Find Winter – Part 2

by M.J. Hearle

I started jogging when I turned twenty-nine. Not coincidentally my metabolism started to slow round about then as well (when I think about this sad fact of aging I always hear a line from an Adam Sandler sketch in my head – he and his friend are talking about getting old and Sandler complains that the last time he drank a milkshake he noticed his butt jiggled for a week. As soon as I hit thirty I started avoiding milkshakes for fear of having too much jiggle in my wiggle.).

I didn’t have a set jogging route so would just go where my feet would take me. One day they took me to Waverly Cemetery. Whilst I wouldn’t consider myself a cemetery connoisseur, I have been to a few bone yards in my time. Among them, the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris (yeah, I went looking for Jim Morrison’s grave like all the other tourists, and was disappointed by how small and unremarkable it was), Catacombe di Roma, and Highgate Cemetery in London. Though Waverly can’t compete with these graveyards in terms of size or history, it has one feature over them – a view.

Situated on a steep hillside, Waverly overlooks the blue-grey waters of the Tasman and is surrounded by picturesque coastline stretching to the north and south in either direction. It’s a great place to cloud-gaze, and there are few places better positioned in Sydney to stand and watch a storm as it rolls in over the ocean.

So there I was jogging between the rows, careful not to step on any of the graves (I’m not superstitious, I just think it’s impolite to walk on someone’s bed) when I saw Winter. She didn’t have red hair, and was probably a little younger than the character I later wrote into my book, but there she was nonetheless. A teenage girl with a bulky film camera hanging around her neck, taking photographs.

It was just on dusk, the sky had darkened to a deep red colour transforming the cemetery into a place of long shadows. Worried, I might scare her (I’d be scared if I was in a cemetery by myself and some wild-eyed fellow came sprinting through the tombstones), I tried to make as much noise as possible as I ran. She turned at my approach and instead of looking afraid, regarded me with curiosity. She then lifted her camera and took a photograph of me.

I didn’t know it yet but Inspiration had just kicked my door down and decided to make itself at home. As I wound my way home, I began thinking about the girl, imagining what would happen if she developed the photographs she’d taken in the cemetery and found a strange young man staring out at her from one of the pictures. Not me of course, in my sweat-stained tracky pants and baggy t-shirt – but an infinitely more attractive and mysterious man. A stranger who hadn’t actually been there when she took the photograph. I began to develop the idea, first the man was a ghost (too obvious), then he was a vampire (too overexposed – thanks Twilight! Also vampires don’t cast a reflection so probably don’t photograph either) then he was something else. Something new. A supernatural being from somewhere called the Dead Lands. An eerie ghost realm of monsters and miracles.

Would my young photographer be more intrigued by this strange man than afraid? I think she would. She might just fall in love with him. Now all I had to do was start writing and see if my instinct was right or if this premise would go the way of so many other promising beginnings and peter out to nothing. It turned out there was a story to be written about the girl in the graveyard but it didn’t come easily. I’m not sure anything worthwhile ever does?

If I’d never been for that jog, or if I’d chosen a different time to exercise I might never have seen that girl or had the idea. Winter’s Shadow would probably never have been written. Like, I said in the previous post – inspiration’s a tricky thing, but if you’re stuck you could do worse than go for a jog. You might not come back with an idea for your story but at least you’ll get some exercise.

M. J.