Light is important to us humans. It influences our moods, our perceptions, our energy levels. A face glimpsed among trees, dappled by the shadows and the green-tinged light reflected from the forest, will seem quite different to the same face seen on a beach in hard, dry, sunlight, or in a darkening room at twilight, with the shadows of a venetian blind striped across it like a convict's uniform.
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I remembered Robyn telling me the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and how they'd survived: when the King chucked them in the furnace and an angel or someone went in with them. The furnace blazed all around them but they didn't burn. And it did calm me. I don't know if it was Robyn or an angel or even God himself was in the boot, but I was starting to suspect that whenever I wanted God, he was there. Only not necessarily in the form I wanted, or doing what I wanted... In the pitch of the black boot I clung to the image of a fiery furnace, and it wasn't the furnace or Hell either.
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So, that was Nature's way. The mosquito felt pain and panic but the dragonfly knew nothing of cruelty. Humans would call it evil, the big dragonfly destroying the mosquito and ignoring the little insects suffering. Yet humans hated mosquitoes too, calling them vicious and bloodthirsty. All these words, words like 'evil' and 'vicious', they meant nothing to Nature. Yes, evil was a human invention.
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It was the world-without-adults daydream. In my dream I'd never quite figured out where the adults went but we kids were free to roam, to help ourselves to anything we wanted. We'd pick up a Merc from a showroom when we wanted wheels, and when it ran out of petrol we'd get another one. We'd change cars the way I change socks. We'd sleep in different mansions every night, going to new houses instead of putting new sheets on the beds. Life would be one long party. Yes, that had been the dream.
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That night in bed I was thinking about the way creeks and streams operate. They start off little, gurgling and bubbling and jumping over rocks and stuff, full of energy, going all over the place. Then they get older and bigger, become rivers, take a more definite course, stick to their path, know where they're going, get slower and wider. And eventually they reach the ocean and become part of this vast mysterious world of water that stretches away forever. Yep, just like people.
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I lay there with my mind running amuck, on the brink of madness. And somehow, gradually, early Sunday morning, I became calm. I can't think of any other word for it. I was thinking about the beach poem again, and I started to feel that I was being looked after, that everything was OK. It was strange: if there was ever a time in my life when I had the right to feel alone this was it. But I lost that sense of loneliness. I felt like there was a force in the room with me, not a person, but I had a sense that there was another world, another dimension, and it would be looking after me. It was like, "This isn't the only world, this is just one aspect of the whole thing, don't imagine this is all there is.
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So I found myself telling my own stories. It was strange: as I did it I realised how much we get shaped by our stories. It's like the stories of our lives make us the people we are. If someone had no stories, they wouldn't be human, wouldn't exist. And if my stories had been different I wouldn't be the person I am.
You can never stay angry too long in the bush though. At least, that's what I think. It's not that it's soothing or restful, because it's not. What it does for me is get inside my body, inside my blood, and take me over. I don't know that I can describe it any better than that. It takes me over and I become part of it and it becomes part of me and I'm not very important, or at least no more important than a tree or a rock or a spider abseiling down a long thread of cobweb. As I wandered around, on that hot afternoon, I didn't notice anything too amazing or beautiful or mindbogglingly spectacular. I can't actually remember noticing anything out of the ordinary: just the grey-green rocks and the olive-green leaves and the reddish soil with its teeming ants. The tattered ribbons of paperbark, the crackly dry cicada shell, the smooth furrow left in the dust by a passing snake. That's all there ever is really, most of the time. No rainforest with tropical butterflies, no palm trees or Californian redwoods, no leopards or iguanas or panda bears. Just the bush.
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I feel like I'm dropping such a long way down again." "I seem to be dropping into a cold dark wet place, where no one's been before and noone can every follow. There's no future there; just a past that sometimes fools you into thinking it's the future. It's the most alone place you can ever be and, when you go there, you not only cease to exist in real life, you also cease to exist in their consciousness and in their memories.
But somehow, standing in the clear night air, under a sky that glowed like a shower of sparks, none of that stuff mattered. It slipped off me. It was like shedding your clothes before you step in the shower. I felt I was down to essentials again. In fact I felt very close to God at that moment. I guess if you're ever going to feel close to God it'll be while you're looking at the heavens.
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We had enough years in front of us to be serious and grown-up and respectable. Why rush it? But on the other hand we always complained when teachers and other adults treated us as kids. In fact there was nothing that annoyed me more. So it was a frustrating situation. What we needed was a two-sided badge that said 'Mature' on one side and 'Childish' on the other. Then at any moment we could turn it to whatever side we felt like being and the adults could treat us accordingly.
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Pale as ice you passed me by; I wondered what you really felt, And waited through the changing times, To see if you would one day melt. I thought that ice would melt with warmth, But there were thing I did not know: The sun can touch the outer layers But does not reach the deepest snow. Winter sometimes seems like years, Summer's sometimes far away, But winter always turns to summer, As surely as does night to day.
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We've got to stick together, that's all I know. We all drive each other crazy at times, but I don't want to end up here alone, like the Hermit. Then this really would be Hell. Humans do such terrible things to each other that sometimes my brain tells me they must be evil. But my heart still isn't convinced. I just hope we can survive.
It seems like suffering's the only time we can see what's essential. If peace ever comes back I'm making a vow: I'll design myself special glasses. They'll block out whether people are fat or thin or beautiful or weird-looking, whether they have pimples or birthmarks or different coloured skin. They'll do everything suffering's done for us, but without the pain. I'm going to wear those glasses for the rest of my life.
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People just sticking names on places, so that no one could see those places properly any more. Every time they looked at them or thought about them the the first thing they saw was a huge big sign saying 'Housing Commission' or 'private school' or 'church' or 'mosque' or 'synagogue'. They stopped looking once they saw those signs.
I wonder if they realize how much I notice about them They probably haven't a clue because I never look at them or show the slightest interest. But I'm very aware of everything. I remember seeing an old film once where a father says to his son: "Son when your mouth's open you're not learning anything." If that's true then I'm well on the way to becoming the world's wisest woman.
Writing is not a job or activity. Nor do I sit at a desk writing for inspiration to strike. Writing is like a different kind of existence. In my life, for some of the time, I am in an alternative world, which I enter through day-dreaming or imagination. That world seems as real to me as the more tangible one of relationships and work, cars and taxes. I don't know that they're much different from each other.
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Life's about a hell of a lot more than being happy. It's about feeling the full range of stuff: happiness, sadness, anger, grief, love, hate. If you try to shut one of those off, you shut them all off. I don't want to be happy. I know I won't live happily ever after. I want more than that, something richer. I want to go right up close to the beauty and the ugliness. I want to see it all, know it all, understand it all. The richness and the powerty, the joy and the cruelty, the sweetness and the sadness. That's the best way I can honour my friends who died.
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I knew I was breaking about a dozen laws but I guess I had different attitudes to stuff like that since the war. Laws were for the stupid the immature the irresponsible. The inflexible and the narrow-minded. The prejudiced. The obsessive. The lazy and careless and selfish and spoilt. The violent.