I love the novels of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’s author, Louise de Bernierès. In the completely absorbing ‘Birds Without Wings’, one particular passage has stayed with me as a great example of imagination and creativity; I hope you agree? The blurb on the back of this book says:
“Set against the backdrop of the collapsing Ottoman Empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the subsequent bitter struggle between Greeks and Turks, ‘Birds Without Wings’ traces the fortunes of one small community in south-west Anatolia (in what is now Turkey) – a town in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully for centuries.
One of the main characters is Rustem Bey who, for various reasons, has brought back a girl from Istanbul, a girl he hopes will become his wife/lover. He’s a patient man but it’s six months before Leyla suggests that ‘tonight’s the night’ – and sends Rustem Bey out for the day while she prepares a feast in their house.
Rustem Bey arrives back at his house.
“She held out her hand, took his, placed it to her heart, kissed it and then touched it to her forehead. “My beauty, if I have any ……………… it’s for you.” She said. “Come, I have something to show you.” Rustem Bey allowed himself to be led by the sleeve. When they reached the door to the inner courtyard, Leyla said: ‘close you eyes’. A few steps later: “Open them.”
Rustem Bey beheld something so marvellous, so unwonted, that he fell speechless. He put one hand to his forehead and laughed out loud with delight. Finally he asked: “What have you done? Have I come to paradise?”
The inner courtyard was a sea of glimmering, moving golden-yellow lights. There was no pattern to it. Some of the flames were momentarily still and others were travelling, meandering slowly among the lemon trees, the pots of pelargonium, oregano, mint and rose. It was as if the stars had been captured from heaven and been set in motion there in that small square of the lower world.
Rustem Bey stepped forward and bent down to look. Each light was the flame of a candle and each candle was borne upon the back of a tortoise that the village children had spent all day collecting from the surrounding mountains.
Isn’t that f**king gorgeous?
And here’s another feast of visualisation: “The torchlight was dancing off the beech trees, a cohort of ghosts.” An extract from Paula Hawkins’ book ‘Into the Water’. Paula wrote about Beech trees and I imagine silver birch trees, standing in the gloom! Good word – cohort!
The American poet Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963) is best known for her confessional poetry and her tumultuous marriage to the English poet Ted Hughes. She suffered from depression for most of her life and committed suicide at the young age of 30. I am not a lover of poetry but think she summed up the dilemma some of us feel, about whom we are or who we would like to be: “I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life.”
The Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q series are great detective stories, based on cold cases resurrected by Carl Morck and his assistant Assad. How about this for an invitation to imagine: “…… and in the meadow, the grass whispered of spring.”, from his book Redemption?
After two months in Portugal this summer, the following has a certain personal ring, although I failed to note who wrote it: “I’m sprawled in a chair on the sandy beach, languid and dreamy, made as loose-limbed as a mermaid by the long summer’s release.”
Yoga thoughts and sayings are numerous but this basic one is where it all starts, so you can make of it what you wish: “Om So hum: I am that that what I am.”
I have quoted Philip Roth before. Here’s his observation about the elderly: “The old have been stamped by their time.” – Ed – some sadly more than others!
Climbing a tall building, or a mountain, or going up in a glider or aeroplane can give one a perspective unavailable from ground level, for “a horizon is nothing save the limit of your sight.” And then William Faulkner said “You can’t swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” For some this is the ‘letting go moment’ of any activity. Seeking guidance on how to approach one’s life you can drown in the oceans of advice to be found in philosophical writings or even in abundant psychobabble. The advice that will work for you will be the one that you understand and can own. Someone wrote: “Life is not as we are taught, a matter of seeking answers, but rather learning which are the questions we should ask.”
We should, as children innocently do, ask questions. At the back end of a Yin yoga class the other Sunday, I was struck by a reading of the last section of Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Lee Child, co-writing with his brother Andrew about the hero Jack Reacher in their collaboration ‘One Shot’, writes: “His life was like that, a mosaic of fragments. Details and contexts would fade and be inaccurately recalled, but the feelings and experiences would weave over time into a tapestry equally full of good times and bad.”
So write something yourself and do as Clive James said he did in his ‘Unforgettable Memories’: “All I do is turn a phrase until it catches the light.” (See PC 247 Collections (1))
Richard 5th November 2021