Books, Art, & Visual Culture


Writing and design by Melissa Hill, graphic designer.

The Master Sculptor


Shaped by time...

Over time, Nature shapes stone.

Over time, Nature shapes stone. From day to day, the transformation will not be discernible, for the Mother is a subtle sculptor. Sometimes the changes made enhance the original form, and sadly, sometimes beauty is ruined. Occasionally, a stone will be completely transformed in a matter of moments by a violent, crushing wall of water. More often, it is years of wind and rain, of waves and footsteps that slowly make an indelible impression upon all that they touch.

Like stone, I have been shaped by many hands. No bolts of lightning, nor walls of water have struck me. Generally, the sculpting has been achieved in such a manner that when I look back, I can barely see how it was done. My memories are hazy.

I do remember reading a lot when I was a child. This delight coloured my world with emotion, drama, and a sense of magic. From this grew a tendency to exaggerate and embellish for artistic effect. Every nuance is amplified. Disappointment becomes heartbreak, gladness turns to radiant joy, and it is only a few steps from irritation to blind fury.

“Your problem is you think of life like a story book.” I remember my mother telling me this when I was younger. Her tone indicated her disapproval. Alas, the warning came too late. By this stage, I had already been reared on a diet rich in adventure, history, romance, and fantasy. The escapist quality of books has always intrigued me to the point where I carry it with me, bringing the essence of my reading material into the real world. This habit has often impacted my behaviour, my appearance, and my speech, resulting in a youth that was a patchwork of fiction. From futile searches for faeries in the back garden, to failed attempts at astral projection, tales not intended to be taken seriously were given life in my fertile young mind.

My mother thinks I am overly romantic. “The real world,” she once said, “isn’t like that.”

Romance of this calibre is not widely understood. I discovered this the hard way. Most young children believe in magic somehow, whether it be faeries, elves, or Santa Claus. These fancies give way to thoughts of the “real world”, and stories and fantasies are put aside. Socialising, fashion, and sports become vital pursuits, leaving a dreamer like myself without a foothold in the social hierarchy. Make no mistake: school is a hierarchy, and I was not the elite.

Time has softened the memories, and it has dulled the pain, but when I was a child, the taunts and the loneliness stung. Vague images of myself come to mind, a solitary figure in a cotton dress, seated on a bench. Every angle of every limb proclaimed my misery. I drooped, longing for the long lunch hour to end.

I have been told that when I was very young I had no fear. I talked to everyone about everything, a tiny chattering creature, evidently bubbling with life. It seems that years of contact with other children changed me. As I felt increasingly uncomfortable among my peers, I withdrew from all but those who proved they were trustworthy. I told people I was shy, as if the act of labelling my fear somehow validated it. It became a shield that I wielded to protect myself from strangers, to excuse me from the effort of making contact. Today, I am much the same.

“You care too much about what other people think.” This, my mother has told me numerous times. It is true. There are still echoes of my childhood ringing in my mind. To some extent I still feel like the little girl, craving acceptance from those deemed worthy to bestow it. I want to cast them all aside, the echoes and the ghosts, and heed no one but myself.

It is not an easy thing to do, especially when my greatest enemy is myself. Characteristics absorbed from my parents over the years have resulted in a creature unable to cope with making a decision. My mother worries. She worries about me, she worries about my sister. She reads an article about a disease and imagines she is developing the symptoms. She worries about events that have passed and events that have yet to come. She worries about situations that are out of her control, and those which she has planned intricately.

My father is calmer, because he has it all under control. Everything is planned. Everything is scheduled. Every possibility has been thought of, and subsequently taken care of. There are no surprises.

With this team nurturing my impressionable mind, what hope had I to become anything but what I am: a compulsive worrier who cannot carry out a simple activity such as going to the cinema, without planning the where, when, who, and how at least a week in advance. I like to know the details. I have to know the details. I feel extremely uncomfortable when I am not informed of the details. I become my mother. Issues and possibilities raise themselves in my mind and run about with vigour. In every situation, there is a multitude of potential disasters waiting to occur, and in thinking of them all, I am overcome with a crippling indecisiveness. From something as significant and life-altering as a choice of career, to something as trivial as a lunch order, I cannot begin to decide without considering each possibility carefully. My imagination feeds my logic with vivid illustrations of the potential consequences of my choices.

I have painted a portrait of an introvert, completely lacking in spontaneity, jumping at shadows which an overactive imagination has furnished with ghouls and ghosts. Although I have been moulded to this shape by others hands, it does not make it less mine. However, as I grow older, I finally see that there is no need to fear what I am, and I draw strength from this quote from Isobelle Carmody’s “Green Monkey Dreams”:

One need not be ugly or beautiful, princess or commoner. One can be something else, if one has courage enough to ride alone.

*Disclaimer: My parents are lovely people and all in all, I think I turned out pretty well, if somewhat indecisive, with a tendency to exaggerate.