Monday, August 10, 2009

Things I once believed, including some I still might believe.

This is an idea I got from Alison McGhee's blog. I'm continually amazed with so much in blogging that this is all free, everyone just does it for the love of it, but never more so than when I visit there.

It's one of those places that I go where I never see anyone else I know, in fact I don't see many other visitors there anyway, which is not to say they aren't there, just that perhaps they don't comment. This would be fairly incomprehensible except that Alison is, I suppose, a writer first and a blogger second, so she doesn't really do it for the chitchat (though she frequently leaves very friendly, warm responses to comments left...). I imagine she does it because she simply can't stop herself writing wonderful things.

And when I say a writer, I mean a proper one, Pullitzer Prize nominated, stacks of awards, a pile of published books, for adults, young adults and children. But starstruck as I am by all that, that wasn't why I first went there, or why I read it now.

I'm sorry to say I didn't know of her before discovering her blog (and here I imagine some people, especially perhaps American readers or those with youngsters, rolling their eyes and saying 'What, never heard of Alison McGhee?'), and I did so quite by chance when I was doing an image search a little while ago for a photograph of wild strawberries to use in a painting to make a card for someone who liked the Bergman film of the same title, and she happened to have one, along with this post on the subject.

I go on reading there for the captivating, luminous magic of the writing. Which is filled with joy and love and humour and also piercingly sad and filled with loss in ways that most people can't or daren't get close to. She seems to be one of those people who vibrates on a different frequency from the rest of us, and who knows what to do with it, takes all the raw material of memory and imagination and experience, holds it and turns it into gold, or dreamstuff, or what you will.

And she likes dogs

I could go on, and on, but better to go over and read for yourself, and I'll get on and order some of her books. In response to a comment on her 'Things she once believed...' she suggested other people might like to write about things they used to believe, so I picked it up. It wasn't exactly a meme, but why not try it ?


Things I once believed, including some I still might believe.

That I was born at Sandy Bay.

That I would die when I was twenty, having been told by a friend that the dandelion juice I'd just licked off my hand was poison, but a very slow one. I wouldn't die today or tomorrow or soon, but probably...

That certain things I said or did were unforgiveable, and certain others weren't. Wrong on both counts.

That the bath salts we found in a jar by the bath really would taste like lemon snow, just like Kevin Palmer told me before I swallowed them.

That when my dad retired, we'd go and live in the country, and it would be like 'Jerry, the Story of an Exmoor Pony'

That certain things could be fixed, and I was just the girl to do it.

That eating flies gave cats worms.

That only stupid people are happy. This one still hangs around, mostly in a rather inverted way: I am frequently happy, ergo...

That talking, and straight talking, must always be a good thing.

That maybe I had a musical bone in my body.

That certain losses and disappointments must inevitably be terminal and irrecoverable.

That, having lost all that weight when life was awful, I wouldn't put it all back on and then some when life got better.

Things my sister's charming boyfriend told me, such as that his little sister was eaten by a giant spider to which she was feeding pieces of bread. He told me these things because we were not a family who indulged much in fibs and fantasy, so I was extremely gullible. Even so I think I was quite dubious about this one.

That I was cut out to be some kind of people person. That I was cut out to be some kind of recluse.

That we would not still be renovating this house twelve years after moving here. That if we were it would be some kind of shameful failure, or matter much.

That, through no effort on my part, life would begin for real some time in the future, or that the world would change in such a way as to find a place for me, and then ability, hope, motivation, willpower, and, of course, recognition, would all be mine.

That there was some use for the concept of Utopia.

That White Ted really did make his way back to me in Hertfordshire when I was ill, from the car park in Dorset where I'd dropped him.

That the box elder tree was a field maple.

That loving Tom was such a piece of egregious and undeserved good fortune that I could not possibly be allowed to hang on to it, and that he must, very soon, be taken away from me.

That, being last, I was always destined to be least.

That I could never be happier.


(In the end I made this kind of amalgam of a number of wild strawberry pictures, and only used Alison's as reference. No matter.)


Rouchswalwe said...

Wow. Would I ever like to sit down with you in person and share a mug of ale and conversation after reading that.

Lucy said...

Rouchswalwe, are you really a hobbit?

Rouchswalwe said...

Certain aspects of me character are quite hobbit-isch I've been told.

Rosie said...

As usual, you have set me thinking...but what I really want to know is what happened to White Ted ...

herhimnbryn said...

Firstly, thankyou for introducing me to another wonderful weaver of words.
Secondly, your list made me smile and nod my head in that way one does when recognising another person's experiences. Well, some of them ( I can't say I have ever eaten bath salts)

Like R. I wonder what happened to White Ted?

Zhoen said...

Oh, I love this blog idea.

And I'm off to visit your suggested writer...

Lucy said...

White Ted is one I don't mind expanding on. He was my first and really only ted, and came from my father's office, where he was part of some kind of promotional by the coal board (my dad was a haulier and also coal merchant), I guess to stress the idea of clean fuels?

He fell out of the car and was left behind on holiday in Lyme Regis, I think, much to my distress. Some time later I was ill abed, and they got hold of another one, and told me Ted had come back as he'd heard I was ill. My mum didn't tell me the truth till I was grown up.

As I said, we were not often indulged in comforting fibs and stories, they didn't approve of lying even in a good, or less an amusing, cause, so I was disposed to believe this. This may be a good thing about being habitually truthful, that on rare occasions when one does lie perhaps one is more likely to be believed. On the other hand you don't get the practice so it makes you a lousy liar!

Thanks for reading, and for visiting Alison's.

Meggie said...

I am so glad that they decided to lie to you about White Ted.
As usual a lovely read.

Barrett Bonden said...

It sounds as if the strawberries could have been listed under BOGOF.

Thank you for uncovering a huge subject which, in my unfailingly plagiaristic way, I intend to make use of. But thanks most of all for that early and heart-stoppingly poignant belief that "things could be fixed". Never has the difference between childhood and adulthood been so concisely put.

einbildungskraft said...

You write well too BTW.
Almost as exquistely as you photograph...

Plutarch said...

It seems to me that each of the things you believed but were not true deserves an essay in itself. Off to visit Alison now.

Anil P said...

Many of the reflections you noted made me think along similar lines.

In the innocence of a believing moment are to be found unbelievable things.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Meggie - well, I think it was for the best, if only because it made a little story! In fact I wasn't at all worried as I was quite grown up by then, and in fact only dimly remembered his ever being gone, and now I'm not sure if I really remembered it or if it was a reconstructed memory from being told about it...

BB - BOGOF I had to think about and google, then understood :~)
One of the beauties of blogging against purer art forms is that there is no shame in either plagiarism or repetition, after all, i nicked this from Alison. It seems to me I've repeated myself on the theme of the fixability of things; I've also learned that some things aren't as mortal and irreparable as I once thought they'd have to be. But learning that lesson was a long time after the end of biological childhood, and who knows if I really yet have? Like Epamynandos, it sometime seems we are doomed to keep applying the lessons we should have known the time before to the current situation, to which they may well not be appropriate; the lesson of history being history has no lessons... etc.

Einbildungskraft - thank you, and for visiting.

Plutarch - mm, not sure they all would. It seemed to me this post might be in danger of veering between the elliptical and the sel-pitying, which is perhaps a danger of too much looking back. Unless you're Proust, of course, or indeed Alison, or many others...

Anil - I suppose our feelings about our past tend to universals, even if the exact esperiences are different. Introducing an element of wonder is always to be recommended!

green ink said...

Oh my - you thought you'd been poisoned by flower juice as well! Me too! I was 17, walking around my parents garden after it had rained and pretending I was in a Midsummer Night's Dream....but afterwards I had to ring my grandmother (who'd planted the trumpet flower originally!) to check I wasn't going to die after I'd licked my hand....

As usual, you get me thinking :)

apprentice said...

The drawing is wonderful.

As to things I once believed in, some are probably better left as stones unturned.

Though sometimes I am amazed to think that the crabbit old bugger that is me was ever a slightly gullible girl.

I had my teddy until I was 40, a Stieff given to me at birth and one of the few things that survived the ups and downs of my life, and my mongrel ate its face off one night when we went out and left him. It still brings a tear to my eye.

The Crow said...

I was lost in your list, found a few that would be in my list, too.

Thank you for the pointer to Allison, whom I didn't know about, either. Spent some time while at work (feel a bit guilty - but not too much) reading through her blog and at her web site.

And thank you so much for the lovely painting of strawberries - so lovely, Lucy!


Avus said...

I am glad they lied to you about White Ted. My son, when very young, had a doll-sized Mickey Mouse (which for some unknown reason he called "Gogog"). He kept this until about 14, when my wife threw it away in a bedroom cleanup (it was under the bed with other rubbish). He has never forgiven her - such matter the things with which we grow up.

leslee said...

Wonderful! (Although, I have no idea what a "ted" is. Teddy bear??) Seem unable to write these days, but enjoyed this and had I any brain capacity whatsoever, this would be a fun exercise. Will also check out that writer's site.

Bee said...

I've read this through twice, and cannot think of something "worthy enough" to say about it . . . except that it has stuck in my mind quite a lot this week. Your writing always so much of interest in it.