Monday, 20 February 2017

Light Among the Shadows

Today, for the first time this year, I sat with my window open – looking out at the garden, and over to the hills beyond. The air felt different. Something had lifted. Or maybe it had quickened. There were pink cyclamen scattered along the edge of the fence, and wood-pigeons fussing somewhere out of sight. It wasn’t especially sunny. Not one of those brilliant days where you end up swept clean by the light. Just, well, more hospitable. Full of warmer potential. Later I went for a grey and gorgeous walk with two old friends, skirting down paths and breathing in the smell of moss and mud. The woods were full of growth beneath the leaf-mulch.

None of it was like the glaring majesty of the morning pictured here: these photos taken back in Autumn, during another dawn where I joined my dad at the top of the hills to stare down at the world waking up (for previous early morning forays, see this blog post). There’s something unique to that sweep of gold. It’s brief: a spectacle reserved for the few fortunate enough to be up in time to witness it. Now I’m already dreaming of the days getting longer again, of the chance for more sunrise starts that don’t involve chattering teeth and uncomfortably cold toes, of bare legs and warm skin. Today, somewhere right on the tip of my tongue, I got a small taste of that. Not much of it. But enough.

To put it in much simpler terms, today it felt like Spring.  

After a few weeks of wanting to hibernate, my mind has been whirring at full pelt again too. It’s still getting thrown off-kilter by everything that is so currently, distinctly abnormal in the world – getting snarled up, as it should, in how to respond to that. But I’ve felt other things slotting into place alongside. New-growing ideas. Stuff to take forward, moments to relish, plans to make, maps to unfurl at the edges. Plenty to celebrate and investigate, too: not least the active, imaginative output of so many people and initiatives right now.

Chief among the things to currently celebrate – and support – is this really ace anthology being put together by Rife Magazine. It’s edited by Nikesh Shukla: aka, the brains behind the fantastic essay collection The Good Immigrant, which really should be required reading now and forever. Stop reading this blog post and go order yourself a copy if you haven’t encountered it already. This new anthology will bring together twenty stories by young people about what it means to live in Britain today. Timely, huh?

Even more thrillingly my voice is going to be among them - and I can tell you that I’m going to be writing a veeeery personal essay. Mine will be appearing alongside some other people I massively respect, including Liv Little (ed-in-chief of the fabulous, fabulous gal-dem) and June Eric-Udorie (a wonderful writer, who’s also currently fundraising for BAME girls from low-income families to go to a screening of Hidden Figures. After buying The Good Immigrant, you could also throw some money towards her scheme here. Yes, I’m being bossy on my blog today, and I’m not even done yet…)

I want to highlight this for several reasons, beyond me being bloody excited to be a part of it. The main one is that the book will be coming out via Unbound (with a scheduled release date for early next year). For those unfamiliar with the format, Unbound allows books to be fully funded in advance by their prospective readers. You can pledge to support it here. Doing so will not only see twenty young people paid and given a platform for their words, but will also act as a resounding affirmation of the significance found in listening to this generation’s myriad voices, perspectives and experiences. I can promise that it’ll be an entertaining and enlightening read too. 

The second is that there’s still an open call for submissions from writers under the age of 24, which you can read more about here.

The third is that, once again, I take solace in the fact that this book will reflect just a fraction of all the young people currently speaking with honesty, empathy, wit, and anger; the young people putting politics into action, creating beautiful things, standing up to injustice, enabling change, and generally getting shit done. It’s always worth holding onto that, especially at the moment.

As I sat at my laptop this evening, thinking about this anthology, and these photos taken months ago, both suddenly reminded me of something else: this transcript of a speech Ali Smith gave in praise of the marvelous John Berger. I found it yesterday. It’s worth reading in full. More than that, it’s worth saving and returning to multiple times, dipping into the riches again and again. At the end Smith says this:

“in appreciation of him, I am and will be verbal: I see. I see in multiple ways. I veer towards that light in all the darknesses, real, historic, contemporary. And because of it, I will see. More, I will look. I will connect. I will co-respond. I will always know the life of dialogue. I will know the value of mystery, of not knowing. I will open. I will shout at the walls and the frontiers to break open. I will keep my nose open for the power-shit. If I despair, it’ll be with hope. I will attempt to pay, at all times, not just attention, but creative attention. I will love. And I will pass on, both to the past and the future, what generosity and gifts and sight and insight have been passed on to me, with love.”

This is a time of needing light – both symbolic and, sometimes, actual (for we all could do with the odd spell of sunshine to work its mood-quickening magic). A time of needing to see in multiple ways. To be generous, and receptive, and yes, always, to love. Occasionally, I think, to just sit by a window and stare out at the new flowers, relishing that new warmth in the air too.  

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