This post was originally written on 14 December 2015.
It is the blessing and curse of a writer to forever want to know why.
Having thoughts that are not always anchored, which follow their subjects around like airborne bits of dust. Having thoughts that vacillate between the world, the cosmos, the very nature of existence, and then the next moment – being part of something else, the world of another creature, and noticing in sharp detail the curve of a pigeon’s foot, how many rings are around its eyes, and how nature conspired to put flecks of royal purple and emerald green on its little wings. How it must feel to waddle, move its head, rush for a crumb, and then – too dangerous! Too much! It’s curved little orange claws lift off the ground, and wings flecked with royal tones beat quickly at the air, and now it projects overhead, searching, knowing, that there is another patch of ground, another fossicking place.
Not too close to the humans. Shuffling, little crest bobbing, head moving constantly, eyes ever watchful. Waddle, startle, beating of wings. Waddle, startle, beating of wings. And then one might narrow one’s lense even further down then, to take in the composition of it’s feather’s, the thousands of original little patterns, which are commonly unremarked over by anyone, for this is a humble pigeon, an airborne rat of sorts. And to the mite who lives in the feathers of a pigeon – how big the bird must seem! How royal, how all-encompassing. And the child rushes at it, the impatient businessman flicks his boot towards it, and it lifts, escapes every time, just a silly little character that makes up the beige backdrop of the all-important human life.
Take the thick, sunshine-coloured enamel cups, and what it might feel like to be the flow of milk that is poured into it, swishing around against the yellow, sloshing, undulating, rising and falling with the wave of new milk pouring down, rising steadily to the top – never merging with the yellow, simply being contained within its brightness, supported, smooth, still appearing virgin after every sip.
Consider where time goes. Not just the years, but also the moments – this moment, and then the next one, and then the next. One is not always present to them; one might be, for example, in one’s own mind, in one’s imagination, and yet life is occurring with flawless consistency around us, be we are away, someplace different, and at the end of it all the moments slip away, invisible, unaccounted for, and lost forever.
Then suddenly, one sees something – a flower, or a leaf that is a particularly brilliant shade of green, or a bell tower, seen from a certain angle as one walks up a hill, with the afternoon sun setting the sky behind it all aglow. And at that moment, beauty strikes like a bolt, and one truly becomes alive, and then one thinks to oneself, “Where have I been all this time? Where have I been existing, and conducting my life before this moment?” Inside of one’s head, and not in the world around it, although there are great minds that would argue that there is no difference between the two.
This is how life is lived. It is not a stage, on which we must walk, ever mindful of our parameters and boundaries. Life is a series of moments, each one occurring with enough rapidity to evoke the illusion a long and continuous passage; to simulate timelessness, when really, life is in all of its enormity exists, albeit precariously, in this fleeting moment, and then, majestically, in that one, and then, with any luck, in the one that follows that, and the one that follows that.
And we all have something special, something which kindles an immediate glow of love, of joy. Every being, every species, and every living thing that has been consciously aware of its own life – it has had something. For me it has been Brisbane, always shades of Brisbane. And, right now, Mount Cootha. And it is particularly painful to realise that not everyone has had that. Not everyone has seen the way the sun sets behind it, and watched the lights atop it flash with a sense of awe and wonder. Not everyone has seen the flying foxes speckle the sky for miles at dusk, nor heard the lorikeets screech in their hundreds, thousands. The unchanging shapes of the roofs, houses, streets, seen from a certain angle at dusk, whilst in a tiny school uniform, and sitting on cold brick steps in your grandma’s front yard. This sight, which I am seeing now – she has seen far, far more times. And felt – I don’t know what she felt. I can’t know. It is there, for everyone to see. But what people feel, and what it means to them – that will always be different.
And then a person might ask about it, and say, really – is this really your thing? And does it really mean that much to you? And in the words that tumble out, you hear yourself say, carelessly, no, no, of course it doesn’t. Because what one likes and dreams of and cleaves to are not “things”, nor can they be described or readily understood. They are mysteries, an expression (one of trillions) of beauty and profundity that one attempts to make known through talk of mountains and sunsets and flashing lights and birds slicing through the sky, because those are the things which most often elicit that pure and sacred feeling. They are messengers, harbingers of that feeling, but not the cause of the feeling itself. They are reminders of what is possible for a person to feel; representatives of the universal, lulling voice, which whispers about unspeakable beauty in one’s ear, yet cannot ever take a form. And so we assign things to it – the silhouettes of a bell-tower, leaves with particularly brilliant shades of colour, a feeling of poignancy when we watch the evening colours meld and transform.
One wants to capture these things, all of the rushing torrents of life streaming around at every moment, but it is impossible. There is simply to much to look at and feel and wonder about. Too much to possibly hope to understand. But that is the job of a writer – to watch, to imagine, to absorb and to turn it all into a snappy piece of prose that a person can glance at on their lunch break, or over their morning coffee, and say, “Oh yeah….I kind of get that,” before going to the next thing.
The leaves keep on falling, and the pigeons keep on wobbling, and same breeze which is touching my face right now will no doubt whip around the planet and touch the face of a far more important, interesting person that me.
And so it all keeps moving, occurring and reinventing itself at every moment, and I will sit back and watch it all, pondering the endless curiosities of the humble pigeon, and marvelling at the identical curse and blessing of being a writer who always needs to know why.