Shifting sands

Sand Dunes

Sand Dunes (Photo credit: David Stanley)

I’ve been away from my blog for a few weeks, startled by a recent change in the landscape that surrounds me. I’ve been reflecting on the nature of tragedy, both on the public shared level and in the private space, and I found that I was short of words to share with you via my blog, or with myself, in the stories I have been spinning.

Writing is a healing tool, but I find it is more powerful when employed at a distance, after allowing oneself to live in the raw moment. It is essential to blunder, to understand that we do not have control of the overarching narrative that is our own life, before we attempt to shape and mold an interpretation of existence that pleases us in our stories. For myself at least, anything else would be an attempt to escape feeling, and that strategy always comes back to bite me.

I have been affectionately accused of being cruel to my characters in The Purana Qila Stories, by throwing obstacles in the path of their happiness. If I picked up the thread of my tales now, I would be tempted to give my good (fictional) friends the happy endings they deserve, but my writing would probably be unsound and dishonest. I believe in the exhortation of Ernest Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”

For now, I will content myself with the true sentences crafted by other authors and the distilled, clear truth of poetry, none more so than the haiku. Here’s one from the master, Basho:

Now the swinging bridge

is quieted

with creepers…

Like our tendrilled life

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A life in a suitcase

My daughter sent me a link to a story in Collector’s Weekly, about the personal belongings of insane asylum patients from 1910 to the 1960’s. Hundreds of suitcases were found locked away in an attic at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane. The photographs of their meager belongings and what they tell us about their owners are fascinating. It reminds me of a poetry class where we had to bring in objects that represented us, to turn the real into symbols. Here is the process in reverse. We can only guess at who these (unidentified) people were, by what they brought with them as they entered the asylum, often never to leave again. It makes you think.

A beautifully miserable French poem for a rainy Fall day…

English: Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serra...

English: Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serrata 日本語: 枯葉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chanson d’automne

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Monotone.

Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure

Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.

Paul Verlaine

I’m researching WW2 for a children’s book. Radio Londres broadcast the first stanza of this poem as a signal to the French Resistance that the D-Day landings would begin in 24 hours. I couldn’t help but think, how very French, to open a military campaign with poetry.

About Coins in the Well

Coin Collection - I

Coin Collection – I (Photo credit: д§mд)

My mother once told me that a great-, great-, great-grandfather had several wives. When he died, his youngest wife disappeared with the money he had hidden in a well. I love this story because it shows me that our pasts are rich with fantastical stories and myths, and that, for writers, inspiration gleams at the bottom of a well somewhere.