muted and almost monochromatic palette. Opacity, obscurity, vagueness and the blur of the atmosphere are all encompassing. A fog, thick and motionless, draws me into its fold, so much so that I feel cut off from the entire world.

Without wind there is a profound silence. I am faced with the paradox of ‘the silence of the sea’.

A silence that hides something, a silence charged with an undisclosed intensity; an energy in reserve, awaiting release, wanting to rise to the surface. Silence has many facets, perhaps an infinite number of facets, for being the domain of the unsaid, the non-articulated, it is a semantic slot waiting to be filled with meaning.**

In this silent world where is the horizon? Am I looking at the sea or the sky? Single people dissolve into ether. Objects are half-glimpsed and half-hidden. In this haze “we have all lost our sense of time. We have no idea where we are either in time or in space.” *

We cannot see what is before us and what is beyond, both in terms of current environmental issues and those central to our identity as a nation. Where are the traces of our history? The naming of place acknowledging First Nations people is barely evident; occasionally a marker, a point of reference, a reminder that I am a guest in this country.

The fog lifts. Light hits the sea and sky. A burst of luminosity, breathtaking in its beauty.

“And then, right in front of my face, the fog quivered and floated away—like so many bits of muslin curtain in a theater, being whisked off in different directions.” *

Lost in reverie I stand looking outwards—a yearning for another place, of journeys with connections, of immigration, of family and culture, of elsewhere. Ghost ships sit majestically on the horizon. Other large and heavy vessels are heading outwards in their global pursuit of commerce. Birds are free to fly.
I am constantly reminded of our island nation; our strict borders of exclusion and what this has meant for the ones left out, and for our community. During this pandemic our borders express contradictory elements—safety and control, restraint and confinement. We experience the fragility of our way of life, the disruption of social relations—isolation and loneliness. A creeping tendency to look inwards, as safety becomes linked to locality and life continues.

Bathed in uncertainty, the fog returns.

* Excerpt from Teffi, Memories, iBooks, p 283
* Excerpt from Teffi, Memories, iBooks, p273
** 1991, (eds) James Brown and Lawrence Stokes, The Silence of the Sea by Vercours, Berg, Oxford, New York, p26

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