This is the 6th day in this cottage, intentionally focussed on the single-minded preoccupation of fulfilling my mission to capture the lifetimes of the Street-Sinclair family, and I have but set foot on the porch for afternoon tea only once, and this morning walked along the backyard wall but seven or so steps to take a snapshot of the three Sacred Ibis that came to inspect the racket the Australian Magpies set up at M’Lady Nancy’s dolling out of peanuts. Barefoot, indeed. At least, ever since I’ve been here, I’ve not worn shoes, or socks. And as much as my soles appreciate the feel of wood floors and occasional carpet or tile (or on those two occasions the heat and texture of rough hewn brick) it is my soul that likes being yanked from person to person as the family’s characters commune with others through their very many photos, letters, and memorabilia. I am but the gate keeper, allowing their continued passage.
One spends so much time concealing oneself from the elements of truth and clarity; is it to protect the self, to protect another, to protect posterity? (Quite the ghostly word that, ‘posterity’).
Am I obtuse? Then try wading through the myriad letters of a most complex and vital family. Their skeletons in the closet they believe they shall forever conceal, but they come rasping from the pages, seeking life renewed from the release of paper clips and the scanning of afresh eyes. And in the tap on the keyboard, and that distinctive yet irreproducible sound of the scanner now making permanent the fading sepias, new ventures are set free from the envelopes and boxes and elastics and albums that have shut up their existence since soon after they were dead. The truth shall find us out. Even after?
Perspective helps. What great grandchild should know the details of some awful death, some long forgotten scandal, or some dripping piece of gossip? What does it serve now to know that Uncle Stanley was a drunkard, Aunt Robyn had verbal diarrhea , and Steve was a.... Well, what’s it serve? We have this presumption that now that they’re dead (or that they have left the room) we may talk about them as if they were not here. We have this presumption that freedom of the press gives us the privilege exactly to know what went on in there. We have an idea that it’ll be interesting, that it’ll sell books, make a movie, and titillate an otherwise bored public. After all, why should history now be dug up unless there are the good old gory and unsavory bits too? Then again, who dares declare themselves a censor? If the truth is that Aunt Pam smoked, then she smoked! Doesn’t give you licence. Doesn’t mean it’s in your genes.
Thing is, there is nothing really to conceal about the Sinclair or Street family. These are honourable people leading honourable lives through dreadful times. Sure, there is the reaction from this one or that one to events as they occur, but of scandal and betrayal there is none. Rather, the conflict of the saga is from dealing with the externals, the wars, the economic conditions, and the death after death due to the circumstances that vital lives tend to be drawn toward. It would have been easier for them to have stayed home and to have watched TV, listened to the radio, read the paper. But outside real life was going on, and these families ventured out, and met it square on. They met others, too. Satellite families.
Bare foot but content, determined of purpose, and with stars for souls, these are the metaphors that apply to the men and women in M’Lady’s life. And yet, at the end of the day, are they not more or less just the same sorts of people as we? In earth we grow roots. Do we but reach up to stir at the heavens?