Lifesaver

“We’re talking about a life here!” With hands on her hips, Jane stood in the middle of the room, eyes and voice livid. She was addressing the lawmaker, her father, who sat smoking his pipe, cradling the arm of his couch.

“Calm down, Janet,” he spoke in a gruff, unperturbed voice, “Don’t strain yourself.”

“But,” she protested, “I’ve known Marigold all my life. They can’t slaughter her just because she’s growing. It’s unfair. We have to fight them!”

Her gazed at her teary eyes. “Don’t lose hope, yet. We’re in the right. The council may still reprieve your mango tree.”

Just a moment

Some moments in life, though fleeting, last a lifetime as memories. The first ray of light that breaks through the darkness, walking out like her majesty from behind a veil, to cast her arms of sunshine on the world anticipating her gaze; the fleeting, half-hidden moment before she reveals herself to us—that’s a memory that would sit forever in my mind. Like a longer-lasting flash, the sun rose from the depths of the night to the heights of the day—all in a matter of minutes. On the Kangchenjunga mountain, we waited from 4 am for the sun to show up. Because no two sunrises are the same and no two seconds during the rise are alike. If that’s not evanescent, what else is?

Sunrise in Kanchenjunga

What is a book to me?

When reading a novel, a short story, or a work of non-fiction, I don’t think about anything other than the story that the words in front of me tell me. I don’t care how the writer felt when they conceived the idea, how they strove to string words with words, how inviting the couch seemed when they had work to do. I don’t think about the trauma, the self-doubt, or the fleeting convictions a writer endures before they even get through the first paragraph of what they’ve imagined as a five hundred-page New York Times bestseller.

Holding a book, caressing the hardcover, flipping over to read the blurb, I’ve never even spared a thought about how a writer looks at their book. Published writers, I found out, have varied perspectives about their books. For some it’s a task — a taxing, yet compulsory process they need to endure to hear themselves speak their minds. For some others, like Anne Bradstreet, it’s like giving birth. I came across her poem where she says what it means to her to write and sell a book.

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,

It took me a while to understand the depth of her emotions, to appreciate her attitude. She extends the metaphor throughout the poem, addressing her book as a mother addressing her child. She apologises for her maternal instincts, for fussing over her child, for washing its face to make it presentable—for being a mother like any other.

I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,

And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.

I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,

Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;

I had always imagined, if I ever published one, that I’d be happy to put my book out, to let the world see and drop its jaws in awe. But Anne Bradstreet has a different view. She’s sad that she can’t afford a better overcoat for it, she doesn’t want to cast it away and force it to fend for itself. She wants her brainchild to live in grandeur and splendour—all the things a mother wishes for her child.

In better dress to trim thee was my mind,

But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.

She’s helpless, a mother struggling to make ends meet, dabbling in poverty, hurting because she’s unable to supply for her child. However, though hesitant, she lets go in the end — because she has to. At last she accepts reality, gives in because the only way for her to live is to send her child out the door.

This is a wonderful poem to read again and again. Here’s the whole of it, if you’re interested.

The Author to Her Book – Anne Bradstreet

Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth didst by my side remain,
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save homespun cloth i’ th’ house I find.
In this array ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
In critic’s hands beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

Gone with the wind

Dead, they declared him—

swirling, into nothingness

wife catapulted.

Wandering soul

wandering

Great start to the week, James mused looking at the bleary-eyed fifth years rummaging their backpacks for paint and brushes. Art was the first class on Mondays.

He walked amongst students, now hunched over with brush strokes waltzing on canvases. Later at his desk, James was skirting through the paintings when he stopped at Jason’s. Jason’s family had fallen apart a few months ago, James knew, when his widower father had left, leaving Jason in his grandmother’s care.

James stared at Jason’s painting—a boat adrift the sun-kissing ocean— and realised Jason had drawn not a boat but his heart.