Other people’s words about … stepping outside
I went outside. Often I walked till the late hours. The sky’s was a darkness I could deal with. I wanted to stop living by the measures of everyone else: before and after, death and life, sea and self. Being out there — in towns where I spoke to no-one, in green deserted parks, along the edge of the gulf’s water — allowed me to turn inwards. It reflected the silence I felt in me. I wanted to be outdoors for good. Yes, I went outside.
from ‘The Memory Artist‘
by Katherine Brabon
Pasha, the narrator of Katherine Brabon’s novel The Memory Artist, is a Russian man in his mid-thirties, a writer trying to make sense of his life post-glasnost, post-perestroika. While the story in Brabon’s novel is about the effect of political repression on people, and particularly on artists, I found uncanny echoes in Pasha’s voice of my own thoughts and feelings (although not, clearly, in response to any political repression or trauma, neither of which I have experienced).
Sky and Sea, Snapper Point, April 2023.
I wanted to stop living by the measures of everyone else, Pasha writes, by which he means not that he wants to stop living, but that he wants to accord his own values to this life he is living. Where he finds it most possible to do this is outside, under the great arch of the sky.
It’s a similar impulse, I think, that makes running so appealing to me — running through the scrub, running on the beach, running beside the sea. It’s outside where I find some of the things I most long for in life: silence, neutrality, the sense that I could (if I went on running long enough, if I stayed outdoors long enough) dissolve.
Sometimes, when I’m inside going about my day — working, sleeping, eating, showering — I remind myself that the sky is just a few steps away, literally at my feet. It feels to me like the very definition of solace.
Sun and shadow, Aldinga Beach, April 2023.
Lately I’ve been reading …
An apology of sorts: today’s list is lengthy, I know, but it’s been a while since I last posted here, and meanwhile I’ve been enjoying my online reading! I hope you will dip in and out of the list below and find something that you enjoy.
- The life of a writer is a life of rejection, but that’s OK. It’s the process that I love. I get so much joy from the work of creation, immersing myself in the craft and the research and the interesting things you discover, that publication often feels somewhat incidental: Claire Egan, on why we write even when no-one reads what we write.
- No man in my lifetime has ever done nonchalant beauty better than Pitt, certainly none of his immediate peers: Lucas Mann in an astonishing piece about Brad Pitt, peanut butter, fame, masculinity, beauty, grief for a lost sibling and what it feels like as a man to hate the body you live in.
- I bleached my conversations of Chinese: Angie Kang, in a graphic essay for the now defunct wing of Catapult magazine about the experience of growing up in the Chinese diaspora, and on how you can’t boil down Chinese culture — or indeed any culture not our own — to food, however harmless and appealing and even, yes, inclusive it may feel to do so.
- There is a woman I sometimes see at the gym. She is in her eighties and has regular private lessons with a coach, working on her press handstands. I don’t know her story, but I know her secret. There is no age limit to defying gravity. I plan to keep at it forever: Writer Rae Meadows, on finding a new passion in her fifties.
- I didn’t feel missed as a person, I felt missed as staff. My invisible labor was made painfully visible when I left the house. I was needed back in my post: Poet Maggie Smith on the age-old division of labour in marriages.