sweet solastalgia...

Just a week before the tower of the Babinda Mill met its end, we were driving past on the way to Ella Bay and decided to take a few snaps of this local icon, knowing its days were numbered.  The signs and  chains were all in place and the demolition trucks were already circling like vultures starting to pick at the carcass that the mill had become since Cyclone Larry ended its functional life. 

We have lived in the Far North less than three years, and [as I have written in previous posts] I am no huge fan of the Sugar Cane industry - yet something about this great hulking mass with its rainbows of rust stains and its cavernous absence of utility intrigued me.  Driving past regularly on sojourns to Brampston Beach the tower of the mill provided a geographic reference point for eager children [at the day's beginning], and tired children [at the day's end]; 'look there is the mill, we are almost at Brampston Beach', 'look there is the mill, we are almost back home'... 

One of the things I liked most about the mill was the delight it elicited from Dante, who would always be the first to spot the tower and squeal 'Its the old mill! I LOVE the old mill!'  I have never really managed to extract from Dante just what it was that so commanded her affection, but command it did.  I found myself having to prepare her for the fact that this structure, in which she so delighted, was soon to be no more... 'But WHY Mumma, WHY would someone want to take down the old mill.... I LOVE the old mill...' 

... and there is ultimately the experience of mortality, of being present in a place long enough that one bears witness to change. In a world that is so rapidly changing and evolving, the time in which such change occurs is also quickening.  For those left to bear witness, there is now a term coined by Glenn Albrecht to encapsulate this modern predicament; solastalgia.  

In his 2012 article for The Conversation, titled The Age of Solastalgia he explains the term thus:

Solastalgia has its origins in the concepts of “solace” and “desolation”. Solace has meanings connected to the alleviation of distress or to the provision of comfort or consolation in the face of distressing events. Desolation has meanings connected to abandonment and loneliness. The suffix -algia has connotations of pain or suffering. Hence, solastalgia is a form of “homesickness” like that experienced with traditionally defined nostalgia, except that the victim has not left their home or home environment. 

Solastalgia, simply put, is “the homesickness you have when you are still at home”.

A week after I had taken the images above, we brought home a hard copy of the Cairns Post, not a common occurrence in our family.  The leading story, an image of the fallen tower almost unrecognisable, and there, made real, stirring within me was my first Far North Queensland solastalgic moment.

So it is that this that I find myself in the unexpected position of lamenting the loss of an industrial landmark that I am still not enough of a 'local' to have called my own.  We are yet to drive past to see the 'shattered visage', there is a hesitation, a reluctance, an uncertainty...

... and more words; that came to mind on seeing this fallen 'king' of sugarcane country, a poem by Shelley I first studied in my teens that left a lasting impression...

[Percy Bysshe Shelley]

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away"


[images + text copyright Bek Misic 2013 - unless otherwise stated]