Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Panic In Leitrim

I’ve been in the West of Ireland for the last few days and what a pleasure it was. The fields and the hills were dressed in so many different shades of green, yellow, orange and brown. Ragged-winged crows hung in the air, riding the wind and obviously enjoying themselves enormously; flocks of fieldfares wheeled around the house, settling in the nearby forest and chattering noisily as evening descended.

One of the things I like most about the house where my parents lived is the silence and the darkness of night; though sometimes it can be too intense. I remember once several years ago waking in the middle of the night, wanting to visit the bathroom. It was so dark that I had no idea where the light switch might be. I blundered around hopelessly, stubbing my toe, bashing my shins against unidentifiable objects until I walked painfully into the wall.

I thought that if I simply felt my way around the room by following the wall I could not go wrong. But I must have started at a point very close to the light switch and begun travelling in the wrong direction. My sightless navigation seemed to take forever and I began to panic, wondering whether I might actually be dead and that life after death might consist of an eternity spent stumbling around in the dark. Then finally to my great relief I found the curtains and drew them back to gaze out on a night sky blazing with stars.

Afterwards it seemed to me that this was a perfect metaphor for writing – rousing oneself from a comfortable torpor to answer an urgent call, setting off in the wrong direction, causing oneself real pain by blundering into obstacles, beginning to doubt that one will ever achieve one’s objective, and then finally, more by accident than design, being granted a glimpse of real beauty.

1 comment:

Paul Lamb said...

The solitude must have been delicious though.

I like your metaphor, and I think it explains why many writers, especially those new to the adventure, are so fond of rules about grammar, submissions, structure, et cetera. The rules help them find their way, even if the rules lead them down a short passage to a plain room rather than out into the brilliant night of discovery. (Got carried away there a bit.)