I was sitting at the wooden table under the rectangular green parasol on our narrow brick-paved front terrace, late the other afternoon, when it was warm and sunny.
I had drunk a glass of rosé and had been reading Hannah Green's 'Little Saint' (recommended). I was observing the goldfinches around the tree just across the way; another pair or another brood, but they clearly are still nesting, unless it's just the parent birds enjoying each other's company around the old place now the youngsters have flown.
I thought of how very small their nest must be, and how miraculous it is that a whole handful of fully fledged birds could spread their wings wide enough to carry them through the air in every direction, each one a discrete creature, from so tiny a container, just as it was marvellous that as hatchlings they had unfolded themselves from the diminutive confines of their eggs, living beings emerging from a space apparently impossibly too small. And about how birds, and the smaller they are the more it seems to be so, are concentrated kernels of life force and energy, seeming to contain a power and vitality denser than most of the world around them.
I thought about how ideas, ours, God's, could be like that, and I just felt as if I was on the edge of something. I was dizzy with joy and wonder of the moment, one of those when everything seems complete and as it should be, and the surrounding sounds and air and light seem to form a harmonious whole.
If I could just catch that slant of light, I thought, the way things are appearing now, 'point the word camera' just so... and I fetched pen and paper.
Away to my left down the village street were voices, a dog barking, then answering barks from up the road... at first this was fine, something the virtuoso balancing act of the moment could sustain, like a patch of obscurity or confusion or movement, a patch of dappled shade, in the composition of a picture which adds interest, dynamic, rather than distraction. But as I started catching words and phrases as my neighbour's brothers got into their cars and drove off, and as she came out of her garden and her dog and mine started to shout their protest and welcome respectively, it became apparent that the perfect composition I had, as I perceived it, stumbled upon, was disintegrating.
I brought out another chair and she joined me.
Ten minutes later, my Man from Porlock left, having refused the glass of wine a second one of which might have mitigated the interruption for me. I picked up the pen and looked at the line or two I had written; it looked banal and pointless. The light had shifted, clouded over, the objects looked flat and formless and without interest. I went in to start preparing dinner.
However, you can return, but pan out, away from the need for immediacy, from the bright illumination which seemed to offer so much but might only have been garish, over-coloured, pretentious. Use a different setting, past tense mode, take a wider shot, include more background detail, take your time, rearrange the objects a little even, no one will know if you're careful. Make a different picture, perhaps even a better one.
( My thanks, again, to Tall Girl for the phrase and the idea 'point the word camera', sorry, I can't remember which post...!)
The Back Story - A Magpie Tale
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