Tuesday 6 May 2014

Magic and memory, the sea and the stones, red and reader...

So, I wanted to go back to Culbone, to the tiny church in an isolated Exmoor valley that helped inspire my first attempt at fiction, WalkerBut memory plays strange tricks and the path I was sure would lead up into the woods, led instead down to the beach...
And the pebbles were speckled and spotted, seal-smooth pelts.  And water-washed wood, with all the weight sucked out by tide and time. So we turned back and found the true path, tucked away where it shouldn't be, where it wasn't, at the back of the pub.   
Through tunnels of green, the kind of hidden hollow-way, the kind of secret steps that have joyed my heart since childhood. What is it about that play of green on green, of shadow and light, of moss-embraced stone?
The path climbs up through woodland, sometimes you glimpse the sea, mainly it hides and you just hear its sluice and shunt.  And I worried.  Would the magic remain?  Could it? And oh...oh...the little wooden hut (the one which let you make your own cup of tea, take your own biscuit and maybe buy a book or two; the one which trusted you to leave your pennies in the pot) was now disavowed...forbidden. A stern sign announced that this was Private Property - and that one should Keep Out
And Vivienne had warned me that it had changed.  And she was right.  It was all fenced off and signed away and oh, oh, oh...how we humans love to fence and surround and name and own, don't we? 
And even in the church itself, it was somehow all about private property and keep out.  Thou shalt not.  
And I felt bereft.  The magic had gone. Lost under strictures and rules, fences and knots. Trespassers Will be Persecuted. 
 But then, as I sat at the foot of the cross, I started noticing different things. Things I hadn't seen before.  Magical things. A face peeping out of the green on an old, old window.  Can you see it?  A merry imp?
The red red lichen on the gravestones - and so many of the people whose memory they marked were named Red.  My Name is Red.  Good book, btw - have you red it?

And it struck me that it's folly to expect magic to remain the same.  How could it?  Places change. People change. Everything changes (while still, in some way, remaining the same). We cling to our memories of how things/people/places are - we demand that they remain - but that entombs them.  And maybe, just maybe, when we cling to old magic, it prevents new magic from being seen?
Anyhow.  It struck me that I was being precious about Walker.  I'd taken it down from Amazon because I felt dissatisfied with it, unhappy with my writing.  I thought I'd maybe revisit it, rewrite it, re-magic it.  But then, sitting in the tiny church, watching a shaft of sunlight on the list of rectors, that long line of rectitude scripturing-stricturing back to the 14th century, I changed my mind.  Let it be.  

Click on the cover below to buy and see if I made a mistake.    


Anonymous said...

There is also a ghostly face peeping from the window itself, a little lost soul.
And the name of the Rector was also red.
Beautiful. xxx

Pondside said...

I guess we all experience the magic in our own way. The changes you see are invisible to someone just now discovering these magical places. Perhaps the trick is in letting go and finding something you'd never before appreciated - and thanks for sharing that impish face!