Sunday, 12 February 2012

Margaret Catchpole and the Sand Mandalas

I watched the monks in their orange robes toil for long hours creating colourful Sand Mandalas. On the last day their work was swept up to become a pile of sand to be poured into the river to remind us of the impermanence of all things. How many of us would write books if we knew they would be shredded the day after completion?
As I wait to hear those magic words–your books are ready–I have wondered how fate decides who will be remembered and who will be forgotten. I have thought about that issue a lot during the months I was writing Margaret Catchpole’s biography.  Margaret Catchpole  was just one of the thousands of women who arrived as convicts at Port Jackson in those first decades of colonial settlement of Australia and she is one of the few that history has chosen to remember. The first person who wrote about her, the Reverend Richard Cobbold, is remembered as the author of Margaret Catchpole. Now, one hundred and sixty-seven years after the Reverend wrote the fictional story of her life, I have written her true story, as true as available evidence allows. Will someone, one hundred and sixty-seven years into the future, remember me as the author of Margaret Catchpole? Will there be readers searching library shelves for either of those books? Will they read and wonder what life was like in 1797 or in 2012. Or will our words be dispersed to the elements like so many Sand Mandalas?