On turning around and looking at the world

The novels that attract me most… are those that create an illusion of transperancy around a knot of human relationships as obscure, cruel and perverse as possible.” — Italo Calvino

This is the view behind me on a lot of mornings, especially in the fall and winter and I am guilty of not seeing. Seeing that colour at the horizon. Seeing the new day as one of possibility. Seeing that anything can happen. I think of Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese: “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”

And I hear Mary Oliver shouting at me: “Do you think this world was only an entertainment for you?”

And then: “Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides with perfect courtesy, to let you in! Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass! Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart! No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint that something is missing from your life! Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch? Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself continually? Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone? Well, there is time left – fields everywhere invite you into them. And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away from wherever you are, to look for your soul? Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!”

These demands. These questions. These ae the things that push me to create, to walk through this life with eyes wide open, senses stretched, breathing and alive.

I have asked myself, many times over the past few months, about whether or not the world needs a book about a bunch of broken people in Prague and an escaped elephant on a bridge. And the answer has always been, well, honestly, at first, it’s: I don’t know. But, it is quickly followed by: Hmmm, well, this is a book about humans. It shines a light on the human condition. It asks questions it can’t possibly answer about being human. It’s funny, and delightful, and sad, and tragic, and at times, beautiful. So yes. Yes!

Italo Calvino, one of my Italian muses, says: “Novelists tell that piece of truth hidden at the bottom of every lie. To a psychoanalyst it is not so important whether you tell the truth or a lie because lies are as interesting, eloquent, and revealing as any claimed truth. I feel suspicious about writers who claim to tell the whole truth about themselves, about life, or about the world.”

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