Creative Wordshops July 2019 Writing Newsletter

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Give me back the soul I had as a boy (girl) matured in fairy tales (Lorca)


Keeping the Child inside Alive and Writing

Dear writer, storyteller, reader, traveller, lover of words, images, silences…
Some years ago there was a Chinese textile exhibition inStellenbosch featuring embroidered baby carriers – celebrating the child. Wordsworth believed, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy.” J. Robert Oppenheimer asserted, “There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”

This July month, turning 75, (one short of the number of trombones in the big parade) I’m thinking of the girl/boy inside and how to keep this energetic, spontaneous being, this animation in the now, alive, awake, aware in our writing. “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” (Picasso)

There is a story where a little girl asks her father, “Is it true that when we are asleep, we can wake?” “Of course it’s true, my child.” “Then it must also be true that when we are awake, we can wake up more.” Virginia Wolf most admired writers who saw through the eyes of a child. The Buddha when asked about his name, responded “It means I am awake.“

Another tale: A skilled archer came to a village. As he walked around he noticed that somebody had been shooting at a number of targets drawn in chalk. The arrow had left its mark in the middle of every target. Bullseye. He was directed to a hut where a child was playing with a bow and arrow.

“Did you score all those bullseyes?” The child nodded. “How did you do it?”
“Easy,” answered the child. “First I shot the arrow. Then I drew the target around it.”
Writing teacher, Peter Elbow, reminds us, “Children have more real voice. They talk poetically more easily…. Children have the gift of whole- heartedness, complete intentionality.” Children are naturals at word play and metaphor. My first born, Damian, at 5, spoke of “the headmonster who carried a grief case.” My last born, Adam, at 5 gazed into a glass of coke, ”This is night and the bubbles are stars.” (intuiting his calling? – he studied astro-physics.)

Then there are those books that play up and down the octave scale from C to C – from childhood to age and back again. Timothée de Fombelle’s novel Toby Alone (recently read) is one such star in this galaxy. Set in the microcosmic world of the Great Oak Tree, the cover folds out into a map of the oak tree cosmos:

The 13-year-old Toby Lolness, one and a half millimetres tall, lives in a civilization nestled in an oak tree. When Toby’s father makes a ground-breaking discovery, tapping into the very heart of the Tree’s energy, he also realizes that exploiting it could permanently damage their world. Refusing to reveal the secret of his invention to an enraged community, the family is exiled.

This novel and others by de Fombelle inhale and exhale child wisdom:
There are some closed doors we’re so frightened of opening that we don’t see them anymore. We’ve pushed furniture in front of them; we’ve jammed the lock. Children are the only ones who might crouch down on all fours to stare at the red glow coming from under the door, as they wonder what lies behind it. (Vango: Between Sky And Earth)
In a Richard Bach novel the older writer finds in a room a locked away boy, angry, abandoned. It is the child he ignored and left behind. They need to reconcile. To play.
No wonder Rumi, the mystic, asks:

Has anyone seen the boy who used to come here? Round-faced troublemaker, quick to find a joke, slow to be serious. …polished and ready for his talent. You know that one. Have you heard stories about him? Pharaoh and the whole Egyptian world collapsed for such a Joseph. I’d gladly spend years getting word of him, even third or fourth hand.