Writing workshop this weekend, stimulating, tiring, infuriating, everything a writing workshop should be. Clash of the titans, those enormous writerly egos. And I realised yet again that imagination can’t be taught. We catch fire as kingfishers draw flame (Gerard Manley Hopkins), but imagination needs a nurtured inner life and leap after leap of faith.
Years ago I read a short story by Carol Bly, the title escapes me. In the story two scenarios are presented. A small girl comes home and announces at supper that a family of bears have moved in next door.
Scenario 1: the father scoffs at her and says that just isn’t possible, she needs to grow up.
Scenario 2: the father asks about the bears. ‘How many bears? Do you know their names? What are they wearing?’ The small girl is delighted and the bears become more real.
If you can dream it, it might happen. And the imagination is like love: playful, generous, dangerous and transformative.
Tomatoes ripening faster than we can eat them. Tiny pinky-brown scorpions sleeping on the brick paths across the back garden, so we dare not walk around barefoot. I am making stuffed tomatoes with finely chopped red onion, garlic, parley and ciabatta breadcrumbs for supper with good cheese and olives on a platter, a sharp entrancing salad of wild rocket and mizuna.
My lovely friend D calls and tells me she has tracked down an elderly artist, a famous portrait painter now in his 80s, and persuaded him to teach her life studies. She says in a hushed voice that the artist has the virile strength of line you would find in a young man. She is mad with love and draws all night until dawn. The downward sweep of the collar bone, the ridge of muscle on the upper abdomen, the swell of fat on taut buttocks. Imagination is so often suffused with passion and the irrational. She is longing to have her heart broken.
So good to get daily emails from newcomers frightened into sobriety by festive excesses. There is no wrong way to get sober. Dream up a better life (wouldn’t any life be better than the wasted years?) and begin again, today, this very minute.