The moon is almost full, I watch it serenely crossing the skies before dawn. Then the sun comes up and for most of the day it is hot if you stand out in the sunshine and bone-chillingly cold in shade or indoors. In the early mornings, as the garden thaws from white frost, I sit up and read Geraldine Monk’s The Snake Goddess of Crete — reflecting on my complicated connection with cobras in the garden, tobacco-brown grass snakes, the evil-tempered green mambas and sleepy pythons of my childhood in the Zimbabwean grasslands. The power and sluggish beauty and shyness of snakes.
The flu has worn off, I feel made-new and filled with possibilities. Write, write, write. And I’m also thinking about Walt Whitman writing through the American Civil War and Alice Notley writing in Paris. My African writers from Lagos (Chika Unigwe’s Night Dancer) and the Jalada AfroFutures collective in Nairobi.
The fiction right now is all about textures, the way patterned Kuba cloth falls as a wall hanging, the warp/weft texture of woven baskets, the brittle delicacy of baked clay pots. How we talk to one another across cultural and linguistic differences, what you hear when I say ‘flood’ or ‘war’. Or warn about the presence of a serpent; wily, uncanny, dangerous. What did Walt Whitman, or Henry James or Emily Dickinson know of the battlefield? War held at a distance, the aftermath of war as witnessed in the hospital cot or the graveyard. The bitter-sweet joy of hearing the war is over, we can now learn again to live in peace. For now. The intense smell of lilacs.
How does texture structure fiction, embody the lines on the page? The sense of touch, rough, crisp, damp, liquescent. What slips away from between the pressing fingers.
Violets outside the gate, dark purple and perfumed. The viburnum bush already coming into flower, impelled by dryness and the heat of the sun. Yesterday I tried and failed to photograph a malachite sunbird sipping nectar at the flowering red aloe. That crazy emerald.
From a Tiny Letter from Maud Newton, all about the death of her therapist, this mantra she heard from a teacher in a class on interdependence: “Enabling someone’s neuroses is not compassion.”
We should not hold one another back from what is to be learned in the hard emotional places. And I begin again to practise friendship between women, what truths we speak to one another, what blows we soften. While the tender winter moon swells to perfection overhead.