There are places you cannot go, except by bear.

Here is the story of my journey into Terra Incognita.


I found myself at my desk with a handful of old childhood photos.

It is was an effort to recall the details shown in these pictures, of my parents’ first home on Salisbury Road in suburban Sydney.

What I do remember are isolated yet strong vignettes, beyond which lies Terra Incognita; the suppositions of a short-sighted three year old girl.

I can recall my mothers’ face as she tells me a scary bedtime story, about a creature which will get me if I venture out after dark. In my mind I can see it; just over the back fence waits The Nacht Geger —cue creepy music— here comes — The Night Rooster! It’s legs are scaly; with claws that scrape and clack as the massive hunched shape moves behind the fence palings.

I now know that The Nacht Geger is in fact a vampire, however my mother softened the story somewhat by turning the monster inexplicably into a rooster. The melodrama makes me smile now, but the feeling behind my fears remains, fixed like some prehistoric insect encased in a coffin of amber.

Salisbury road was a place of wonder, and terror, and magic. Beyond the fence were monsters and sitting upon my mother’s dresser lay a jar filled with bubbles, suspended miraculously in goo; her pink hair gel was both mystical and beyond my comprehension.

Surrounded by these memories, I am transported to that house in spirit, if not body, to my old bedroom.

I begin to draw the room and soon, the child I was, finds a place into the drawing. The room is indistinct but the sensation of the place carries the drawing forward. The image of the room falls away as something new begins to take shape, a beast, with a coat that’s rough and limbs that are heavy. I am a cartographer, journeying off the edge of the map; the edge of the photographs, into my memories of monsters.

I sit back and look at the girl in alarm… for she has climbed onto the beasts’ back; the back of a bear. But her face is so distant and so composed that I am less worried by this turn of events. Plainly, she knows something that I do not.

The bear looks this way and that, as I scrape away at the oil paint. Suddenly, a moment of recognition flashes across its’ face, as it turns and regards me. A salutary beast has arrived from the land behind the back fence.

I now understand the meaning of the drawing; that the fearful mien of the Nacht Geger came out of the same place as did the bear.

Forty seven years late perhaps, but a rescue is at hand.

Perhaps there is an upside to the fact that I was able to scare the living wits out of myself as a child; Terra Incognita has monsters, but also helpful creatures alike. What I have found, is a curious sense of underlying rationale in the creation of images such as this. It gives me courage to go over the back fence in art and in story, and it gives me courage in life too.

This bear eats Night Roosters on toast.

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