Tuesday, 1 January 2013

All good things are wild and free

So, I sat by the fire and read The Snow Child.  It had been nudging me for quite some time, unsurprising really, given the cabin in the woods and the snow thing that’s been going on for the last few months.

It’s rather lovely - a deceptively simple tale of a couple trying to forge a life in the harsh Alaskan wilderness. Their one child was stillborn and now they are too old to have children of their own.  One day they build a child out of snow and give it mittens and a scarf.  The next day the clothes have gone and the snow girl has also vanished.  And then a child appears.

Is she real?  Is she a creature of snow and ice?  There is a blissful ambiguity about the book; it is never entirely pinned down.  And yet the characters in the book try to pin down the girl, they try to tame her, to domesticate her, to pull her into their ordered world.  They know, they are sure, they are certain, what should be done, how she should be.  They try to help her out of love and caring but their control suffocates her; it is anathema to her, it is death.   You can never tame a wild thing, nor should you try. 

And it got me thinking along a pathway that I often think, when I think.  That some things, many things, are ruined if you try to pin them down.  That it is a mistake, particularly when it comes to things of the heart and soul, to seek to trap and bind and trammel and dictate.  But it is hard.  We humans love to impose our will – on everything and everyone.  We like certainty; we like to know what’s what. 

Ah but then, oh then, maybe the mystery, the beauty, the wildness is lost.  For some things, many things, should  not be pinned down; they should be left to breathe, to live their own life; to do their own thing.  To be wild and free.  When the wild flower is picked it wilts and dies. When the wild animal is brought in from the forest its eyes go dull, the fire leaves its belly.   And, truly, we cannot ever own anything, not really.  We can make contracts, we can sign papers, we can put our signatures to documents; or we can bind by ties and strings and snares of emotion - of love and hate and fear and guilt and duty.  But nothing is ever really ours.  Everything changes, everything is ultimately ephemeral. 

They say that if you truly love something you should let it go.  Or rather allow it the freedom to come and go as it pleases. Yet we cling, how we cling. 

Sorry.  Just thoughts floating round my mind like a flurry of snow. 


Isobel Morrell said...

It's a long time since I've read one of your posts - my fault, not yours! Probably not been on line at the same time latterly!

As ever, enjoyed the content: look forward to picking up where I left off in 2012 -circa May 26, when my husband died, very suddenly.

Meanwhile, all the best for the New Year

Frances said...

Best wishes for 2013 to you, Jane.

As I was reading this post, I kept trying to remember which NYC friend had already told me about this book. Although I do love reading, most of my reading time occurs underground on my NYC subway commuting time. I will seek out this book at my library and let you know what I thought of it.

Meanwhile, I have just finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, and now embarked on The Shadow Girls by Henning Mankell, with non-fiction truth telling Who Stole the American Dream by Hedrick Smith waiting in the wings. (Jane, in the last century, which I maintain was not all that long ago, I had a big crush on Hedrick Smith.)

On this first day of a new year, as I visit wonderful blog sites, and even add a new post of my own, I would like to thank you, Jane, for being one of my original blogging encouragers.


Greta said...

I related to this. Completely and absolutely. I photograph flying wild birds. I hate to see them in cages. There are more tigers in zoos and backyards than there are in the wild. It makes me weep.

Exmoorjane said...

@Isobel - I am so sorry to hear about your husband's death, Isobel. I do hope this year is kinder to you. xx

@Frances - I suspect you might like this one. Funny, I was about to visit your blog to thank you for the beautiful card which has just arrived. A highlight of the season for me, always.

@Greta - yes. Your photographs "capture" the feeling of freedom perfectly. A caged tiger is a terrible thing.

Catherine said...

A lovely and unusual book and one I very much enjoyed, but with issues I struggle with myself as a parent of young adults - the letting go. So hard, so necessary

Ross Mountney said...

Love this post - I'm going to read it! You are so right in that we get so attached to things, and as a parent, attached to our kids that sometimes we can suffocate them rather than let go. Such a lot of soul searching to really define the difference between care and suffocation!

Anonymous said...

Letting go is anathaema to a mother. We want to protect and nurture. Yet at the same time we know that our mothers let go of us and how awful it would have been if they didn't. Maybe it's just that I am about to watch my eldest leave home and there is so much I wanted to do with her but never got around to. So much undone so much still to do. But from my own experience I know that if I let her go freely then she may, if she wants to, come back. I dearly hope she does, but I have to let her be her, let her make her own decisions, her own mistakes and her own achievements without me. Aagh. They never told you about that at the antenatal classes.

Jane said...

'We think caged birds sing when indeed they cry', that so resonates with me, I'm going to remember that!

Margaret Grant said...

You're right. I used to be surprised when others wouldn't take me up on my "suggestions" to them. What hubris! Now I try and try to shut up......

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recent response.
Yep, it sure is a tangled mess of shredded pasta down at the Authonomy forum.
Through me, his friend, David Zax passes on more of his good wishes to you, and those two great longstanding Liverpool friends of yours.
J.C. And J.P.
Wish him well via yourself will you?
Sorry, of course, what I meant to say was, wish them both well.
How silly of me to write their names in a way that would lead you to think I ever thought they were the same person.
Although...I was told that the renamed Jake Barton.and Job..
And there I go again..already breaking my New Year resolution not to gossip.
I shall stop.
Good story though.
Fits in nicely.
Say Hi if you run into either of them Mongoose.
All the Best.