FYI, you should probably know this post was written oodles of ages ago – technology gremlins invaded our house and ate everything. But we’re up and running again, so hurrah and here (finally) ’tis!
I wrote most of a blog post just now, on sadness. I’ve been reading, you see, about brave, wild souls who are lost to us, because their lives were every bit as damned as they were magical.
I’ve been reading about mental illness, suicide, depression and the flipside of all of those – creativity. Imagination. I’ve been reading about men and women whose minds were a jungle of beasts, mythical and wondrous, and dark and strange.
It started when I walked past my local Vinnies, which – because of the hipster area I live in – is a “retro store”. Along with the bundled-up old New Yorkers in the window, there was a signed picture of Mariel Hemingway. And I was struck by a powerful memory of being beguiled by a photo of her and her older sister, Margaux, in a photography book belonging to my dad, when I was a little girl.
“There’s a story about her,” I said to Tiger’s Daddy as we walked. I couldn’t remember what it was, at the time. When I got home, I researched.
Margaux committed suicide, at the age of forty-two.
Her grandfather was, of course, Ernest Hemingway. He died because of sadness, too.
In Writing Clementine, Clem’s brother has depression. He won’t leave his room. He is a talented young chef but has been wounded by life and lost love and has come to regard himself as a failure.
But Writing Clementine is not a sad book. I didn’t want it to be. I wanted it to be a book about hope and new beginnings.
I read a lot about sadness today. I read about Margaux Hemingway. And then, as often happens, I got sucked down an internet rabbit hole. I read a bit about her grandfather. I read about Anne Sexton. I read about Francis Adams. I read about a possible forebear of mine, Thomas Lovell Beddoes.
I read about Philip Seymour Hoffman.
I read about Kurt Cobain.
I filled myself up with sadness and I felt like I would burst with it all.
And I thought about my own small life, and how it’s been touched, too, by dark things. I’ve blogged before about anxiety and my struggle with it. It’s a flipping awful beast. Sometimes I control it. Sometimes it controls me. When it controls me, all I want to do is howl. I write to tame it. I hug my little girl. When I control it, I write to try and keep it away, and to try and make some of the sadness into something worthwhile. I’ll never be rid of it, because that’s not the way this works. It’s part of me.
I wrote a lot about it, in that other blog post. But then I deleted it. Because I want to write about hope, not sadness. Everything I write, I try and inject with hope. I don’t want to make the world any greyer than it has to be.
I finished reading something else, today, a novel called Coal Creek, by a writer I admire hugely (and whom I met once, having bought a special new jacket for the occasion. I didn’t realise, of course, when I shook the hand of my hero, that I still had the huge Salvos $5 price tag pinned to my chest). His name is Alex Miller. The book was about a man from The Ranges who goes to work for the town policeman and falls in love with his young daughter.
There was so much sadness in that book, but it was so infused with hope that I felt soothed by its ending.
I wish it had been nominated for more awards. It deserved to be. But maybe hope isn’t fashionable in literature, these days. I’m grateful for Miller for writing it, anyway.
Coal Creek made me delete that other blog post. It made me write this one, and it’s not nearly as eloquent or as poetic as the one I wrote, but it says what I’m trying to say – what I’m always trying to say:
Life can be so many bricks on bricks. They are hard and they are heavy and they are too solid to break. But between them there are slivers of courageous light and it’s in those slivers that, if you squint hard enough, you can see fairies dancing.
Of course, with me, there always has to be fairies.
And you can’t be sad, not really, knowing that there are fairies. And if you don’t believe in them, not any more, just ask my small, sweet girl. She’ll tell you that they’re real. And, when she tells you this, you try and tell me there’s no hope in this world.