Why do you write?

Other people’s words about … writing and joy

Still, Connell went home that night and read over some notes he had been making for a new story [that he was writing], and he felt the old beat of pleasure inside his body, like watching a perfect goal, like the rustling movement of light through leaves, a phrase of music from the window of a passing car. Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.

From ‘Normal People
by Sally Rooney

I have a friend, whom I very much respect, who has been writing fiction for as long as I’ve known her, without any desire to seek either publication or readership. It seems to me that she writes purely for the pleasure of the process itself, and for what that process brings her; it seems to me that writing, for her, is an entirely internal process of discovery and exploration, requiring no further justification, either to herself or to others.

Light through leaves (1)

Since my own decision to stop writing a while back, I’ve gone on thinking about writing and the role that it plays, or has played, in my life. And I’ve come to find my friend’s concept — whereby writing is a private act, an act for no-one other than herself, with no thought to the future or to the past — consoling and inspiring in equal measures. I like the honesty of her act. I like the wonder in it. I like the courage. Sometimes, it takes courage to do things just because.

Light through leaves (2)

So I hope that my friend experiences, when she writes, those brief, flickering, sun-dappled moments of joy Rooney describes so beautifully in the passage above. I hope she feels the old beat of pleasure inside [her] body.

And I’m sure that she does.

On turning forty-seven

Other people’s words about … living small

He wasn’t a big man anymore. He wouldn’t be famous, like he’d dreamed as a kid, teaching himself to sign his name in all curved letters so he would be prepared to autograph a football. He would live a small life, and instead of depressing him, the thought became comforting. For the first time, he no longer felt trapped. Instead, he felt safe.

from ‘The Mothers
by Brit Bennett

Each year, as the number of years I’ve lived on this planet grows, I feel my own life shrink in the scheme of things. And to my own surprise, I have come to find this process, in the words of the protagonist in the passage I’ve quoted above, comforting and safe rather than depressing.

Call it ageing …

Small …

… or perspective …

Smaller …

… or necessity.

Smaller still …

Whatever it is — this passage to smallness, this losing yourself within the bigness of the world — can feel downright joyful, you know?

Note:
I’m not the only blogger who likes to reflect on their birthdays. I loved this post from Nicole from Eat this Poem , who reads Elizabeth Bishop’s poem ‘The Bight’ each year on her birthday. I had not come across this poem before and am so grateful Nicole has drawn my attention to it. It’s a beautiful poem, definitely worth reading each year (if not more often)!

Inhabitant

Other people’s words about … noticing

Over the last year I have discovered a passion for birds and wildflowers in particular, along with the ever-present kangaroos. I love the texture of bark, the colour of leaves and mosses, I’m utterly fascinated with the fact that I can walk around our small patch of natural bushland each day and find something I’ve never noticed before. Or find something I have noticed before, but it catches my eye for a different reason.

from ‘Fifteen Acres: A Small Slice of Paradise‘ blog
by Lisa from Central Victoria, Australia

I came across Lisa’s blog only recently and instantly realised she is a kindred blogger. Her blog documents her growing understanding of, knowledge about, and love for all the species of native flora and fauna that live on her block of land in rural Central Victoria. I get the feeling that Lisa has learned about her patch of land in the same way I’ve learned about Aldinga Scrub — by walking through it day after day and simply observing.

Like Lisa, I didn’t expect to become fascinated by the plants and creatures living on my doorstep. It just happened. I didn’t even know about Aldinga Scrub until after we moved to Aldinga Beach: it was the beach — with its beautiful cliffs, its blue waters, its fish-inhabited and bird-dotted reef, its wide sands — which initially attracted me.

The first time I walked through the Scrub, I was just curious. I had heard that it was the last remnant of original coastal bushland in South Australia, and so I wanted to see what it was like. A year later, going through another phase of feeling inexplicably agitated and uncomfortable in my own skin, I decided to try walking through the Scrub more often. I thought that, if I made the effort to look outwards at the world around me instead of looking inwards into my own seething internal landscape, I might find solace.

And I did.

A small kind of miracle happened as I walked through the Scrub over and over. As I wandered, I began to wonder. As I wondered, I stopped. As I stopped, I observed. As I observed, I noticed, as Lisa puts it. And then, at last, I started to see and to learn.

Something else happened, too. I began to inhabit the world around me during those walks. Inhabitation — it’s a powerful word. Maybe it’s pretentious. Maybe it’s corny? And yet that’s how it feels.

It never stops, this seeing, learning, wondering, inhabiting. That’s another kind of miracle.

The pictures in this post are photographs I’ve taken over the years on my walks through the Scrub. Here you can see it in its many moods, its many seasons, its many tempers. I don’t know if my photographs can convey the wonder I felt as I took them, or the remembered sense of discovery I feel now when I return to them, but I hope that they convey, at least, the deep joy that my wandering has brought me.

That’s the thing, you see — noticing is both a humble and a joyful process. It’s a privilege to inhabit this kind of joy.

Coming up roses

Since my last post on roses,
I’ve started glimpsing them wherever I go.

Outside the entrance to my office, there’s a bed of low-lying roses.
They catch my eye as I walk through the automatic glass doors on my way in to work.
So I sneak down to soak up their beauty again in my morning tea-break.

After rain, the petals and leaves hang heavy, glistening.
And it feels to me like a moment of stolen beauty.

Coming alive for the first time to the beauty of something
that has always been around you
is one of life’s greatest joys.

Deception

On my daily bike-ride to the local shops,
I pass an empty field outside the GP clinic.
Most of the year, it’s just a bare field with long, uncut grass.
But in spring, it changes.
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Such deceptive beauty!
These flowers, heralding from South Africa,
are considered weeds here.
They’ve spread far and wide, pushing out our own native flowers.

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It’s hard not to admire them, though —
their abandoned spread;
their cheerful, bright colours …

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… and their faces uplifted to the sun.

Pretty in yellow

Remember the Antiopdean daffodils?
Otherwise known as variable groundsel flowers,
they’re just beginning to flower on the dunes near our house north of Adelaide —
much earlier than last year.
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They are so cheerful and bright,
I couldn’t resist bringing a couple of stray blooms home.
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I hope they bring the same sense of joy to your day
as they did to mine.

Note:
For the next three weeks, due to an unexpectedly busy schedule (it’s called a three-week, full-time induction into a new job!), I’ll be posting just once a week, on Mondays.
From 24 August, though, I’ll be back to my normal twice-weekly posts on Mondays and Thursdays. And loving it …