Short story: Autumn's Place


Autumn’s Place

There is a place not too far away from here where the sun always shines and the sky is always blue. At night the moon rises through a clear dark sky speckled with a million stars, all flickering away to some kind of galactic symphony. During the day the birds sing in harmony and at night the fireflies float around in the air, humming along to their own songs. Once in a while voices can be heard across the bay, but most of the time all you can hear are your own thoughts. If you close your eyes and clear your mind you can imagine this special place not too far away from here.

Autumn dreamt of this place when she wasn’t there. It was her haven away from the real world, her spot in the world where she felt like she really existed. Two days of real existence cancelled out the other five days of the week where she felt like she was just another ant building up the ant hill. Alarm clock to work to lunch to smoke break to work to gym to dinner to bed to alarm clock again. The boring cycle of the week days made her want to randomly kick things while screaming until her throat was hoarse. But once Friday came along, she would grab her weekend bag and hop on the subway, knowing full well that within the following 12 hours she would taste freedom again.

The air felt so pure and fresh that Autumn would let it fill her lungs as soon as she stepped off the train. Rain or shine, summer or winter, she would try to never miss a weekend away. There was nothing that the city had to offer her than millions of people, emails clamouring for her attention and a small, box-like apartment where she could never feel at home. Out in the special place she had as much space as she needed, more space than she would ever need. The deer would run across the lawn, chomping on the hyacinth flowers in bloom, and the raccoon babies would hole up beneath the ceiling rafters, keeping warm until they were big enough to venture outside alone, ready to attack the garbage cans that lay around for them to choose from.

On Saturday mornings, during any season, be the roads frosty or glistening with ice, or the air so humid with heat that one felt like one was drinking airdrops, Autumn would rise before the sun and walk down to the bay to watch it slowly come up over the water to the east. The sky would turn purple and then orange and yellow, bruised streaks lining over your head, until it looked like the sky would alight upon the bay, throwing fire onto the water, before the sun broke through the horizon and another sunny day would start. In the evening, she would rush over to the west bay and watch the sun set on the water again, sometimes over fishermen and swimmers, other times over blocks and blocks of ice that were floating about. Even during the winter months the sun rays were piercing and strong, as if nothing could beat the power it had over the place. It was clear that nature ruled the place that had captured Autumn’s heart and had given her the freedom that she needed so much to make it through the week days of her life.

Autumn had chosen a life of compromise: if she had the weekend of her choice she would endure the other five days of the week. She felt that she had no other choice than compromise. There were no shades in her black or white, it was prison and escape and back to prison again. She lacked the imagination or the will-power to make her freedom an everyday occurrence. By accepting what she saw as her fate she gave up on seeking for anything more in life. 

Saturday nights were for lighting the log fire and curling up on the couch with the dog and a book. Dinners would be fresh vegetables cooked into soups and stews and salads over the stove, herbs picked from the garden and tea made from lemongrass and honey. Produce was always purchased locally, from the farmers, or picked directly from the vegetable garden amidst the hibiscus flowers. Autumn’s choice of a book was so very eclectic, but she would always finish at least one during the weekend, another form of escape. Escape within escape, so that what was considered by most to be her real life was completely forgotten for hours on end. What was real life anyway? The job that she hated and that took up most of her days, but that paid the bills and allowed for short getaways, or the life in her place by the bay, away from everything and everyone, where dreams could be dreamt without any guilty feelings?

Autumn would walk down to the ocean on Sundays, never mind the season or the weather, to sit by the waves and watch them crash against the shore. The ocean made her feel serene and energetic at the same time, and helped her collect her thoughts and her doubts together, and make sense of them. There is nothing more powerful than the ocean – it will pick you up and throw you about without fail, and will take anything in that you throw into it, swallowing it whole and throwing it back up miles and miles away, somewhere else in the world. Some things never come back up, they are swallowed forever, and disappear into the earth. Autumn would imagine all of her fears disappearing into the darkest parts of the ocean where no one would ever think of looking for them. Or maybe they were swallowed up by a shark and shredded into a million pieces, never to be found again. Every week new fears and doubts were thrown into the waves, some disappearing, others coming back again, weeks later.

Whereas the ocean was the beginning of all feelings of freedom for Autumn, it also ended up being the end of it for her. Autumn’s life was divided into boxes, all enclosed by one big box; a small box for her city prison, a bigger box for her free life and tunnel boxes that lead the way to both boxes. There was no sign of a tunnel to go outside of the biggest box, it was one that Autumn had forgotten to build for herself. There was no outside, there was just the city and the special place, just a train ride away. A week day life and a weekend life, nothing else, carefully built so that nothing ever felt out of place. Even her freedom was built to last only parallel with the prison life. The ocean would take and take from her, but it would also give her back something that she had not even tried to imagine existed anymore: something outside of all of this.

One Saturday night, on a rare night when Autumn found herself stuck in the office, working on a project that needed to be finished before Monday morning, the rain started to fall. And fall, and fall, and fall. By Monday the rivers had washed up over the borders, and were racing through the lower parts of the city, picking up cars and debris and trailing them along the streets. Television showed scenes of chaotic winds, trees falling and electricity pylons rooted up from the ground, leaving thousands and thousands stranded without power and water. On Tuesday the storm dissipated and the sky became blue again, washed clean of the anger nature had unleashed on the country. Whereas the city had weathered some damage that would take time to fix, Autumn’s special place had been reclaimed by the ocean. Where she had once walked and ran with the dog, watched the sun rise and set, read books and picked flowers, were now only fish and waves and the odd roof and boat floating about before it was dragged into the midst of the ocean. The special place was somewhere down there, among the fears and doubts that Autumn had sent into the water. The ocean had taken Autumn’s self-created freedom but had thrown her something back: the ability to make a choice and a change in her own creation. Instead of living in the self-contained box for the rest of her life, content but not happy, she now had the choice of breaking free. It was now up to her to make this choice.

When one thing disappears another thing is not far behind to take its place.


Short Story/Essay: Paradise Within


I actually wrote this for something else, in the hopes that it may be published there, but once I had sent it realised that I just wanted to post it on here too. So I waited a while and am just going to post here anyway, while I am sitting in my Mum's house in California on vacation, another spot in this world that I consider as slightly paradisaical in itself... Sunshine, palm trees, pure calm and relaxation, food directly picked from the garden and thrown into a salad or onto the barbeque... The theme I was writing for was Paradise, and this is what I was immediately inspired to write.



Paradise Within
I used to live in Paradise. But before I arrived in Paradise I lived in a place I can only consider as Hell, created by the people living on this planet around me and by the pitfalls of my own mind. I don’t live in Paradise anymore, but I live in a world that I have created for myself, part beauty and part darkness, part love and part evil. I call this my real world, and hope that I was able to bring some of my learnings from Paradise back to this world of mine.

Hell was the place I lived in just after 9/11. Watching the planes crash, the buildings plummet to the ground and imagining the horrific death of all of those people shifted my once idealistic approach of the world to one of terror and doom. How could I make any type of difference against a big machine of war that our planet was gearing up towards? Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War had been bad enough, but the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of nuclear threats gave us all hope that this world could become a better place if we tried. That is, until other forms of terror appeared, from both sides of the spectrum. 9/11, cumulated with the fact that I was writing my MA thesis on Sylvia Plath, led me to believe that Plath had had it all sorted and life under a Bell Jar was the only option for survival.

Hell was being scared to leave the house, panic attacks and acute weight loss, days of not being able to get out of bed, and nights of leaving my phone off the hook to avoid the constant phone calls and messages from my friends, worried why they hadn’t seen me and why I wasn’t out with them. Hell was a constant underlying anxiety of the unknown, and fear of never being able to rid myself of these feelings and feel happy again. Then Hell just became numbness. I came upon a crossroads: either I continued along this road or I chose to make a change, rip myself away from familiarity and throw myself into the unknown, where I would be able to lose myself, and where nobody knew me.

The flight to Paradise was long, and the first few days I was there were ones of complete panic, hidden by my creative ability to appear as calm as possible while my insides were churning. How would I ever be able to communicate with the people when I couldn’t even read their alphabet? Where would I know to stop on the bus in the middle of the desert where everything looks the same and different at the same time? How could I make sure that the food I was eating was really vegetarian? Who could I trust and who should I watch out for? And then I just let go. We humans have many a survival instinct, and I just let mine take over, in essence freeing myself from everything that was holding me back, and opening myself up to a brand new experience that would ultimately change my world.

Paradise was a country built on war, pain, love and passion. A place where the south was mainly desert and the north mainly green, where the sun would beat down on you during the day and the stars would shine brighter than I had ever seen them during the night. Paradise was where I lived among free spirits by the sea, working hard during the day, planting food that would be sold abroad once it was ready, making irrigation pipes for export in the factory, cooking food for over 500 people, serving it up and cleaning up after everyone. Paradise was where we would sit down after work and talk about our lives, a group of people from many different countries and cultures, brought together for different reasons, living together and coping together. No one goes to Paradise without their own personal reasons and expectations, and everyone leaves with some questions answered and new feelings that they never thought existed.

Paradise was the home that I made for myself among these people. Paradise was the ability to be myself and learn that I was a natural leader among others. Paradise helped me discover so many things about myself, helped me discard some of them and cherish others. Paradise taught me that it was OK to love, and that it was OK to get upset. If you don’t talk about what you feel and keep it all bottled up inside, it will only lead to explosion and damage. Paradise was the place where I learned that I could be passionate and that I could believe in a better world. Paradise helped me become the person I am today. I will always remember standing on the beach, with the little waves touching my toes, holding hands with the person I loved and imagining a future that would be full of warmth and sunshine. I let go and at the same time finally let people in.

I always knew Paradise couldn’t last forever, and when I had to leave I had already made up my mind to bring it back with me and plant those roots wherever I ended up. Seven years ago I packed my bags again and went off into the unknown and never left. I knew I had nothing to fear anymore. I planted my little roots here in the city, and let them grow deep. Every time I meet with fear, loneliness, pain and heartbreak I walk to the ocean and wash away the intense need to rip up my roots and run away. I let the ocean remind me of the days I spent in Paradise and the times that I learnt to trust myself and others, and go back to my real world revived and ready to fight any more battles that come my way. Life is a constant challenge and battle between highs and lows, pain and happiness and choices. The important part is to remember to be strong and to find the happy medium between the extremes.

Paradise does exist, and I will always carry a piece of my Paradise around with me, wherever I go. Whatever your paradise is, I promise that you will find it one day, maybe even create it for yourself. I’m happy in my real world nowadays, and always know that I can return to Paradise if I ever need to.

Ramblings: I miss reading and writing in French



 I was reading through my 2003-2004 journal the other day, otherwise known as the “Israel journal”, where the first few months are written in English and the later months in French. I did this because my writing at the time was very intense and private, and I was always worried that someone on the very not private kibbutz would come across it and read it. While reading through the French entries I realized that not only was my French writing good; it had as much a voice as my English writing. That was 8 years ago, and since then all I seem to have really written in French is a few business emails (apart from the web page I recently wrote for a friend), and, even worse, I have completely neglected my French reading. It’s not like I am lacking in French books at home – I still have well over a hundred items of French literature lingering in my bookcases, well-read and beloved copies of works by my favourite authors, Rimbaud, Nerval, Baudelaire, Flaubert, Stendhal amongst many others. I even own the first 4 books from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles in French because at the time in France it was quite difficult to acquire English books right when you needed them. (After that my mum started to go to the States a couple of times a year for work so I would give her a list of books to buy for me). I’m still completely bilingual, and I still speak French with a French accent, and English with an English accent (and not Australian as someone was trying to tell me the other day). So what happened to me? Why don’t I ever write in French anymore? It’s still, in my opinion, the most beautiful language in the world. While English contains a dozen different words to describe something in several ways (take the word “shine” for example – how many synonyms can you come up with in one minute?); French has the ability to make anything sound like a song. I think “lyrical” is the best way to describe it, something that most Latin languages seem to be. 

I think I am more than likely just being lazy. English is my first language and it’s the one that comes easiest to me, even if I do find myself thinking in French now and again for no specific reason. I live in an English-speaking country where English is spoken first and then Spanish, and after that Mandarin and most probably Russian. I do however speak French at least once a day, but it’s not the same as living in a country where French is everywhere; on the radio, on TV, outside, inside and everywhere else. I don’t communicate extensively in French every day, and I definitely don’t write in French much anymore. I only watch the French movies I own (if they are Region 1, because most of them are Region 2 as they were purchased in France). I’ve watched most of the French movies available on Netflix and wish I could have more at my disposal. In any case, I am so behind on my movie watching that it would take me about 4 years to catch up on everything I want to see, if I maintain my current work schedule. I will always miss France and consider it home (although NYC is also my home now), and apart from my friends and old haunts, the main part I miss is being completely immersed in FRENCH.

You know what I also miss? Going into a French bookshop and browsing the French books. The funny thing is that when I lived in France I missed going into English bookshops and browsing the English books. That is until the Decitre opened in Grenoble along with their great collection of English books, at very decent prices. It’s difficult to buy French books here. Really difficult. Or again, I am too lazy to search too far for them, although I think I have done a pretty good job up until now. In any case, I follow the book reviews on a site called Boojum Mag, known to me because a good friend of mine in France writes for them, and I recently started making a list of all books I need to buy. I’m not going back to France anytime soon (but my mum is and oh my god a light bulb just went off in my head), so last week I bit the bullet and went on to Amazon.fr and looked through the books that I wanted to purchase. €57 later and two books are coming my way. According to the tracking system, they are now in Croydon and I can expect to receive them late next week, two weeks after I ordered them. Now this is not a cost effective solution to my problem, nor can I, Miss Impatience, wait two whole weeks to receive the books I want to read right now at this very minute, so there MUST be a better solution. If so, let me know. French book swap? French book lending library? What if I spend this amount of money and end up disliking the books? I know that’s always a risk one takes when buying books, but usually you don’t have to factor in the costly shipping charges too. And I shouldn’t really be spending money on books from overseas when I have a lot of debt to pay off, should I?

At a first glance the fact that I am going on about reading in French may not seem to have anything to do with my issue with not writing in French anymore. It does, however. Reading and writing are my two main passions in life and one cannot go without the other. I read because I love to fall into a world someone else has created and imagine myself there, and I read because it is also the best form of education for me. I write because I have so much to say, and I also write because I want to be read. Reading inspires me to write and writing inspires me to read, and if I read in French I feel like I write more in French too. One will never go without the other… I set myself weekly writing targets that I sometimes keep to, and often don’t, so I think I will just need to add a French writing target too, even if it’s just a journal entry or a random rambling of no real interest. In any case, I just wrote this whole post in English when I could just have easily have written it in French, couldn’t I? Although I know why… Most of the friends I grew up with in France are insanely good writers, and I would just worry about them critiquing anything I wrote in French. I got over that small stepping stone in English, so I may as well just get over it in France. OK… Over to my written journal for some French immersion then…

Ramblings: Of Changes and Survival Modes



I can't believe how this year is flying by, it's already the middle of May, Spring is finally here and I'm going to be flying to California for two weeks in exactly a month. Which also means I need to save and save and save every penny I make over the next month, because nowadays holiday means unpaid time off, and rent and bills still need to be paid, wherever I happen to be in the world. I'm not complaining though, this time last year I would sleep about 3 hours a night, go into work with a pit in my stomach that would grow and grow throughout the day, and go home and collapse, still stressed out and thinking about all the projects I was undoubtedly going to mess up at work. Now I am working three different jobs, 7 days a week with a day off thrown in here and there, but I have time to see my friends, hang out at home and write, draw and dream. I even have time to read and write at one of my jobs, which happens to be in the middle of a theatre, which is probably one of the coolest things ever. But the best part of all this is that I go to work and then don't have to think about it until I have to go back again. No one calls me with questions about different projects, I don't have to spend 12 hours working on a coverage chart when I take a day off, and guess what? I actually have fun at work. Who would have thought?!

I can't say that it has been easy to pull off, this whole change thing, there were days when I didn't know how I was going to actually afford my next meal, let alone pay rent and other important bills, and I still have a lot of credit card debt I am going to have to start paying off in the very near future (because letting all those 1-800 and 1-866 numbers ring to voicemail every day is really not dealing with the problem very effectively), but, you know, I feel like smiling every morning/afternoon when I wake up. There are days when I still feel so mad I want to stomp my feet and kick people, and there are still days when I don't want to get out of bed to face the world, but they aren't as frequent anymore. I just feel like this is what I always should have been doing when I moved here. What I want. I still don't know if I actually pulled anything off really, everything could fall apart tomorrow, but at the same time I know it will always be OK.

I was walking to the subway this morning, thinking about a million things as usual, and it dawned on me that I live most of my life in some kind of survival mode. Not real "I am being hunted by evil murderers" survival mode (although that is a recurring nightmare of mine), more like a "shit happens so I just have to bear with it" kind of outlook on life every day. Tired because I got home at 7am, had to take the dog out and have to be back at work at 4pm? Oh well, I'll sleep better tonight. Annoyed because friend never comes to say hello because her job is too tiring? No problem, there are at least ten other better friends who always come to visit me. Nose broken because stupid ice machine lid fell on it? No problem, it will heal again, just like the time before, and the time before that. Annoying people being dickheads at work? I just complain and then forget about them (even those annoying student idiots who thought that adding a tip to $2 beers didn't apply to them).  It's all about getting to a place where you want to be in life, a place where you don't have to worry so much about everything... I feel like I am nearly there now. Don't get me wrong, I still worry about everything, but just less than I used to.

I'm so in love with this city, still today. It's been 7 years now, and I can't really imagine myself being anywhere else. I was writing a short story based on a parting of ways that occurred in my life in 2004 last night, and was looking for the journal I wrote during that time. While searching for it I came across a couple of journals I had started in 2005 and 2006, and spent an hour reminiscing about those days... It was all a lot of innocent fun, words about people I had just met who now happen to be my closest friends; words about people who have now disappeared into different lives and places; places that no longer exist and other places that are still there, and are still frequented by us all. Then there was one entry, written during my last trip to France in 2006 that was so insightful at what was to become of me over the next few years that I wish I had listened to myself a bit more when I wrote it. Or maybe not, because in the end it was all for the best. Someone once told me a couple of years ago that I just needed to hit rock bottom in order to find my way again, and I think he was right. I probably always knew what I was doing, even when I thought I didn't anymore.

So yes, New York. I often say that I miss Europe or that I want to move to a desert island and live by the ocean for the rest of my life... This isn't a lie, and I do miss France terribly every once in a while. I just need to make my way back there for a bit, see my friends, go to the old haunts and see how Grenoble has changed over the years (or not, whatever the more accurate statement may be). But New York will always be the city I come back to, I know that all too well now. I've never felt so completely at home as I do here. My apartment, my friends, my jobs, my favourite places to drink and eat, my memories and the new memories I create every day. Sounds silly maybe, but I spent so long looking for a place I could call my home, and it makes me happy to know that I found it.

I wrote a piece called Paradise the other day, based on the same theme for an online magazine. If it doesn't get accepted I will post it here seeing as I was quite proud of it when I wrote it. Something a lot of people can relate to I think, and it also goes along the vein of living in survival mode, continuing to move even when you think you can't anymore. I used to write mainly based on images in my imagination, nowadays I feel like most of my writing comes from something that happened to me, or that could have happened to me. I don't know if that is good or not, but I know that I need to get it all written down before I forget it.


The sun is shining outside, I'm writing this at work listening to Ride and I'm looking forward to seeing what this summer has to offer... And I just got inspired to write a few more short stories. Not a bad start to the day, I think!

Words on Walls

Freedom & EqualityLove LoveNot Responsible For Your LifeClairvoyant PsychicImaginePeace_And_Love
R1-07710-0014Wrong WayDanger No SwimmingR1-06168-011ADefaced WallAlways
Love is LoveHigh times in the LordBooks love the kidsAvoid ApathyGod's giftKeep it evil
L'art c'est un motLove 3SmileRevoltI dream of loveJesus light of the world

Words, a set on Flickr.

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to sort through hundred of photos, both digital and film, to see if I can sort them out by theme rather than date which is how they are currently sorted.

I finished this one last night, a collection of words on walls and signs in NYC, Long Island, London. I am sure I will add to it as I am always taking photos of random words that I see in random places.

On one of my walks I was taking pictures of a mural on Myrtle Ave, in Bushwick going towards Ridgewood. The mural took up the whole of a deli wall, and said "Jesus Saves Brooklyn". A couple of guys stopped to tell me that "Jesus Saves" was actually a grafitti artist and that was his name. So there... If you ever see "Jesus Saves" on walls around town, it's not someone telling you that Jesus saves, just an artist signing off on his work.

Anyway, to be continued...

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - June 2001 concert review

Just because I will never ever feel jaded when it comes to music, as long as bands and musicians like this still exist... I wrote this the day after I saw Nick Cave at the Transbordeur in Lyon in 2001, and 11 years on it's still one of the best shows I have ever been to. So here is what I wrote in my diary back in 2001, the day after the show:

Saturday 9th June 2001 - Grenoble, France
I saw the best concert I'd ever been to last night: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Strangely enough I didn't feel as hysterically excited as I did before the Cure concert last year, it was all more calm. Maud and I were the first people to arrive at the Transbordeur (in Lyon), and as we were sitting in the carpark, smoking cigarettes and reading I saw Nick Cave go by... He is as absolutely gorgeous in the flesh as he is in pictures and on the screen. The man is everything: character, humour, uncharacteristic gorgeousness - anyway, he really is just this whole image. First it started with his music (this mini obsession I have with him) - when I was younger Louise used to listen to him all the time and I used to pretend to hate it, and then suddenly I fell in love, and now I can't go a day without listening to him. Anyway, it's a whole: the music, the person, the lyrics... Anyway, where was I?
The doors to the hall were opened around 7pm, and Maud and myself didn't even think of grabbing first row places, we ended up going up the steps, middle back, where we had a great view and we could sit down, and we weren't far from the front at all. The support band was not that good, well I didn't like it anyway. Australian band lacking in many things, especially atmosphere.

And then Nick Cave. It's undescribable really. The band started off with Do You Love Me? (great way to start!), and continued on, with many songs from the last album (at the time was No More Shall We Part), beautiful songs, especially the one I had difficulty containing my tears to, Hallelujah, others like Red Right Hand, The Mercy Seat, Henry, Into My Arms and many more. Nick Cave was wonderful, he's still full of energy, of anger, of pain... So were the Bad Seeds, although I found Blixa to have a little less energy than the rest, maybe he's always like that. Anyway, the audience was great, except for the idiot stagediver, you couldn't hear anyone during the slower songs, total respect, followed by thundering applause and cries.
When they left the stage the first time the whole audience was so heated up, front to back, that everyone felt as one big clap and stamp of the foot. They came back twice, two encores.

Excellent, fabulous, enchanting, too short, but it would never have been long enough. I want to see it again and again and again and again... I feel some kind of sense of fulfillment though, I saw Nick Cave and it was brilliant, even better than I could have expected, and I will see him again in a few years. That voice... So powerful and beautiful. To be honest, they are even better live than on album, and that is extremely difficult. They are all so together on stage. I can't explain all the emotions I felt during the concert, but it's all there and here, in my head and in my heart.

After the concert was the slight problem of getting home. Now Maud and I usually have a total lack of organisation going on, it's like we will organise the logistics of doing something and getting there, and the rest will work itself out. I love it. So we really didn't know how to get back to Grenoble (note: Grenoble is about 100km through the mountains from Lyon). We had the train timetable and saw that the last thing back to Grenoble was a bus from the Part Dieu station. We had 20 minutes to get there. We tried to hitch a ride and thankfully a nice couple dropped us off right in front of the station. We ran around looking for the buses, found where they were and looked for ours. Not there. Ten minutes later I looked at the timetable again and realised that it was only valid from June 10th onwards. That bus didn't even exist yet!!! Thankfully there was a train to Grenoble at twenty past midnight so we drank cappuccinos waiting for it and sang Henry Lee and Do You Love Me? on the train. I tell you we were lucky because otherwise we would have been hanging around in Lyon until 6am!!! Not that we really cared we were on such an emotional high.
Anyway, I have my literature exam on Monday, my last exam this year, so I had better go and finish reading Macbeth again. I hope the exam will be with Mme Blattes and that it will be on The French Lieutenant's Woman... I can't wait for it to be over at last.

Thank God for the pure existence of Nick Cave.


Note: The official live DVD released for this tour was actually the footage of this show in Lyon. Another note: I have seen Nick Cave many a time since then and he is always amazing.

Marge Piercy's Gone To Soldiers: my favourite book of all time


This happens once a year, at least once, sometimes multiple times: all of a sudden I will stop what I am doing and say "it's time to read Gone To Soldiers again." Then I pick it up and fall back into the words that have kept me going for so many years now. I will never ever tire of this book. It happened to me this morning, while I was making my morning tea, wondering through the haze of my mind what on earth I was going to write about today, trying to avoid the inevitable subjects of "2011 was a shitty/great/annoying/interesting year", when I just stopped in my tracks, grabbed my most recent copy of the book and read the first page. Nothing better than starting off your new year with firstly your first bender in 3 years, and then back to reality with your favourite book. The former not to be revisited for a while, the latter a lot more healthy.

The first time I read Marge Piercy's Gone To Soldiers was in 1991 or 1992. One of my mum's friends lent it to her, and as with any book that ever came into our household, I read it. Actually I devoured it. I've always loved historical fiction, especially dealing with WW2, and I love strong women characters that I can relate to. I also love rich, well-constructed prose, words that let you imagine the scene in your own head, help you to picture faces and expressions and leave them imprinted in your mind for a long time after you have read the last page of the book. This is how Marge Piercy writes. Gone To Soldiers will make you laugh, cry, want to hit things and finally feel like you can go out and accomplish anything that you want to, just because you can.

The novel is the story of ten different characters (men and women), interweaving, across the Atlantic and the Pacific, over the space of 5 years of war. Every character is human, and you will probably relate more to one over another, depending on how old you are when you read the book. My favourite will always be Jacqueline, feisty French Jewish girl who has to grow up and deal with the undealable. I sometimes see some of myself in her, more than in any of the other characters. Basically, Jacqueline makes me realise how much potential we have to create something from our lives, while remaining true to our hearts and beliefs. I know it sounds a little silly said like that, but you really need to read her story to understand what I mean.
There is also Bernice who breaks away from her father and runs away to fly aeroplanes; Louise who goes from writing women's stories to writing from the front lines in France via London; Daniel who deciphers code for a living; Jeff, the artist with the survival instinct, and probably the male character who I am the most attracted to; Abra who learns to live with nothing after having everything and all of the others who will touch your lives in a way that you wouldn't expect. An epic story that you can't put down. Life changing? Maybe. Just read it, the least it can do is help you learn a little more about what the regular person went through in the 40's.

I've read this book at least once a year since 1991. I've been through so many copies of it, I've given copies to my friends and it is without a doubt my favourite book of all time. Every time I read it I discover something new and somehow I find comfort in the stories, in a way I find a patch of non-moving ground that I can stand on for a moment to recollect myself.

More information on the book on Marge Piercy's website: Gone To Soldiers
More information on Marge Piercy: Biography

All of Marge Piercy's novels are excellent - once you have read this one try the others (especially Braided Lives).

Of emotional rollercoasters

Anything I write today will just be too sad or too angry or too thankful. This week has been an emotional roller coaster and I am not prepared to write about it in public just yet and I just really can't get the words out properly anyway. I am thankful for the friends who gave me hugs and listened to me, and to those who were just there. I want to kick those who "zoned out" when I needed them the most, you know who you are, and also who you aren't to me anymore.

I listen to this song every day. It never fails me with it's beauty.

Why I write...

A while ago I made a conscious decision to only write about things that I actually like, appreciate and love, as well as voice my own personal opinions, fears, thoughts and emotions. This spot is not a place for me to review or bash anything I don’t really care about. If I don’t like a band, a book or a movie, I probably just won’t talk about it, not on here in any case. There are a few times when I have provided a negative review on something, and felt bad about it for days. So I’m leaving that for others. I will, however, not hesitate to voice my opinions on what I feel and see around me. On politics and world events and on human beings. Basically, I am not going to bash what you create, but I may ask you to think a little deeper into things, and questions your ideals (if you happen to have any). And you may not agree with me, and that’s cool too. I enjoy a good old debate where I try to prove myself right!

Support is sometimes found in the strangest of places, and not found in those places that you automatically thought that it would be found. Strange how life moves in mysterious ways: hills where you thought the terrain would be smooth, smooth sailing over rough waters and all that. I don't expect much, but even then you get disappointed by those you thought would never disappoint you, and at the same time are pleasantly surprised by the solidarity and encouragement of others who were always there, but not as close to you. All of a sudden you touch someone in a way that you didn't know you could touch someone, but the person you thought that would understand doesn't even acknowledge your presence. So what do you do? Force those who don't seem to care less to listen to you? Or just let it lie, move on and accept the fact that some people are just too caught up in their own hazy bubble to bother to see a little further.

I just don’t think my voice is loud enough and never has been. That’s why I started writing in the first place, as I can’t compete with the loudness of another person’s voice. I am constantly talked over, so there is no point in trying to force an issue when your soft voice just falls off the edge of everyone else’s much louder voices. And, honestly, if you really want to listen to what I have to say, then you can bloody well listen to me. Writing helps me voice opinions and thoughts and feelings that would otherwise go unheard. You can sweep this under the carpet too if you like, but in the end it may touch the heart of someone else, like me, and that is the main point.

It’s funny, but often I wake up, and say to myself that I dislike people immensely, and then I kick myself for trying to lie. I don’t dislike people and I don’t hate people. I love people. I love the way people talk, communicate, react, write, live, create… I do hate the way people mistrust, hurt, steal, and destroy, but in the end I still believe in the inherent good that resides in a percentage of the world population. Call me an idealist and I will agree with you. Nothing wrong with believing in something and hoping that one day there will be changes in this world. Changes that we can help make if we make our voices heard. Never think that you are just one person amidst many, and that you will never be able to make a difference. You will. You just need to believe in yourself… And I know how hard that is, I lose confidence in myself at least once an hour (and have amazing friends who prod me back into place whenever I need it). And I DO need it. I just won’t tell you that I do, well because, I am just too self-conscious and shy to. I’ll just get upset at your lack of attention to what I am doing, or saying, and will rant about it, but won’t actually ask you why you don’t give a shit, because I already know the answer: you don’t give a shit.

But someone else most likely does, and that is the reason I write. First of all I get what I want to say out there, and second of all, there is at least one other person in the world who is going to read what I write, and hopefully be inspired too. That’s the whole point in the end, be inspired to inspire others. So, in the end, I am heard… Maybe not by those I wanted to hear me, but by someone else who maybe needed to a little more. That makes it all worthwhile.

Today my first real article got accepted for publication. Nothing really special, but it’s a start and it feels like an accomplishment.

4am Reflections

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and couldn’t get back to sleep. These are the moments that I wish I still smoked… Sitting by the window, cigarette in one hand, notepad and pen in the other, savouring that time of the night where everything is quiet and peaceful, and writing lyrics or poems for a few minutes before going back to sleep again. So instead of smoking I tossed and turned in my bed, realizing that it was not all peaceful out there, that there had always been a fine line of 4am happiness and 4am despair, and that if you were in the outside world at that time of night then not all was really well… 4am reflection can be amazingly insightful, it’s just a pity I didn’t have a pen and paper right next to me to jot down all the thoughts that whizzed through my head.

Some of us go through adolescence a little more traumatized than others, often with some type of tragedy that happened early on in our lives that we can’t get rid of. Somebody close abandoned us, be it by unexpected and/or violent death, or just because they disappeared. You are searching for the answers to everything and no one can give them to you. Adults still seem to be the people who are supposed to be perfect, and you feel like a failure because you will never reach that perfection, or what appears to be perfection. So you stumble on, start finding yourself, make music, write, paint, create. Go to college, drop out of college, go back to college, work in different jobs and experiment with drugs and alcohol, still trying to find out the hows and whys of everything.

Then you hit your 20’s and start realizing that you are an adult too, and that you still don’t have the answers to anything. And your childhood trauma starts to become a weight you carry on your shoulders everywhere, a badge that gives you the right of way to fuck up whatever you can, because, in the end, you are the one who is messed up, and you are the one who has the right to hurt yourself if you want to. Hey, something traumatic happened to me when I was a kid, and I want to forget it, so I have every right in the world to obliterate myself with a bottle of Stoli and whatever else wants to come my way. Because, you know, in the end, it all hurts too much, this real life where people die and never come back, and where you have to carry this with me day in and day out. And you continue to function. You have a close group of friends who are all about as traumatized and messed up as you, and you all help each other out in all of the different ways you can. You go to work, you party, you sleep an hour or so, and you go back to work, forgetting that you had once had all of these ideas and plans on what you wanted to do in life.

And then comes the day that you realize that none of this really means anything anymore. One moment you are dancing on a bar, thinking you are having the time of your life, and the next you are crying into your drink wondering how that profound feeling of sadness crept over you while you had your back turned, the one you had been running so hard away from to avoid. It’s just time to let go… Nothing is ever going to fix the things that happened to you growing up, and maybe they will never really heal, but nothing is going to change them. Hiding from your own thoughts, while nurturing this badge of trauma is just not a viable option anymore. All I can say is tell those you love how much you love them, and start living your life the way you had always dreamed you would live it. It just makes so much more sense than settling for unhappiness and hurt for the rest of your life.

I wrote song lyrics about this once, a few years ago, not long after I stopped drinking. I named it “Ludlow St”. When I read it now it very accurately describes all of the above, in a song form. Maybe one day someone can put music to it and sing it. If I ever let anyone read it that is.