safety, danger and a muse in slippers


It’s been a while. I probably wouldn’t make a very good correspondent in times of upheaval, disharmony or even minor crisis. 

If I had a muse (s)he would probably be wearing slippers and drinking peppermint tea. And we’d probably contemplate things like paint charts and lamb shank slowcooking techniques more than we would actually do anything actually worthy of having a muse in the first place. I would probably want her/him to massage my feet for a bit and then I would play Bejeweled whilst lamenting to her/him about my mental congestion and floating sense of psychic displacement.

I need everything to be just so in the lead-up to non-work writing. Just so in my head, I mean. Which sometimes necessitates a strategically arranged outward state, and sometimes not. My comfort zone needs to be clearly demarcated. I need to be able to see the floor. Ideally, Venus will be in the house of Mars and it will also be raining, but only slightly. Just the merest drizzle. A hint of of mist, and preferably around nightfall.

I always did want to be a spy though. Not a correspondent, so much (the idea of journalism soured for me in about 1994, round about the time the then Herald Tribune published my first, um, news story — a few lines on a major weekend heist in the heart of Hastings — two plastic chairs and a length of hose stolen from outside a state house on Heretaunga Street). But apparently I wouldn’t be very good at being a spy, either. 

This (above) is what our books looked like a couple of days ago. I estimate we have jettisoned about 7% of the whole lot. It was a start. I can mostly see the floor now. In most rooms, at least.

Speaking of comfort zones, on the bus home tonight I was reading an article about Technology and Distraction. Long story (well, not the story itself but where I ended up going with it in my head… all the strange little cul-de-sacs of thought I kept tripping into/snagging my brain on), but it got me thinking about humans as downy pink creatures perpetually stuck between states of danger and reward, barricading themselves against one and clambering after the other. And I thought about how that really sums everything up. How that’s us. The pleasure and pain thing. The need for shelter and ringfencing and cups of (peppermint) tea, etc.

My house moving disorientation is not quite so alarming now. It might have something to do with finally having all those fucking books out of the way. It’s sort of exposed and sickmaking when you strip your shell away and stand back and take in all the rubble of your life strewn in contextless piles. I don’t really like it. It makes me feel pink and downy, a bit startled and bung and King Lear-ish. I don’t plan to move again anytime soon. 

There were all sorts of things I was going to write about between then and now. Like the boy on the bus drawing with his finger in the condensation, and how the toes of my stockings were wet all day. And some other stuff. But part of the reason I’d make a shit spy is that I have a slippery-at-best grasp on my short term memory. And so I don’t remember any of that stuff now. I used to write things down as I thought of them but now that’s too much like hard work and another thing to always be carrying on my person.

After I thought about safety/danger/pleasure/pain/damage/repair/shelter/exposure on my way home, I got this stuck in my head, from The Two Fires by Margaret Atwood:

Two fires in-
formed me,
(each refuge fails
us; each danger
becomes a haven)
left charred marks
now around which I
try to grow

That’s [part of] one of my all-time favourite poems. I wanted to have that bit at the start of The Linoleum Room but we figured it was worth more than every paltry royalty cheque scraped together. Also I didn’t know how to go about asking. I did try. That was back in the days before Twitter, though, and now Margaret Atwood is my Twitter mate. So if I had my time again, in 2010, I could just go: @MargaretAtwood can you hook me up?


2 Responses to “safety, danger and a muse in slippers”

  1. I know exactly what you mean about short term memory. I find myself thinking “that would make a great subject for a post” all the time, and forget all about it within minutes.

    Great blog btw – adding you to my blogroll 🙂

  2. Just realised that the link was wrong on my name too – hopefully corrected now!

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