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To the island

SOME MEMORIES fade and disappear. Some take on that blurry, swirly character of the incompletely remembered. Others remain sharp. Why? Who knows? In reptrospect, they appear nothing of great significance in life.

Some memories are revived through discussion with others who were present. That’s how Yvonne and I have remembered. At other times, photographs revive memories forgotten while others remain so vivid that you remember details.

And vivid is the memory of that mild, sunny day as Bron’s father manouvers the trimaran against the wharf and ties it up. His passengers get off and wander to the high point of the island. From here, they looked eastwards to the heads and southwards to where the houses of the Eastern Suburbs clutter the escarpment to the harbour shoreline. The highrise of Bondi Junction do not yet exist and the horizon is a more or less even line punctuated here and there by the occasional taller apartment building.

The day on Shark Island was a chance to get out into a new environment and five of us—Bron, Rob, a pregnant Sol, Yvonne and I had accepted the offer to go. If Rohan, Bron’s young son is counted, that makes it a total of six and, if you include Sol’s unborn Sasha, that brings the total to six and a half or thereabouts.

That day we just hang out, wandering around in a desultory sort of way. We sit by the foreshore, talking, just being here, just being together.

Yvonne and I, as usual, carry cameras and we take those unplanned, unthought-out pictures that friends take of each other when they are doing nothing in particular—pictures of the type that you look back on in years to come and ask: Is that what we really were like then? Did we really wear those daggy clothes? Who is that person with their back turned to the camera… I don’t remember them? What became of so-and-so? Where are they now?

One of those photos—it must have been taken by Rob or Bronwyn—shows Yvonne and I sitting on a rock shelf. She is dressed, as usual, in her customary khaki jacket, grey pullover and denim jeans (I don’t recall her owning any other clothes except a few T-shirts). I’m in my usual blue shirt, the rough cotton one with the two button-down pockets, and I wear jeans and brown leather jacket—one of those old aviator’s jackets that I picked up cheap at Paddy’s Market. We look young, our faces not yet lined by life’s pressures and increasing age, somehow satisfied in a present that gives little thought to the future.

We are together, a pair bond, an item. Her hand rests on her knee and mine rests on top of it, my fingers close to a silver ring she still wears. Her hair hangs loose, a little blown about by the harbour breeze and her head tilts towards me. Our eyes focus on the unremembered photographer. It is a moment in time, a moment in a relationship with a beginning and an end.

But it is the other photograph that interests me. In it, the group stands below the thick branch of a Brachichiton tree. Bron, with a small, white-clad Rohan held against her shoulder, is talking with Rob whose back is to the camera. Sol completes this arrangement of three. She too faces away from the camera and her gaze is towards Rob and Bron. A colourful shoulder bag hangs over a brown military jacket which ends just at the level of a dress of the period that is short enough to reveal a length of thigh. Her long blonde hair descends half way down her back. The epitome of 1970s womanhood.

The interesting figure in this arrangement is Yvonne. She stands slightly off to one side of the group but her attention is not on the discussion the others are having. Her arms are folded as if to signal that she is closed off from them. She stands at an angle to the conversation, another sign of disengagement, and her gaze is squarely towards the camera. Her stance suggests displeasure. Perhaps this is to read too much into body language, for memory recalls only good times that day. Yet, it’s that gaze… it is as if she is thinking of something… turning something over in her mind… considering something deeply. That is what makes this image intriguing.

The author on board the catamaran.

Yvonne and Rob Dummet.

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