I'd been a little jaded and tired. I'd also been sucked into a virtual world where the online players purport to be your friends when in actual fact we're all just facades desperate to portray ourselves as something more than what we really are. I woke up and smelt the coffee elsewhere one day, and went cold turkey. Two weeks of sobriety later I can now turn on the Internet and only twitch slightly when the address shows in the toolbar.
The catalyst? It was a surprise actually. Though I read a great deal I wouldn't have imagined that a book could affect me so profoundly that it would invade my dreams, my psyche, and just nag away quietly, calling into question the very foundations that I've built my life upon.
Oh, I don't expect people to have the same epiphany from the same book. We're all different, after all, despite the homogeny of so called diverse interest groups. The book in question was by a much loved author, William Horwood, his first in fifteen years. I used to devour his books, there is a rare, beautiful and excoriating vein of sorrow that threads through them. And he got the idea of love as redemption way before JK. Rowling used it as a shield for Mr Potter.
So Hyddenworld. The book. It's a stately read. Leisurely, across it's 500 pages and there are parts which if I'm honest are more telling than showing with a little bit of slippage. Simple, evocative language. Themes that are familiar in many ways (I kept thinking of Borrowers more than Hobbits) and the magical boundaries of this country that I live in, England which I now wish to refer to forever as Englalond. Faithful attention to the legend of Imbolc.
The humans (and giant Hydden). Cast up on a shore of pain, yet moving forward in a voyage of self discovery. What really set this book apart for me was their depiction. We all know that some people are evil. However, in this book there were people who let life unfold for the beauty of it, and discovered joy and love without gratuitous description. I hadn't realise how much I wanted to read a book like this until I read it. It's...wholesome. But not in a preachy manner.
So I read this, and whilst my heart gave it five stars my head gave it four. Skallagrieg (by the same author) gets the perfect five.
Then the dreams started. Really powerful, peaceful dreams that begun the night I finished reading it. I won't go into the details, but it's like the first time you make love with someone, and I mean love - not sex. You can have the passion, the urgency of sex but there's something more, a connection that grabs you in the pit of the stomach and jumbles everything you thought you knew about everything but it really doesn't matter because you've found something real in a world of fakery.
The world spun a little, tumbled from its empty course and I began to think. Really think, about who I am and who I want to be. I sent off that PhD application (decision pending), I challenged the status quo at work. I made a second offer on a shack in the woods with falling down walls and a puddle underneath it, because I love the silver fish that play in the pool below (another decision pending!). I looked at my husband in a different way, the way I did when we first met and thought about what it was that I love. Why I love.
He says I've been different. Smiley, warm. More affectionate. Happy. I think he's right. I want to laugh again. We've been so bowed down with grief and responsibility that to move towards any sort of optimism is a bonus. I'm downscaling in some respects and focusing on what's actually become important. Discarding the superficiality of a sub-group that demonise their own for daring to be normal (I have always said, define normal....). I will stay on the fringes, happy in my own skin.
So new skin (literally, the blue on this blog skin matches the new paint on my study walls). New focus. If the things I'm seeking don't happen, then at least I've tried. I know I can make the decisions that matter.
I feel somewhat like self help manual with this post, gods help me that's not what it's meant to be. Merely an explanation of why I've been gone so long. There will be lows ahead; there always is but I hope I can look past them.
Thank you, Mr Horwood. Again. Now where are the next three volumes?
GD: star gazing, waiting for the phone to ring; listening to From Dreams and Angels by Abney Park; reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins