Click on the arrow above to listen to Patti’s reading
“Hi, I’m Patti Miller. I’m reading from Whatever The Gods Do published by Random House.
Chapter 24. Art.
It was at my father’s funeral that I first noticed the words. I had been at my grandmother’s funeral several years before but I was too occupied with the reality of seeing someone lowered into a hole in the ground for the first time to hear what was being said. At my father’s funeral I stood there with my mother and brothers and sisters in the old cemetery at Curra Creek and remembered that his father’s family used to own this land. He belonged to this land, he was returning to it, his bones would become part of the soil he loved. It was a bright winter’s day, blue sky, freshly-turned red earth.
Then I heard the words.
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
A door opened through the sky. That’s what happens on the other side; flights of angels singing, hear them singing, beyond the sky, through the universe, banishing all fear as they take him back to the beginning of time. My father with his flat gravel road voice, his single song, his stocky peasant body longing for transcendence, being sung at last to his home. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. Not just one angel, but flights of them, all singing for him, their extraordinary cream feathered wings beating upwards through the blue and on and on and out through the blackness. All around him, angels filling his vision and filling his ears. They were singing their angelic songs for him continuously, not needing to draw breath being angels, so that he would not be afraid to leave behind the red earth of his home.
I’m not sure about heaven or angels but I understood for the first time how words could bless; May flights/ May flights of angels/ sing thee/sing thee to thy rest/ May flights/ sing thee; the spell of the words woven between heaven and earth. The bell-like sounds, the wing-beating cadence of the sentence, the shape of the benediction, repeated in my mind. The pattern of vowels and rhythm and images was one silken cloth drawn out of the mystery under everyone’s days and nights. The lovely sentence felt like a silvery blue cloak thrown over the shoulders, a traveller’s cloak for journeying through the night.”
ABOUT PATTI MILLER:
Patti Miller grew up on Wiradjuri land in Central West NSW and is a writer and writing teacher, and author of five books (two memoirs, one novel, two writing texts) published by A&U and Random House. She is also the Director of Life Stories Workshop which offers workshops and manuscript development, specialising in memoir and narrative non-fiction. She studied writing at UTS and University of Sydney. She has given writing workshops around Australia and in Paris and Bali and participated in writers’ festivals, readings and seminars around Australia. She now lives in Kings Cross.
“I began Life Stories Workshops at Varuna in 1991 ( pre Peter Bishop even!) and have presented the course there every year for two decades. I’ve also presented seminars for APA at Varuna every second year. I’ve been on selection panels for fellowships and have had three of my 5 books launched at Varuna. I have had a long association with Peter Bishop – I think I may be part of the furniture there…” Patti Miller
Writing Your Life, A&U 1994, new ed 2004;
The Last One Who Remembers, A&U 1997;
Child A&U 1998;
Whatever The Gods Do, Vintage Random House 2003;
The Memoir Book A&U 2007
Numerous articles and personal essays in the SMH, The Australian, The Age, Southerly, Island, The Guardian, Art Monthly, Look magazine and many others.
Agent Clare Forster; email@example.com
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. When we have recorded 365 writers the app will be made available via the iTunes store. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this free blog, you can receive a daily reading delivered to your email inbox which can also be directed to your mobile phone.
To find out more about Varuna’s programs, residencies, events and support services for writers click here.