Creative Wordshops Feb 2019 Writing Newsletter

STOP PRESS (see what’s on)

Temenos McGregor Mindful Writing retreat 1-4 March

Dear writer, storyteller, reader, traveller, lover of words, images, silences… Fire

The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire. (Pamela Hansford Johnson)

Swimming in the Buffels lagoon in Pringle Bay some days ago, upstream I passed a house gutted by flame. Three days before this the holiday makers and I’m had waved to each other as I floated past. On the other bank above the scorched reeds and nests the smell of ashes hung in the air – the 200 year old milkwood forest cremated. Above that the charred mountain with pythons, dassies, buck and tortoises incinerated.

The charcoal mounds smoked where only yesterday fynbos had flourished. A woman died smothered in the smoke. Eight days later the fire spreading far and wide from the Helderberg to Grabou, Bot Rivier closing.

One man sending a flare into the New Year’s eve sky. I do not know his intention. Even if benign, King Lear leaps to mind. Oft with the best intent we incur the worst. Then the fire galloped on the back for a fiery north wester steed kicking its heels, stampeding through some 50 houses and a church wooshing through Betty’s Bay. What of Hermamus, Knysna Wuppethal, Grabou, Signal; Hill and …and ?

Stories rising from the ashes. One of a buck people thought so tame as it stayed in their garden only to discover that all four hooves were burnt. A friend counseling an extended family where nine people died. A girl rescuing 30 tortoises. People trying to ascribe meaning through beliefs and desires. And what do people thrust into their escape bag? Apart from the obvious – passport, cell, documents, laptop – some grab sturdy shoes, 5 liters of water, a hair dryer, diary, a favorite book, trinkets.

Fire as image, symbol and analogy has pursued writers through the ages. And what of fire bombing? The soldier, Billy, a POW in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, survives a night in February 1945 during the firebombing of Dresden. 130,000 dead.

Billy and the other POWs wait out the bombing in a slaughterhouse. The next day at noon, they emerge to a landscape surfaced like the moon. To quote Vonnegut’s “so it goes.” And Hiroshima where a young girl with atom bomb induced leukemia folds a 1000 cranes for world peace.

Here is Dylan Thomas – part of Ceremony After A Fire Raid:

The grievers
Among the street burned to tireless death
A child of a few hours
With its kneading mouth
Charred on the black breast of the grave
The mother dug, and its arms full of fires.
With singing
Darkness kindled back into beginning
When the caught tongue nodded blind,
A star was broken
Into the centuries of the child
Myselves grieve now, and miracles cannot atone.
Us forgive
Usyour death that myselves the believers
May hold it in a great flood
Till the blood shall spurt,
And the dust shall sing like a bird
As the grains blow, as your death grows, through our heart.
Your dying
Child beyond cockcrow, by the fire-dwarfed
Street we chant the flying sea
In the body bereft.
Love is the last light spoken. Oh
Seed of sons in the loin of the black husk left.