How do we learn to live a satisfactory life without alcohol? I ask myself while reflecting on the sublime airy pillows of gnocci I made last night, delicate mouthfuls sauced with crispy sage leaves and brown butter. The glooomy neighbour beaming and joyful, transported by good food and the warmth around the kitchen table. Sticking like glue to those in recovery is the only answer that makes sense to me.
We learn from those who live life fully, brokenly, richly and with human ineptitude in recovery. No short cuts.
More murders and assaults. Poachers funded and armed by Chinese Triads along the coast exporting and carelessly destroying stocks of abalone (perlemoen locally) and rock lobster (Jasus lalandii). Decimating rare fish like our gorgeous Red Roman. So I spend mornings writing letters and circulating petitions. Probably pointless.
Rough winds shaking the darling buds, as Shakespeare wrote of May and HE Bates fictionalised. This is a rough spring and I see the petals and buds shaken loose from bushes and trees. A process we all endure.
To all my distressed poetry-writing friends who emailed so endearingly: if you cannot understand iambic pentameter or terza rima, it is hard to write lines that move with the breath. The reason it is hard to get poetry published is because poetry is very hard to write. Read Anne Carson, read Geoffrey Hill, read Elizabeth Bishop, take a few years off for silence and receptivity. Craft matters and if you don’t know what craft might be, you need to read some more. No shortcuts. And the bottom line is that if you have nothing to say, you can’t write anything worth reading.
Creative writing is about craft and commitment. In the same way, we say that it is necessary to go to any lengths to stay sober: if you’re not willing to go to many lengths, you are unlikely to get sober. I hung onto my old fantasies of self and consoling habits as long as I could. Surrender is surrrender.
When something becomes irrevocable, you have to recognize the fact and accept it. It doesn’t help to kick and struggle, all your tears and your prayers won’t help. You must go on with your life, as well or as badly as you can. It’s life that’s unyielding, implacable, not me. The old world has disappeared and it will never, in all eternity, come back, even if we give our lives to try to regain it. We must learn to live in the new world.