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November 2021

From the Lighthouse by Judy Johnson – 9th November 2021

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Walking the incline up to Lighthouse Arts, sunlight splintering off the water, feels somehow ceremonial. As melodramatic as it sounds, all of my senses are telling me I’m heading upwards to a space where things will be more rarified, and have more clarity. I can only compare it to that anticipatory tingle that hints at a remarkable writing day to come. When I reach the top of the hill and look around at the stupendous view, I have the weirdest feeling the cottages already knew we creatives were coming. That they’d been waiting for us to show up for decades, and had put out the blue-skied welcome mat.

I’d already chosen my desk. Outside the window, the whitewashed wall with the ocean slapping gently below, gives me just enough view not to distract me from my work. If I turn my gaze a little to the left and look up, I can see the Fresnel lens in the lighthouse turning 360 degrees like an owl’s head, keeping its multifaceted eye on everything. It rotates day and night but doesn’t light up until dusk.

I let my mind wander at first; watch a pelican fly over and think, with that huge pouch, it should have got the gig of delivering those storybook babies instead of the stork.

Suddenly, an idea comes from nowhere and I start typing. The words flow and flow. I could weep with gratitude. I haven’t had this instant ignition for a long time. It could only be this environment sparking me.

My fellow residents are mainly writers, but we have two musicians in the sound-proof studio, a printmaker, and a photographer moving around the site like a friendly seer, trying to harness the incredible light. It’s great to catch up with them at lunchtime in the sun outside. We talk a bit of shop, but mainly about how lucky we are to be here.

If you have a residency (and yes, you do want one!), take a jacket. The weather turns quickly; the wind whips up. Don’t let this put you off. Tumultuous beauty is a potent elixir. Drink deep.

Judy Johnson

‘From the Lighthouse’

9th November 2021

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@lighthouseartsnewcastle

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We acknowledge the Awabakal and Worimi and Wonnarua as the original custodians of the land on which we live, work and share stories.

Judy Johnson, Australian poet, member of HWC

 

Judy Johnson has been part of the Australian Poetry and writing scene for over twenty years. She has published five poetry collections, a novel and a verse novel. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and her books have been placed on both the Sydney and Melbourne University Syllabus. Her most recent book, Dark Convicts, is a poetic exploration of her two First Fleet ancestors, who were African-American ex-slaves. Judy has been a judge for some of the most prestigious writing prizes in the country.

From the Lighthouse by Judy Johnson – 16th November 2021

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Clusters of dragonflies hover outside my studio window. When the Artists-in-Residence come together at lunchtime, we comment on the sheer number of them. There are sometimes bad connotations when insects appear en-masse: plagues, pestilence, famine. But dragonflies are harmless, unless you happen to be a mosquito, and beautiful. They are suspended on air, hovering with precision.

Their pre-cursors, griffinflies, were much larger and more formidable. They had 30 inch wing spans and they once flew over this same headland.

Back then, two hundred million years ago, Nobbys-Whibayganba was part of Gondwana. The promontory where us creatives gather today was then an island lush with tree ferns, climbers and mosses. Geologically, this was the Carboniferous period, 150 million years before the dinosaurs. A time when only griffinflies and other large insects occupied the skies.

I have a contingency plan for if, one day during my residency, I have writer’s block.

I will walk down the hill to the beach, turn around and look up at the strata of rock that comprises Nobby’s Whibayganba. I’ll realise then how the patience of rock tells its old, old story in layers. How much time it takes for good ideas to form. How the earth itself is the permanent artist-in-residence here.

I’ll see in that strata, twenty layers of solid tuff, made from the ash of active volcanoes, laid down 255 million years ago.

I’ll observe the seams which formed when carboniferous forests, swampy and dense, gave rise to large deposits of peat; how this transformed into lumps of coal which the Awabakal people, much later in time, gathered for heating and cooking.

And much later still, that same coal would fuel the major industry in the Hunter.

The dragonflies are still hovering over the grass outside my studio window, their small wings tilting like solar panels to capture the warmth of that ancient star we call the sun.

Take up a residency here. You’ll find it easy to be creative when beneath your feet, time has never stopped telling its epic story.

Judy Johnson, Australian poet, member of HWC

 

Judy Johnson has been part of the Australian Poetry and writing scene for over twenty years. She has published five poetry collections, a novel and a verse novel. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and her books have been placed on both the Sydney and Melbourne University Syllabus. Her most recent book, Dark Convicts, is a poetic exploration of her two First Fleet ancestors, who were African-American ex-slaves. Judy has been a judge for some of the most prestigious writing prizes in the country.