Saturday, 22 March 2014

the big book move, motherhood & kindness

With my new home at Mullindress all but complete (there are a few little things outstanding, such as the BIG bookcase build) I'm preparing my book collection for the trip over the water to their new home in Ireland. OVER that most definitely is, not in or under, these things are precious to me.

Like many other literature lovers I have thousands of books, their colours booming, their words galloping along my shelves, swallowing dreams and exchanging whispers of literary songs that have excited me and made me laugh and cry in equal measure. But it's not all glory, some of these 'echoey' voices have most definitely not made my wings uncoil and head for the milky light. Yes, there are impenetrable books infiltrating my works of hope and genius but I give them their place. An oddfella or two casing the joint helps to keep the balance. 

Again, like many other readers, my collection begins with my very earliest childhood books, including the gorgeous novel I won on Prize-giving day in primary 3 (for excellence I may add, best wee kid in the whole year they strangely determined) about a selkie. If I didn't love fiction before this moment I was consumed from there on in.  I read this book and then reread it repeatedly for what seemed like forever. Until of course I discovered Enid Blyton...Yep, I agree, enough said.

So, back to the matter in hand. I've decided to move all my fiction and my favourite non-fiction to Rathlin. This isn't an 'a-ha' moment that overwhelmed me when the house was completed, it was always the plan during the build process. Before the shapes even began to emerge on the architect's page in my head I could see the compass that is important to me: the sky, the sea and the mountains of my heritage; and my books.

The view ( I give you sunrise and sunset a little bit further down the page) solidifies and strengthens my past, the breaking dawns that climbed and fell long before my own time, and the books define the person I have become. I'm very much embedded in the land that the house has been created upon but I'm also me, a person who gives a little bit of themselves to people that allow me to, and to my books.

This is why I find it almost impossible to give books away. When I read a story, I become so entwined with it that I always feel that I've left a little bit of myself between the pages. I sometimes reread books and when I do revisit a story I open the cover gently knowing that if I'm bold or harsh that part of who I am, that literary flight perfected in the pages memory, will disappear and sink forever into the quiet waters of dawn.

Yeah, whatever, dramatic nonsense...but it is such a wonderful feeling to finish a book and feel that it has changed your life. Not in a lottery winning way but just by the way it has stirred your emotions and made you feel, something, everything, anything at all!

So as part of this getting ready to pack process I've been revisiting some of the titles that have consumed me. I am going to completely contradict myself here but I cannot believe how many books I had forgotten that I have even read (I know, I've just danced about saying how my side-splitting emotions have been captured within the pages) and then there's the little gems that I have completely forgotten I even wanted to read - even though I undoubtedly rushed out to buy them the minute they were published. Pah, I've got a lot of talking to do with myself.

I'm digressing again but in preparation for the big move I'm trying to organise my booky past and future on Goodreads. Bear with me, this may take some time. Once that's done I'll start to pack and get my little boxes of emotion ready for the journey to Rathlin Island. I'm excited by that. They give me hope, and comfort and inspiration. And Mullindress is a home that thrives on inspiration and that's something I yearn for in abundance right now because as much as I love my books, at the moment they are a distraction. A means to avoid.

Sunrise from Mullindress, Rathlin Island

Sunset on Rathlin Island by Emma McFaul

Kindness, as a noun, is 'the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate': that 'thing' we crave yet frequently forget to give is both possessive and resistant.

Sometimes it enwraps you in a knowing warmth, like in that breath-drawing moment when your child unexpectedly pulls you towards him or her in an all-encompassing embrace, kindness standing firm in broad shoulders that could prevent the sun falling from the sky at dusk.

And yet other times it turns its shoulder and  pushes past you, climbing beyond the silence, emerging as a piercing blue sky peering from damp clouds, its brightness distant and consuming, its hush pulsing in splashes of tiny tears that are swallowed by polished pavements and sent back to the weeping faces of angels.

It's there and then it isn't. A moment passed, its possibilities lingering in the shadow of what might have been.

When you learn, as I recently have, that your child is ill, your flesh and blood and everything that makes you love and live and breathe, the impact pushes you to your knees. It's devastating to know that kindness and goodness is out of your control. The path is in someone or something else's hands. I can't say too much about it for now as it's not my story to share but this world can so be so unkind, its colours quiet and stronger than us, fingers of fire moulding handshakes that join and separate as conversations start, stop, and then move on beyond the whispering birdsong.

There are no words to capture this emotion. There isn't a book that can influence change. We just have to ride with the moments and steer outcomes in whatever way we are able to do so. I love books but sometimes they aren't everything. Being a mother is. I shall endeavour to 'write' my way through this wrong and make my story composure in darkness.