Writing on Nature & Place :
Short Fiction Extracts

Splendid Blue Wren


On the island of Malta, the last summer is over. Today the restless wind that blows between seasons has risen to a mournful drone and I pull my sleeves down, protecting the bare skin from its sting. Just before the hospital I breathe in the sharp tang of sea. It’s harvest time at the salt pans. I have been away a long time but this I recognise as an old ritual, from before Roman times, that seems to waken an elemental awareness. As though the bright crystals scraped from coastal rock, packed in hessian sacks and hauled away charged the air with disturbance: the knowledge of edges and of endings.

There are mornings, more frequent now, when I can hear a feather fall to earth. ‘One feather, enough to make a bird’ She used to say this to me when I was little, as we sat on warm stones by the road. She would place in my palm a feather she had gathered on our walk. Close your eyes, she would say, and as I did, her words conjured a bird out of the empty sky. I felt its claws wired to my fingers, their corrugated skin aginst mine as I cupped its quivering body in my hand, its heart pounding against my pulsing wrist.

Her breathing sounds like waves coming ashore. The soft Mediterranean washes across the wet sand with a sigh, glazing it with a brief, radiant illusion of glass. As it withdraws, the shells along the tide line tinkle softly, shifting against each other in the backflow. The sand hushes all, before the sea rises once more and reaches again for the unattainable permanence of shore. The beach surrenders slowly. Its shape, its pretence at solidity and separateness are returning to the sea grain by grain.
Once the ground of my being, my mother is dissolving with every breath, becoming again the water that brought me ashore, the waves that washed me in.

© Annamaria Weldon, Indigo 2, Autumn 2008, pp 77- 81 – Short fiction (ed.Janet Blagg)
Broadcast on ABC Radio National Short Story 2009