Click on the arrow above to listen (In emails: click on the title above)
Hi, I’m Kate Cole-Adams. I’m reading from a work in progress Till Human Voices Wake Us which is a non-fiction exploration of anaesthesia, memory and consciousness.
It is night and I am in a smallish room with cream-painted walls in a hospital in Brisbane, Australia. To the right of my bed, I can dimly make out a wooden crucifix with its limp passenger, and, below, wide blank windows through which I can watch the synaptic pulses of city light, a web of illuminations and extinctions that, when I loosen my gaze, seem almost to form patterns; as if they are about to make sense. I am surprised at how calm I feel.
In the weeks leading up to this moment, I have set my affairs in order. I have made a will, written letters for the children, waxed my legs. I have said my farewells at the airport and boarded a flight from Melbourne.
Some months earlier, after decades of resistance, I had given in at last to the inevitability of major surgery. In the aftermath of my decision, I was buoyed in a backwash of something like relief. But when I lay awake at night, disquiet rose around me. It was not just the surgery, it was that in some blank corner of myself I believed that I would not wake up afterwards. I knew logically, and during the day could convince myself that, as an otherwise healthy 48-year-old, my chances of calamity were soothingly low, but at night back in my bed, the conviction multiplied inside me that even if everything went according to plan, the me who woke afterwards would not be the same in some essential way as the me who was wheeled in to the operating theatre beforehand. I felt as if I were going to enter a stark, dimly lit room with two doors, one in, and one out, neither of which I would be able to open once inside. And here I would be trapped alone, perhaps forever – or until such time as someone else chose to release, – not me, but some other, ostensibly similar, version of me, who would slip soundlessly into the life that had once been mine.
Shortly after making my decision, I rang a separate medical practice and asked to speak to the doctor whose job it would be to anaesthetise me during the long operation. Haltingly, almost apologetic, I explained to the receptionist that I had been for some years researching anaesthesia, and that I was now, and consequently, rather nervous about what was going to happen to me. “I think I know too much,” I said.
“Oh dear,” said the receptionist, “that’s not good.”
ABOUT KATE COLE-ADAMS:
“I am a Melbourne based writer and journalist (I work part time as a story editor with The Age) with an interest in unconscious psychological processes. My first novel, Walking to the Moon, was about a woman waking from a coma. My non-fiction manuscript Till Human Voices Wake Us is an exploration of anaesthesia, memory and consciousness.
I first came to Varuna in 1999 as part of a mentorship program. I arrived with 60,000 words, and after a long chat with my mentor, writer Amanda Lohrey, I left with 2000 (greatly improved) words – and a lasting addiction to Varuna. I have since been awarded two fellowships, and try to get back for at least a week each year. Varuna is where I can peel away enough layers to see what’s underneath.” Kate Cole-Adams
Walking to the Moon, Text Publishing, 2007
Assorted journalism and essays – The Age, Time Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Griffiths Review among others.
Jenny Darling: 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.