It is the first rainy day I’ve had here today, so it will be a day of reading, thinking, writing and maybe playing with some of the materials I brought with me for such a day. My husband and youngest daughter came to visit overnight, leaving again on the ferry this morning. It was nice to have some familiar company, but interesting to observe myself, having settled into the pace and ways of life here, compared with visitors who are not consciously disconnected from their normal life. The water heater is not working very well at the moment, making showers interesting and requiring boiling of the kettle for all washing activities: another exercise in mindfulness. I have resorted to washing my hair in the sink, which I recall doing as a child and getting soap in my eyes!
I’ve read a lot about Maria Island since I learnt I would be spending some time here. A friend lent me some really interesting books (thanks Rob!), I’ve trolled through some in the Rangers office (thanks Pete!), searched online archives and perused the exhibits here in the old Coffee Palace building, amongst others. And then of course there is the Brickfields Precinct Conservation Plan, which has been the most helpful in gaining the understanding I first sought in coming here.
There exist numerous publications that each in turn build upon what was told in the previous, re-reporting the details that paint the bigger picture of place, each adding more detail or acknowledging a previous overlooked story (or potentially repeating a previous misinterpretation). I have become conscious that what is known now has been curated across time, dependent upon what was recorded, what was retained, what was left out. A literate Irish criminal who was imprisoned upon the island during the second convict era wrote of what he experienced through a particular lens, a French lieutenant who could illustrate as well as he wrote through another, and each feature with more prominence than their less literate companions. Many historic records have been retained in archives; many more were reportedly lost in a fire in Hobart, to where they had been removed for safekeeping. Then there are the books telling personal stories that historians had not otherwise deemed important and which would have been lost if not for the few who have taken it upon themselves to produce an enduring record.
Throughout these records, and in the artifacts that remain on the island, at the periphery, or woven quietly into the bigger stories, there exist small traces and hints of people whose otherness leaves them almost invisible. These people, mainly women and children, are the ones to whom I pay respect in my daily practice of mindfulness. Though I cannot expect to know or convey even a fraction of their stories, I am striving to find a way to acknowledge these people in my work.