The life ahead of you

Other people’s words about … distance

They raised their glasses. The room smelt of wine and bread and gravy, and the light was rich and dim.

Geraint didn’t answer.

‘I thought a change of scene … ‘ said Basil. ‘A long voyage on an ocean liner [to India]. Full of hopeful beautiful women,’ he added, daring.

Geraint read Kipling. He thought of the mystery of India, the jungle, the light, the colours, the creatures. The complexities of the silver dealings. The distance. He was, he saw, in need of distance. And his imagination touched on the beautiful young women sailing across dark starlit oceans in search of husbands. A journey like that made you free, made you a different man.

From ‘The Children’s Book’
by AS Byatt

Just a few weeks ago, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world we’re living in now would have seemed like something straight out of the pages of a science fiction novel. But then life changed — abruptly, shockingly — and here we are now, living out our strange, new lives. Trying to make sense of our days.

Having no words, myself, for any of this, I have spent my Easter seeking solace in other people’s words. There is no better novel I can think of that describes the kind of vast, sudden change we are experiencing right now than The Children’s Book. In it, AS Byatt chronicles the lives of the members of a family living in Edwardian England as they move, unknowingly, towards 1914 and the outbreak of the First World War … and the end of the world as they knew it.

‘I should like that, sir,’ [Geraint] said. ‘You have been very kind to me.’

Basil said, ‘It was a fortunate day for me when you came into the Bank. You are too young to be fixed by one setback. You have all your life in front of you. The world in front of you.’

Geraint set his [broken heart] against the pull of the oceans and the strange continent. He could feel his own energy stirring.

‘I know,’ he said. ‘You are right. Thank you.’

To say anything more about how Geraint’s life changes shortly after this conversation, or about how wrong Basil’s pronouncements turn out to be, would be to give away the whole, shocking point of this novel. All I will say is this: sometimes we are wrong about the world we live in, and about the lives that we believe lie ahead of us.

Sometimes, as Byatt describes, we are terribly, terribly wrong.

*

At the end of this post, I’ve listed a few of the pieces I’ve read online recently, during this strange, uneasy Easter weekend. I’ve listed them here in case you, like me, find yourself speechless right now: in case you, like me, find yourself seeking solace in other people’s words.

But there’s one other thing I want to leave you with today. This morning, I wandered into our garden — our small, messy, rambling suburban garden, which is more of a yard with some trees we planted in it, really, than a garden — and glanced up through the leaves at the sky. And there, above me, was the sun shining through, distant but warm.

I captured that moment in the photo that accompanies this post. It shows another kind of distance from the one Geraint believes he is entitled to reach out towards. It shows, I want to say, another kind of solace.

The light shining through

Lately I’ve been reading …

2015: the year that was

I’ve had a strange year this year.
I’ve tried following different paths.
I started a new job that’s really an old one (thankfully, my colleagues welcomed me back).
I tried meditating … but decided I prefer breathing.
I stopped eating gluten-free.
I began writing my first adult novel.
And I learned to walk rather than run (more about that in an upcoming post).
So — no resolutions for 2016.
Just ample wordless gratitude

My daily path to the beach
My daily path to the beach

PS Happy new year, everybody!
PPS I won’t be posting as regularly as usual over the summer.
I’m taking each day as it comes.

Take care,
Rebecca xo

Twenty-one breaths

Recently, I’ve been reading about the power of breathing.
As I understand it, when we’re busy or stressed or even excited,
we activate our sympathetic nervous system,
moving into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
19 November 2014 054
But when we stop —
to sleep, rest, meditate, relax,
or simply just to breathe —
we activate our parasympathetic nervous system.
And it’s then we can heal ourselves:
of anxiety and sickness and angst.

Winter sunset at Aldinga Beach
Winter sunset at Aldinga Beach

So now — in keeping with my blog’s theme —
I stop several times daily to take twenty-one deep breaths.

In (through the nose).
Out (through the mouth).
In.
Out.
In.
Out.
Healing.
Healing.
Healing.