Yesterday, my editor Steven Mair and I talked about life. He was incredulous that Catching Infinity, which he edited, took twenty years to write. Indeed, for twenty years it sat in the hard drives of my various computers. Until now.
“Why?” Steven asked.
“I don’t know.”
I thought about Steven’s ‘why’ ever since. I think it’s because something comes into being only when the conditions are right for it to exist. At other times, we would be fighting, forcing, going against the flow of life.
I was worried that I would be a one-book wonder. I knew I couldn’t write another Catching Infinity. But my partner, he brings me luck, I swear. Luck, inspiration and a whole lot of other blessings. On the day we were supposed to go hunting for strange trees (for my second novel, The Sisterhood), I forgot to bring my wellies and the identification book.
“Damn,” I swore. He kissed me on the top of my head and said lightly, “Let’s go to the seaside instead.” And so we did. We went fossil hunting, walking hand in hand along the beach, searching for treasures, like two children from a bygone era.
I wrote this for chapter sixteen of The Sisterhood:
She now stared at the six porpita porpita in her little aquarium. Where do you come from? Blueish green, so they must be floaters, drifters, according to Daddy.
To Heather, they looked like synthetic blue buttons of the deepest turquoise with intricate lacy fronds. The fronds had microscopic nodules that are actually stingers. Each button is a colony of tiny marine beings clustered around a single hungry mouth. The ocean just brought them in one day and scattered them all over the dark-gold beach outside Heather’s shack. In the million years to come, they will become fossils for another generation of Arthurs and their daughters to find. But because the porpita porpita are all soft bodies – there are no bones, shells, teeth or other hard parts – their fossils will be rare treasures in future. It is amazing that after half a billion years of geographical upheavals and erosions, fossils survive so casually all over the world. They are perhaps like so to remind us just how small the human life is in the timescale of life on earth.
“Teach me,” Song said from the doorway, watching Heather with his inscrutable dark eyes. He was resplendent, pale and naked bar a small towel around his waist, almost comical, a tall masculine apparition in her small seaside house.
When I was searching for inspiration, he took me hunting for the Strandbeesten from his childhood. I wrote about it here.
As a boy, he had read Jorge Luis Borges’s The Book Of Imaginary Beings under the duvet with a torch after lights-out, and amazingly, an updated, short version of this book was on the shelves of Foyles in Waterloo Station. As I snapped this photo, he found me in this busy station, picking up the book of his childhood.
Indeed, when the time is right. At other times, I think we just have to wait patiently in faith AND plant beautiful seeds.