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“Hi, I’m Denise Davies and I would like to read from a work in progress entitled Everest Anonymous.
Have a look at me! Arms wrapped round a rock like a child hugging her mother’s pregnant belly: cheek wearing a map of the surface, eyes tight shut as if the degree of tightness will alter the outcome; breath coming in bursts of condensation. I can hear the air urgent between my lips and the second hand of my watch as I struggle with a fear passed down through generations of ancestors as far back as the written word in Australia takes us.
A relative who arrived with the third fleet in 1791 wrote, after his sentence had expired, ‘I am afeared of heights and the walk from ship to shore across the gangplank curdled my very bowels.’ I am riddled with genetic legacies and if a fear of heights was all he bequeathed me I would now be happy doing something else, somewhere else, instead of halfway up the ‘easy bit’ of the climb to Base Camp Everest.
When I decided to tackle my fears one by one Everest seemed the easiest option. I was wrong. I am gob smacked by my decision to climb anything let alone Everest. Walking round Sydney with a backpack for four weeks might be preparation for something but I was bullshitting myself if I thought it would get me up a mountain.
But I have let my guard down and used a word or two cut from my vocabulary over twenty years ago. I have many shortcomings but, until recently, discipline has not been one of them.
I shuffle to my right gripping the rock until my fingers cramp. I have an urge to look down but I lift my head instead.
‘Wonder what your bowels would be up to if you were here now,’ I mutter to my long dead ancestor.
The track skirting the boulder is as wide as a size eight shoe is long. I know this because the toes of my size nines touch the rock and the heels peek over the edge of a twenty-storey drop to slow moving ice at the foot of the ravine. I am not built for narrow paths and dolly steps. For this is how the Sherpas instruct us to climb. Little steps, little metronomic steps, head still, legs rhythmically lifting the feet as they tiptoe up Everest. I am tall and heavy in the hips, long in the neck and I sway when I walk. My first boyfriend said I reminded him of a giraffe because I had a slow blink rate. I believed him. All I wanted to know back then was whether giraffes were considered sexy. It seems they were.”
ABOUT DENISE DAVIES:
Denise Davies is a GP’s Practice Manager in Redfern, Sydney. She grew up on the coast south of Newcastle and surfed her youth away. Spent twelve years acting both in Australia and the UK, studied sculpture with Tom Bass and then graduated from UTS with a degree in Communications in 2002. A year later she began writing her first novel Bombora Dreaming which now sits in the metaphoric bottom drawer awaiting a rewrite from third to first person. She has written several short stories, with Anikdotes being published in Australian Doctor, and many articles for the South Sydney Herald. Her second novel Everest Anonymous has kicked along during a recent stay at Varuna.
“Varuna! How fortunate we are to have such a magical place to write. However the garden needs help. Writers why not get out there and do some weeding. I write a bit; weed a bit then write a lot more and those adverbs leave the page like a weed leaves damp earth. After a week of Sheila’s cooking the exercise doesn’t hurt either.” Denise Davies
“Anikdotes”, Australian Doctor
Numerous articles in South Sydney Herald
37 DARLING ST, BALMAIN, 2041
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