A journalist for more than thirty-five years, working in Australia and the UK, Sue Joseph (PhD) began working as an academic, teaching print journalism at the University of Technology, Sydney in 1997. As a Senior Lecturer, she now teaches journalism and creative writing, particularly creative nonfiction writing, in both undergraduate and postgraduate programs. Her research interests are around sexuality, secrets and confession, framed by the media; ethics and trauma narrative; memoir; reflective professional practice; ethical HDR supervision; nonfiction poetry; and Australian creative non-fiction. Her fourth book, Behind the Text: Candid conversations with Australian creative nonfiction writers, was released in 2016. She is currently Joint Editor and Reviews Editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.


Abyssal lines of ageing, a personal eco-story

There is shock in realising your parents are ageing. It is a state so easy not to acknowledge until there is personal and violent catastrophe — that abyssal line between before and after.

This essay is derivative from two other artefacts: a poem and an essay. I draw on both as a backgrounding and progressive consciousness, to write what I regard as the third instalment in the narrative surrounding the demise of our aging mother; our champion. Not only drawing on, but appropriating two ecological theories: abyssal line and slow violence, I argue that both metaphorically go to the heart of the loss and grief of losing a beloved parent, slowly. I argue that the slow expiration, or disappearance, of a person is an ecological event when the human body as a discrete environment slowly loses its agency as it ages, within its familial environment.

I have chosen the braided essay form as I wish to explore and develop my ideas around appropriating both ecological theories — abyssal line and slow violence — into my family’s personal loss of mother/wife/sister/aunt through a series of catastrophic moments, followed by slow demise in palliative care. The metaphor is clear in my mind — a cataclysmic event created a before and after moment; then witnessing this protracted breaking apart of a loved one, slowly and brutally. A braided essay lends itself to this telling, as Walker writes: ‘The further apart the threads of the braid, the more the essay resists easy substitutions and answers’ (Walker 2017). I wish to test her hypothesis with an inward familial gaze.

Keywords: abyssal line; slow violence; ageing; ecological event