Several years ago (a decade or 3) two friends and I left our house and our visitor to go walking. It was a memorable night that featured our watching the dawn arrive while listening to a photographer friend’s playlist: Beethoven, Brubeck and Bob (Dylan). It also featured a gambol on the old ferries that used to be tied up at the wharves at the bottom of St Mary’s Bay Road and culminated in our returning to find that our visitor had had a religious epiphany (that lasted at least another 25 years, I gather).
I know that Martin Edmond used to frequent those same places: Ponsonby Road, Freeman’s Bay, Grafton Road:
Or Freemans’ Bay, Auckland in 1970 where rows of workers’ cottages with their climbing vines and jewel-like gardens stood alongside the narrow streets, kids played in the shadow and stink of the gasworks and haunted-looking men in shirtsleeves leaned wordless and smoking on their picket fences in the evening after work or after the pubs had closed. Dark Night walking with McCahon, p.46.
So there was a kind of connection when I started to read his latest book. A book about someone whose work I first saw on my return to New Zealand in 1980 when the Northland Panels were displayed in the National Art Gallery. Work that made me realise I was home.
The book is a multi-layered rich text that takes us on a mystery tour of the Stations of the Cross (Kings Cross?) in Sydney in a memorial to McCahon and a memory of a night that McCahon disappeared for about 24 hours.
Edmond takes us into history and places we might never think of visiting. Through his writing we visit nostalgia, religion, art and the origin of words. His final section (Beatitude) leaves us with a kind of intelligent peace after some periods of intensity and introspection. As usual he is articulate, easy to read and thought-provoking.
Read it. It’s called Dark Night Walking with McCahon.
PS. Was it the bottom of St Mary’s Bay road? Is my memory conflating several geographical points?