Q&A with Claire Collie

Seafoam green bordered the abstract pattern. Aqua leaves splashed across a golden background, lines of white dots flow across the pattern in different directions. Claire Collie smiles out of a rectangle backdrop of a rustic wooden wall, tinged with a moss green.

CLAIRE COLLIE writes about the Anthropocene and spatial justice. She is a landscape sociologist living in central Victoria, where she gardens. 

Our Associate Editor Panda Wong interviews Claire Collie about her non-fiction piece ‘Loneliness, Boredom, No Normal’ for #18 REGIONAL VOICES.

‘Loneliness, Boredom, No Normal’ is an intimate look at how loneliness is manifested on both a personal and global scale in this moment (bushfires, COVID-19 and displacement). What prompted you to write this piece?

I imagine many people are feeling these sorts of emotions at this time. It’s a pretty unusual historical moment, with these crises building up one on the other, relentlessly, like a wild surf crashing into unprepared dunes. These crises of breath that have characterised this year so far—the fires, the contagion, the racialised violence—have stirred a deep sense of disillusion, I think, for many people. We’re forced into a superficial isolation while so many are struggling to breathe. There is something so, so lonely about this emerging human condition; practices of care have become strained.

We hear of the urban experiences navigating this brave new world, but we often don’t hear from those living further afield, where there are different needs and ways of being in this changing climate. I recently separated from the father of my children, so that compounded this moment too. Living remotely as a single woman raising small children can be both terrifyingly boring and deeply isolating. All these things prompted me I suppose, and the invitation to contribute to this fabulous issue showcasing regional voices…

The ongoing dialogue with your children throughout the piece is an effective device that explores the ‘not-knowing’ of the future. It also highlights the loneliness embedded in protecting children from devastating truths, ‘tell all the truth but tell it slant’ encapsulates it perfectly. Can you expand on how children’s voices and perspectives shaped ‘Loneliness, Boredom, No Normal’?

When you have children, at least in my experience, their voices shape everything because they’re constantly chit-chatting-asking-questions-demanding-understanding. They feature a lot in my writings about the Anthropocene because they remind me that this isn’t a situation that can be normalised, naturalised. Kids, perhaps in both their accepting and their disbelief, in their dialectical understanding of this moment, remind us that the world really is rather repulsive at the moment. What we do with their small insights, I suppose, is the interesting question. I’m not sure I have another answer to that other than to write about them, weave them in with my own reflections. They guide my thinking in a way. And I stand by that Dickenson quote. I don’t want my children knowing all the details about our seemingly inevitable decline, it could only lead to chronic melancholia. There’s enough ambivalence in childhood already.

Meanjin recently published your excellent piece ‘A Future Written in Absence’—are there any upcoming published works that TSR readers can look out for?

I have a few pieces coming out about cities in the time of coronavirus. And I’ve been working on a collection of essays documenting conversations with ordinary people, in rural Victoria, about gardening and birdwatching and just everyday living in the Anthropocene. But really, like with my piece in TSR, upcoming works mostly depend on who is generous enough to support my work through commissions!