This tragic story happened in Hobart in 2005. Elizabeth Ryan’s daughter, Genevieve was born in 1984. She died in 2005.
She came to Tasmania to attend the University of Tasmania. She was a very bright, intelligent girl who had her entire life ahead of her and lived it enthusiastically. She loved words. She was a passionate writer. She loved nature. She loved everything around her and she had an eye for observation that most people don’t seem to bother with.
One lovely Tasmanian day, Genevieve took a bushwalk on the Mt Wellington tracks. People who don’t live here don’t always understand the life of Mt. Wellington. Indigenous people understood it for centuries. Mt Wellington has many stories. Many of them quite haunting tales of those who went missing and were never found again. Although the mountain is near the city, it has remote sections on it that need to be respected.
When Genevieve came upon a waterfall, she stood atop of it, marvelling at everything one marvels at when visiting a beautiful waterfall. She slipped and fell to her death. When she failed to return to the share house she lived in she was reported missing. Her friends, Nick and Ben found her body. Gen had mentioned she was going to walk to a waterfall several days earlier.
“She was lying peacefully on her back, naked, her arms above her head. She had been there for two nights. Nick (her friend), said that from up above, from where Gen had fallen, she looked like water- merging into the waterfall. A huge tiger snake, curled on the rock beside her, slithered away as Ben approached. ” (page 11)
Good Reads describes this book as:
Articulate, perceptive, sensitive, quirky, and often hauntingly beautiful, Genevieve Ryan’s writing explores the innermost experiences of a young woman growing up in an exhilarating and confusing world. Her journey through the twenty years of her short life is enriched by a passion for philosophy, literature, politics and art.
In this book, her mother, Elizabeth has drawn together a collection of Genevieve’s writings. The collection presents a delightful picture of a much-loved daughter. More importantly, it presents a message to a wider world – a message that growth and beauty are to be found in the deep, often painful search for inner meaning.
This is a book that will motivate everyone who feels called to write. People from fifteen to ninety-five will be inspired and charmed by the remarkable insights of an extraordinary young woman. Elizabeth Ryan grew up in Melbourne where she taught for many years before meeting Peter and having four daughters. With her family, she travelled and lived in Tumut in the Snowy Mountains, Townsville in North Queensland and Lismore in Northern New South Wales.
During these years she pursued a range of occupations. She has published in a number of educational journals and now works in Research Services at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne.
Daughter Genevieve was a wonderful writer. She wrote all the time. I do mean, all…the…time. When working at the kiosk at the cricket once, she would write thoughts and little poems on brown paper bags when they weren’t busy.
She wrote in cafes all of the time. She mostly wrote journal entires, poetry and observations of people, places and events around her.
This book, written by her mother, Elizabeth shares Gen’s story of her life. She grew up on mainland Australia in several places. She wasn’t a Tasmanian. She came here specifically to attend university.
Her writing is lovely. It’s intelligent and intuitive. It’s one of those stories one reads about a person’s life that makes you wonder why the intelligent, beautiful people, who contribute to the world, have a life cut short and the mean, nasty people that only do harm live to be old. In fact, her mother mentions this thought when she goes to the police station after Gen’s body has been found. They need to identify her body. While there, a young man is dragged into the station, hate filling his eyes. Gen’s mother wonders why there is such a difference between her daughter’s short life and this young man, who appears to not appreciate anything about life at that moment. Who knows his story.
I enjoyed meeting this young woman. Though I did get bogged down in the mother’s grief. Of course, anyone would. I focused on the writings of this talented young woman as that was what seemed important to me. I didn’t know Gen but I know I would loved to have met her. I enjoy hearing about talented young people who do wonderful things such as paint, write, succeed at sport. This woman had her entire life ahead of her and it is to her mother’s credit to record her story and include so much of what she wrote.
I will include a sample below.
Cars Are My Soundtrack
I’ve been given life
And I choose to take it in the form of
Ink-water and touch
Writing, tears and human inter-action
My head is beating with the rhythm of necessity
My face is flushed, hot, burning
My heart is doing vigorous exercise
Am I ok? I have no idea
Cars are my soundtrack
Other people my plot.
Sometimes I think if the credits rolled at the end of my life- I might be a stunt double
Or a cameo
I feel like, in cutting the unnecessary fat away from my life, I’ve just choppedÂ
off a large portion of the actual meat, a large part of my essentials.
So I’m bleeding
I feel like I need a teacher
But can’t find anything that helps me, in books, music or people
I can’t open up to religion
I’m worried that I’ll be stagnant forever
(written 2002 in Melbourne before she entered Uni.)
I still have a couple of chapters at the end of this book to finish so I will stretch it out until the first of January so I could it on the list for 2019. It will be the first Australian book, by an Australian woman writer for the year.
7 thoughts on “…regards, some girl with words”
I hadn’t heard this story, Pam. How sad. My Tasmanian brother and I were talking the other day about life and risk, in reference to that Tasmanian kayaker Adrian Kiernan (?) who died this year in Nepal. I’m not sure how risky she was being there on the waterfall, but would she have thought taking that extra slippery step (if that’s what she did) worth giving up her life for? Would Adrian Kiernan have kayaked in treacherous waters that day had he known what would happen? Silly questions in a way – and I really don’t know whether what Gen was doing was very risky – but we often comfort ourselves when people die very young by saying they were doing what they love. However, when what they love is hugely risky (like free rock-climbing, for example), I wonder what would they think in retrospect, if given the chance?
(I hope Gen’s mother doesn’t read this, because I’m not criticising Gen. I don’t even know whether she loved and sought risk like some do, but your post just reminded me of this issue that I ponder whenever active, passionately “alive” people die young in tragic circumstances and the things we say about it.)
I understand what you mean. I think about this quite often too. Especially as I get older I wonder if some of the risks we take are worth it. I don’t think Gen was deliberately taking a risk. I think she probably underestimated how slippery rocks around the top of a waterfall can be. When my sister and I visited Yosemite two years ago we talked quite a bit about those climbers who climb El Capitan with no ropes. I can’t help but ask myself, “Why?” The chance of death is so close. Maybe that is what they look for but if we are only given one life why not do so many more lovely things with life besides climbing El Capitan with no ropes. They must just be addicted to the adrenalin they get. I get enough adrenalin when I overshoot a curve on my motorbike. I don’t do it anymore but when learning I did. I used to think my last words would be “Oh Shit!” as that is what I involuntarily uttered. I laugh to think about it because I hardly ever say that word. I guess we all take more risks as young people than when we are older. I don’t see many older people climbing ‘ropeless’ on El Capitan but there may be some. Food for thought.
Yes, exactly, Pam, they’re are so many lovely things to do in life, why take big risk that might end it.
I did hear on the radio a few years ago a discussion about these people, and the suggestion that the is a genetic component to adrenalin-seeking, but I’m not sure whether it was great or supposition.
As for Gen, I suspect you’re right. It was more, as I know you realised, that this death reminded me of those others.
moving story… i’ve wondered the same thing: why the good die young and the meanies don’t… (probably illusory, tho…)
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I agree wtih Kaggsy.
You’re braver than I am. I wouldn’t be able to read this because the mother’s grief would just slay me…
Yes, her grief is strong but the girl’s writing was beautiful and the mother wanted to share it with people. I guess one can look at it from both sides.
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