My Long Dalliance

A writers journey

Fight or Flight

She fell far away so fast. He saw her only when her steps were hastened and he was not able to catch up. He was still in the fight but she had chosen flight. He knew the let go was close, but not this close. She had been warding off the inevitable with her hopeful heart and sincere virtues, packing punches while he sat complacent.

He thought he knew her like he knew himself, familiar in smell, sight and sound. She knew him like a slow waltz with predictable steps and a tune that was easy to her ears. A three beat tremble on hard wooden floors, the theatre of their life.

In his mind she was in his arms, but the hollow alcove that lay next to him now began to fill with an empty loss. Nimble hands no more. Berry lips no more. Tangled limbs no more. In her arms no more. He lost the fight while she took flight and lay alone with a new lesson in love. Nobody was impervious to matters of the heart, not even him.

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The Simple Genius of Henry David Thoreau

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“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

Falling in the Fall

The night was beginning to wane and morning light was rising victoriously.  She prayed that today the sun would replace the gloom that now enveloped her surrounds and that the trees would breath life from their finery of green pretties.  But fall and its sweeping blows of light frost were 2 months deep and showing no signs of empathy.  The sun had barely had a chance to sing before the light hue of goose gray overturned her.

A Writer in Residence

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Last year I was successful with an application to spend 1 month at the beautiful Can Serrat Artist Residency in El Bruc, Spain.  Situated at the base of the sacred mountain of Montserrat, 1 hour north of Barcelona, it offered me an opportunity to throw myself amongst the unique beauty of the Catalonia landscapes and to spend time with other artists from around the world, from all different disciplines.

This would be my first time in Europe, so the news of my acceptance was very exciting. However, since I had began writing my novel, which takes place in Paris during the 1920s’ Surrealism era, I felt that it was imperative that I spend as much time during my 5 week adventure surrounding myself with the fables of the Parisian streets.

Thankfully Karine, the lovely Residency Coordinator agreed to let me stay at the residency for only 1 week instead of the month.  I understood that this was not the ideal span of time in order to achieve everything you may hope to from the solitude of a residency, but I felt it was the right decision.

Can Serrat exceeded my expectations.  The support given to the residents there is incredible.  I was given the encouragement, time and freedom to focus on my writing and offered a setting one could only imagine.  The residency, originally a large rustic farmhouse surrounded by vineyards, was founded many years ago by a group of Norwegian artists, with the sole purpose to give artists and writers an opportunity to escape from the demands of daily life and focus on their craft.

El Bruc is a quaint little town with a backdrop that inspired painters like Salvador Dali.  Each evening the bright pink skies throw the most magnificent shadows on the mountain behind.  It truly is incredible.

I am so very grateful for the opportunity I was given and hope to return for an extended stay at some stage. Thank you Can Serrat!

1994

She wished they had met in 1994. Before the world tested her and threw savage hands at her limbs’.  Before she let her dignity fall under a blanket of guilt.

When she could see him clearly in her dreams, the one she had yet to meet. When she felt the gentle embrace of a love not yet found, or tainted by past circumstance.

She knew how to hope and to fall into lullabies before 1994.  Before she looked for someone to protect her, and before the nights became blacker than the nights had been before. Before self-destruction became familiar and shallow friendships were the easiest friendships to keep.

She wished they had met in 1994.

Marvelous Matisse

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“Creativity takes courage. ” 
― Henri Matisse

Do you recognise this man?

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Do you recognize this man?  If you are in the arts and are unaware of who he is, I would love to bring him to your attention.  He is responsible for saving the lives of over 2200 Jews during the Holocaust in World War 2.  He is, without doubt one of the greatest men of the twentieth century, and still to this day remains relatively unknown.  This is Varian Fry, also referred to as the American Schindler.  An American journalist who put his life at risk in order to save the heartbeat of Europe, its culture and those whom would go on to influence millions of people around the world.

In 1935, while visiting Berlin, he witnessed SA men assaulting Jewish people in the street.  No longer able to remain indifferent, he went against the advise of all those around him and decided to act against the atrocities.

With the small sum of $3000 raised, he began his effort with a list of 200 men and woman who were well respected in the arts, literature, science and medicine.  A list of influential figures in danger of being lost amongst the horrors of war.

Varian then set up a rescue network smuggling people out of France by bribing border guards, hiring forgers and at times even personally escorting victims across the Pyrenees.  In total, more than 2,200 people were taken across the border to Spain and then on to neighboring Portugal.  From there they would be issued visas for the safety of the United States.

Amongst those saved were painters Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst, along with many famed writers and even André Breton, the founder of Surrealism.  This letter to his wife gives us an insight to the humble demeanor of Varian Fry;

“Among the people who have come into my office, or with whom I am in constant correspondence, are not only some of the greatest living authors, painters, sculptors of Europe . . . but also former cabinet ministers and even prime ministers of half a dozen countries. What a strange place Europe is when men like this are reduced to waiting patiently in the anteroom of a young American of no importance whatever.”

I am in awe of the courage of Varian Fry.  He not only saved the lives of many, but his efforts would go on to directly influence the history and culture of Europe.

A Writers’ Empathy

In the past few weeks I have found myself pondering the deep meaning of empathy.  The ability to relate to another person through their feelings.  I have always felt that I had a strong sense of empathy, however, now that I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into my characters, the challenge to empathise with some of them has become very exciting.

To be a good writer, one must develop the ability to empathise with not only their heroes, but their villains as well.  Vladimir Nabokov perfected this in his incredibly raw novel, Lolita.  I am in awe of the way he was able to draw the reader in so much that you at times feel sorry for the monster narrating the story.

I have consciously started to focus primarily on character developments with empathy being my priority.  In order to challenge myself, I am choosing characters that are very foreign to me.  In my last post “The Last Dance”, I chose to tell a story from the perspective of an elderly woman.  I am 36, so I had to find a way to relate to somebody 50 years my senior.  In order to do this, I thought back to times when I too felt neglected and dismissed.  Periods in my life when I felt I was not in control of anything anymore.  Times where I experienced loss.

There is no doubt that without empathy for each and every one of the characters that are introduced into the story, it will lack depth and the fullness required to envelop the reader.  To be empathetic is to also be sensitive, and writing requires the most acute sensitivity, letting not a single thing pass you by.  Like the lemon hue surrounding a blazing orange sun.  Or the impossible pitch of a child as she squeals down a slippery slide.

I do believe writers are unique like this, and you can usually tell when you meet one.  They will be looking at the scuffs on the side of your shoes and the way that your hair falls on your peach cheek as you speak to them in words, bouncing off your tongue like a trampoline.  They will catch your words too, take them home and try to swallow them whole so that they too can understand how you felt.

Writers truly are a glorious thing.

Literature and Butterflies

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“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.” 
― Vladimir Nabokov

One Last Dance

The hands of the grandfather clock danced around his ivory face, age transparent behind his polished body. Alison watched in a trance like state, wondering if they were aware that this would be their last dance together within these floral walls.

She dabbled the wet that ran between the heavy lines circling her mouth and looked away. She pleaded with Arthur, who now only appeared in picture frames around the home that was once theirs. She silently asked him to help her through the day.

The auctioneer had arrived dressed in a veil of pity and she eyed him suspiciously. He spoke to her in a smooth, hushed voice, the extent of his pleasantries so well executed she just knew he must have done this a hundred times before. She wondered how many trinkets it took him to sell before he purchased the fine linen suit he was wearing. Or how many family heirlooms did he convince its once trusted owner to part with before he chose the shiny convertible that now displayed in her driveway?

As bodies arrived, they carried thick air in with them, leaving small pools of greed on the Persian rug as they shuffled around the table of hors d’oeuvres.  Alison resented every single one of them as she watched them looking about the room at the belongings that had been her life. A lifetime of memories, tagged with numbers. Moments that were now to be sold for much less than a currency of sentiments would charge.

When the proceedings got underway, she was introduced with a gesture of thanks, before being dismissed. Money was now the objective, not her. She took to the stairs and slowly climbed to the silence of her room, not wanting another moment in the company of the vultures that contributed to the changing of time. Merrywether Residence was an expensive, but comfortable option, she had been told. Her daughter Harriet felt far from her these days. It seemed to Alison that the responsibilities of an elderly mother were too great for her to continue with, and although she loved her, she resented her just as much.

She lay face to the ceiling on her bed and closed her eyes. As the sound of foreign voices began to fade under a sheet of sleep that took hold, her mind sent her far from the bitter thoughts of Merrywether and Harriet. There in her descent from life she felt a calmness overcome her. In a silent setting, Arthur approached her with slow steps at the end of an unfamiliar peer. As he took her hand she dropped her head on his shoulder before they fell towards the blanket of blue fanning below them. Her body sunk without struggle, happy to now be by her loves side. There was no reaching for light, or gasping of breath, and the ease in which gravity guided her was only encouraged by Arthur, who seemed familiar to it all. She let him lead the way.

Her motives behind her departure may have been her reluctance to find life in another home, with new friends and a daily schedule of craft lessons and occasional visitors, but this life was one she refused to accept.

Arthur knew her too well. And so her life would end here, just where theirs had began.