Monday, 28 October 2019

"Without you, this book would not be"

The stretch between writing, publicly reading and launching a book is extensive. It mirrors the very differing states of being pregnant, talking about being pregnant, and actually giving birth.

And then.
Then there is the advertising, the marketing, the work of selling your book. This mirrors breastfeeding, burping, nappy-changing and generally doing all those things that your darling needs, in order to keep thriving.

If you had known exactly what was coming at you, you might not have chosen this route. Well, I should probably rather change that sentence into the first person. I might not have chosen this route.

But I had an ulterior motive: I badly wanted this baby. I wanted a beautiful, fat Heffalump. Did I know she would start walking the moment she was out? No.

Well - it has been a steep learning curve, giving birth to a herbivore: they really do stand on their own legs immediately. I have held for dear life onto her tail, as she has galumphed happily into the world, reminding me that I am merely human, while she ... is of another order altogether.

It's a beautiful thing. My wildest expectations have been exceeded. The Hogsback launch could not have gone better, my reading in Grahamstown was well-received, and next week there will be a launch at Exclusive Books in Cape Town.

However, the dramatic increase in social buzz, organising, online communications, meeting lovely people, autographing with special messages - all this boon has robbed me of sleep and of peace even during the daytime, as my mind sprints through the to-do list and my neglected creative soul sits and sulks.

Busyness has caused me to re-tick the boxes with my basic priorities: SOLITUDE, QUIET, DOMESTIC BLISS, LOVE/ INTIMACY, PERSONAL FREEDOM.

That is all very well. Yet I am responsible for my Heffalump, and I am responsible to the good people listening, reading, buying her.

So I have no choice but to balance the responsibilities, patiently and wisely.

As Walter Benjamin said, the work of art gives birth to the artist, who must reinvent herself.

And Norman? Where are you in all of this? You, whose face is represented now in the homes of all who've got the book, and whose spirit and quirks and moments with me are being perused and pondered?

Why do these questions bring a strange peace into me?

Something has been fulfilled that was waiting. It has all been worth it. Like Strandloop, which you inscribed for me as something that you could not have put together without me, Greater Matter could and would not be without you.

Norman's inscription in my copy of Strandloop

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Paradiso - a chosen boundary

In order to maintain perspective (stay grounded) during the build-up to my book launch, I decided to volunteer as a guide on the garden tours over the recent Spring Festival in Hogsback.

I received a morning's training from experienced guides, who included a retired professor of Botany. I was introduced to the lilt of new words - Lyriodendron (for the primitive Tulip tree); Karumi (the Japanese azalea); Tilopia (previously Warrister - for a remarkable Australian protea).

The unknown inevitably visits upon you foreign vocabulary, for you to get your tongue around, extending the horizons of your imagination, both inward and out. But known vocab, too, has hidden crannies.

Etymologically speaking, Paradiso is 'a royal, enclosed park'. A place of safety, a haven: boundaried, a space, which by definition defends your peace.

Biblically speaking, however, it is a place of temptation: a place that offers you the privilege of choice.

Paradiso is, in the Christian heritage, the earth - whose plants and creatures we can choose to care for, such that we may serve thereby the survival and health of our bodies and souls. Or not.

Many have chosen to leave the place of peace. Individuals such as I marked in my previous blog, who transgress against the principle of loving care, are a case in point.

Many, however, have chosen to say yes, to take responsibility. It has been my privilege to walk through the living stories of labouring love, which Hogsback's show gardens are witness to.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

What cure for malice?

I told a story to my beloved this morning. We were talking about dogs.
"I just kick them," he told me an employee had said.

When I was eight or nine, my sisters and I walked to school every morning. It took us a good half hour. A beautiful black bitch joined us at a certain point each day. My sisters spoke to her, and I replied for her, putting on a voice. She was a gentle, agile creature, who thrived under our attention and imaginative conversations joining all our hearts in a magic ritual as we walked together.

One morning - it was only another few hundred metres to the school - she stopped to sniff at a lamppost. Her hind quarters were in the road. We stood waiting for her to finish her 'reading'.

A car sped along. It swerved to the left, deliberately in order to hit her. Her body was flung high up, as high as the lamp upon the post. She landed on the other side of the road with a broken back.

Out of the back windscreen I saw the driver's children look out, laughing.

In his book, My Traitor's Heart, Rian Malan observes laughter in a photograph of people witnessing a necklacing.

What cure is there for malice? What for mayhem? What is the madness driving men - apparently ordinary men, who eat and sleep and breathe just like you and me - deliberately to harm?

They cannot help it. They have no inner life, so cannot die. They have no joy unless they destroy. Orcs. Beyond redemption and mortal comprehension.

Redeem yourself: stand by your life: a fulcrum in the storm. The wars reflect the tipping points of tides that run on more than this mere moment.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Adventures on the countdown

The widow messaged me. Because my book is available on Amazon, she thought I was abroad and was delighted to learn that I was, in fact, physically within her reach. She drove from Ngcobo in the Transkei to Hogsback and we met at The Edge Restaurant over coffee on the deck in the morning sun.

She honoured and humbled me by what she shared. Her story reminded me to keep my focus sharply on what is perhaps the second-most important thread in my book ... namely, that what happens in our physical (visible, tangible) life is a reflection of invisible activity in the spiritual realm. And that the elemental realm is literally animated by our imagination and our traditions.
(The first-most important thread is of course that love simply flows through apparently impermeable boundaries.)

The woman's quest, properly to balance the questions that are natural to reason against trust in her own intuition, is a quest I value - it mirrors mine.

My book is taking me on beautiful adventures. The first box of them is going down at a lovely pace as I post or hand-deliver copies basically every day. I thank all my supporters from the heart and wish the poems take you on the adventures your souls need.

The picture shows you the launch venue - the path leads through the back courtyard of The Edge Restaurant, and the roofed, windowed place is the Tin Shack (that's where the pizza oven is). It's not yet set up for the weekend's events - you will certainly be provided with seats when you attend the launch! To the left of the picture you can see just a touch of the local craft shop.

The frogs sang their love songs again last night and this morning, so it looks as if the earth and our spirits will once more be refreshed.