There’s something melancholy about autumn, the leaves falling, the chilling weather, the sense of ageing and time passing, the graceful letting go. Earlier this morning I sat browsing through blogs and looking at a riot of cherry blossom and golden daffodils and that springtime orgy of colour and beauty and renewal going on in the northern hemisphere, feeling slightly envious. I love autumn, but the melancholy gets to me at times.
And leafing through folders last night, I realised that much of the best writing I have done this past year has been unpublishable. There is no market for so much of what I write, for what interests me so passionately. And book publishing out here is done on a shoestring with no money for risky ventures. So I have to sell to the First World where African or foreign issues are of limited interest. It makes me feel sad. But if I were not sober, I would not have written so passionately and with such effort. Sobriety gave me back my passion for all kinds of things, and without passion there can be no creativity.
How important it is to live deeply, with passion and feeling, with focus. The Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton:
“When we live superficially … we are always outside ourselves, never quite ‘with’ ourselves, always divided and pulled in many directions … we find ourselves doing many things that we do not really want to do, saying things we do not really mean, needing things we do not really need, exhausting ourselves for what we secretly realize to be worthless and without meaning in our lives.”
My farmer’s wife arrived for her French lesson this morning and said that she wants to learn French without ever having to deal with irregular verbs. I sympathise, but she will have to learn verbs ending in -ir and -re even she if she dies trying. I remember how I felt learning Latin at school. I grew up in an outdated English colony and both Latin and Greek stayed on the curriculum twenty years after these ‘dead languages’ had been put aside in Britain and the USA. I’m not sorry I learned to read Sappho’s poetry in the original or the pastoral daydreams of Ovid, but I hated irregular verbs with a vengeance.
My housemate is revising the Easter menu for the third time. In the background I hear her on the phone inviting more and more friends around for roast lamb. She is recovering well from the knee replacement and feeling more sociable by the day.
And as the cold wind blows across the sunlit fields and dead leaves heap up in the gutters, I am drafting out a new chapter and waiting to hear if a wanna-be-sober friend went to a meeting last night and if she has stayed sober today. There isn’t anything I can do except wait. People don’t get sober because they need to get sober, because they glimpse the writing on the wall, because they feel they have had enough, because they have a family falling apart or a marriage gone dead. If we all sobered up when it made sense to sober up, alcoholism wouldn’t be a problem. Many of us only get sober when we desperately want to get sober, when we have finally had enough of the drinking life, when the tunnel vision goes black as night. When getting sober is the only thing that makes sense.