Jacqui Shelton

Entry #1


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  • Blog #1

  • “A letter to my unaware collaborators from a region of my mind”

  • Dear Genesis,

  • I have begun this letter a number of times and deleted the document just as many times. I keep trying to picture your face but it’s just a mash of trees and circles. Perhaps you could include a picture with your next correspondence, if possible.

  • I know we haven’t spoken in ages, and I wanted to get straight to the point and tell you about what I’ve been thinking about. It’s autumn here and all the colors are very bright, perhaps quite the opposite to the intensifying sunshine you must be experiencing in your part of the world. There are many many trees and lots of wildlife that I hear, but they evade my clumsy advances. They run away and I’ve thought about the need to turn my back in order for something to advance towards me. Somehow my back is an invitation, perhaps even to you.

  • (pause)

  • I’ve been thinking a lot about all the trees and the old adage:

  • If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

  • (pause)

  • Let me tell you some of the history of the energy and the water. The Kiewa Hydro Electric Scheme had a long gestation period as part of the political debate between hydro and coal power for Victoria for over twenty years.

  • The concept of the scheme was to capture the waters from the snow fields of the Bogong High Plains and, through a series of dams, tunnels and power stations, harness the water flowing into the Kiewa River. It was a smaller version of the later famous Snowy Mountains Scheme and developed to provide Victoria with vital power in the 1940’s.

  • It was here, in the wilderness country, undeveloped and unchartered except for cattlemen of the High Plains. Survey parties were isolated for months, surviving severe winters and the possibility of bushfires in summer. It was virtually the last frontier of Victoria as news, supplies, and equipment arrived via horseback when weather permitted.

  • The scheme was completed, albeit on a reduced scale, to deliver first power to Victoria in 1944 and was fully operative in 1961.

  • Not only was the scheme an outstanding engineering feat, it unlocked the scenic beauty of the Victorian Alps and provided a playground for skiers as well as a major tourist attraction for thousands of Australians.

  • (pause)

  • If a dam breaks in the mountains, but there is no one there to drown, does anybody give a damn?

  • (pause)

  • My father told me a story like this once. It was about a wall but it seemed to act like a dam. A dam controls the flow of a body of water but sometimes it overflows,

  • excessive flowing.

  • A dam uses the force of the body of water to create energy, it harnesses the waters energy into an energy that has the power to heat a body of water until it evaporates.

  • I wanted to tell you the story my father told me when I was a child, so that you remember it when you feel you may have evaporated.

  • Of the exact words I have of course no recollection, but owing to the exceptional circumstances which cast a spell even over the child, the meaning became so clear to me that I venture nevertheless to give some version of what my father said. I am doing so because it was very characteristic of the popular point of view. My father said something like this: An unknown boatman -- I know all those who usually pass by here, but this one was a stranger -- has just told me that a great wall is going to be built to protect the Emperor. For it seems that infidel tribes often assemble before the imperial palace and shoot their black arrows at the Emperor.

  • (pause)

  • If a wall falls and lets people pass, and is trampled underfoot and becomes a road, does the wall reverberate?

  • (pause)

  • Think forwards.

  • Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
    They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

  • But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

  • So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

  • (pause)

  • If a tower falls in a city, but it’s inhabitants are already scattered all over the earth, does it make a sound?

  • (pause, echo)

  • I wrote because I want to ask your advice on something. I was reading about how some people see a translation as inherently violent. I read about the belief that a translation commits violence on the original, as opposed to touching on it or brushing past it gently, as others may have you believe. In a daydream I wondered what constitutes an original, as opposed to a collaboration of many translators. What came first, the chicken or the biological process that produced the egg, and all that. In a night-dream, I was arrested by anxiety – what violence has my language committed? I think I sat on the egg. Every word or utterance or noise that escapes my lips is a translation, I can’t help but push up against something that already exists. So I want to ask you something:

  • (pause)

  • If my voice falters, but you are reading it in a letter, can you still hear it?

  • (pause)

  • I await your answer eagerly.

  • Sincerely,

  • Jacqui