Life so inexhaustible

The ordinariness of my life right now astonishes me. On the inside, I’m writing difficult indeterminate, provocative fictions. Characters come up to me in the kitchen or  as I hang out washing, and say terrible things. I rush to write them down, relish the confessions from invented men and women. Out in the summer countryside I practise dialogue as I walk the dog, denunciations,  sly home truths exchanged, family lies and  loyalties.


It bemuses me that mu outer life  is so dear and so  dull. Micro-realism. Life as inexhaustible but sometimes predictable too, making room for the unpredictable, the imagined. A writing life, lucid, sober, structured and  filled with wild, risky dreams.


To stay with the ordinariness of days unfolding, to accept and even welcome the repetitiveness, the enclosedness, the routines shared by everyone who is human, the kettle boiling, the ping of the microwave, the bills to be opened and paid, the dogs to be dewormed, meals prepared, work to be done, more housework, the dust on a sill in the spare room, the carpets to be cleaned, floors swept again, more dishes in the sink. Conversations on the phone, over supper,  warmth, concern, caring, yawning, speak again next week…


Watered plants, the waterlogged houseplants I killed with kindness. On the verandah the dessicating winds that shrivel seedlings, the pots to be layered with crocks and old leaf matter for drainage, then spadefuls of dark moist potting soil, the young plants, older leafy bushes cut back. A thin quick tabakrollejtie or grass snake in the pelargoniums, behind the agapanthus, thin brown snake, flicker of tail that might have been a lizard but was not, that shining scaled body that means terror even when safe, how I put my hand carelessly towards an old urn planted up with succulents and overgrown branches of origanum and there was the brown shining snake curled up so close to my touching hand, the shudder of fear, that this would be death all of a sudden on a hot afternoon, the bite and venom of a baby cobra so deadly that tiny cry of the cobra as it rears, tiny as a doll’s cry, a needle of sound, but it was a grass snake, no danger, and I let it sleep on in the old stone urn, but shiver even in bed to think of that coiled danger, like lying awake in the dark thinking of spiders on the wall over my head, no harm, weak jaws despite the size and all the spidery legs, but hating to imagine what creeps unseen in an old house at night, ghosts slipping out of the walls and there in the dark how death comes close, death the old familiar, unsought and avoided but here again anyhow, welcome, welcome, what the hell.


So I get up, out of bed, turn on a bedside lamp and  write down that fear, give the snake sighting to a  character, let life into the fiction, what has not yet happened, the safety catch off, the door unlocked, the danger finding its way into  prose.

The week at full tilt

The summer edging in, my new Veilchenblau rose peeping out between fence poles.Thorny tumble of yellow Mermaid rose at the side of the house.


Got up early this morning and planted up some large light-weight pots for the verandah, hoping to have  plenty of basil for  December salads, bright red and gold daylilies and some rare pelargoniums from the Karoo. Last week a cousin of mine who is  a keen genealogist sent me  a note on a 19th-century ancestor of mine who was a triple bigamist (!) and a respected pelargonium grower.


Days of unrecorded happiness, writing and editing, thinking, just living. I  make a large note to myself: NB BLOG! and post it up on the fridge.


Reading Marilynne Robinson and thinking about how hard she makes me work when I read her novels or essays. A good feeling. Her advice to  writers is always in the back of my mind:


“I think you should write as if people who are smarter than you are will read it, because they are out there.”


renata parsley