What to say, the dilemma of the long-distance blogger – what must stay unsaid, what is better left unsaid, what might impinge on another’s anonymity.
Another reason for feeling a little anxious at the moment — a couple of friends of mine relapsed over the festive season and they are struggling terribly, suicidal and unable to stay sober, family enraged, trying to scrape together money for rehab, detox etc. I hate that cycle and know it from personal experience. There were so many great opportunities and jobs, travel etc, but there were the bad times and being institutionalised is one of the worst.
The challenge of Flannery O’Connor ( is any other writer as penetrating or strange?), a quotation I copied into a notebook from a page of Wise Blood in January 2003:
“Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to was never there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it. Where is there a place for you to be? No place. Nothing outside you can give you any place. In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got.
You needn’t look at the sky because it’s not going to open up and show no place behind it. You needn’t search for any hole in the ground to look through into somewhere else. You can’t go neither forwards nor backwards into your daddy’s time nor your children’s if you have them. In yourself right now is all the place you’ve got. If there was any Fall, look there, if there was any Redemption, look there, and if you expect any Judgment, look there, because they all three will have to be in your time and your body and where in your time and your body can they be?”
The rioting continues. Fruit packing warehouse set alight yesterday, black clouds of smoke and that bitter acrid smell, heavy police presence. This is a very unpleasant time, but we are just carrying on.
Distraction. I worked in the garden with a hired gardener yesterday, terrific heat but for him it is much easier than working on the farms, he likes the food and easy hours, the work is light. Planted several divided agapanthus to anchor the cleared ground — later I might put in some small olive trees (Mission olives grow so well out here), indigenous Polygala with purple sweet pea flowers, cistus or helianthus bushes, rare salvias. The area gets the north sun in the afternoon against a white wall, ferociously hot but lovely in winter and I have had abelia, bougainvillea and pelargoniums growing there until hopelessly overgrown. Everything cut back and looking very good. We cleared the area around my raised herb beds too, overgrown lavender and rosemary, bronze fennel, pots of trailing ivy. Lovely planting combinations near the kitchen, but overgrown. Now I can walk all around my raised beds and pots, fill them with new thymes and sages in the autumn. I usually wait until the first rains after Easter to risk seedlings and Asian leafy veg for winter. The joy of this summer has been my increased proficiency at growing rocket, basil, coriander, tomatoes from seed Blessed ordinary life, the routines that anchor me in the here and now, not unlike the agapanthus with its strong stable roots in loose soil.
My beloved dogs careering around the garden in play. Birds hovering over the fresh water in the stone bird bath., a silver tapering lizard sunning itself on the garden wall. This too should not be overlooked or obscured by fear.
This from Lydia Millet
We lose the subject of animals when we move out of childhood. In childhood animals are all around us, and then we throw them out. In childhood they’re everywhere, the stuff of our stories and our art and our songs, of our clothes and blankets, of toys and games. Then in adulthood they’re distant symbols or objects. They’re rudely ejected from our domain. They’re frivolous or infantile, suddenly. They’re what we eat or maybe pets. Sometimes they’re what we kill. But this makes no sense. This impoverishes our imaginations. When we turn away from animals as though they’re only childish things, we make our world colder and more narrow. We rob ourselves of beauty and understanding. We rob ourselves of the capacity for empathy. My books are about empathy more than anything else, the idea that you don’t have to be something to love it. The idea that we can love otherness, that we need to love otherness to know ourselves.