Thursday, 29 September 2016

Out of Patience and Searching

I feel a need to slow down, to rest. To continue my ongoing search, of course—for my Self, for meaning, for stories, for life amidst my sometimes non-life—but to do so slowly, with patience. 

It frustrates me that there is so much I could do, yet at the moment there is not enough energy to do even half of it. I have no choice but to go steadily, to let life and the creative process take me where they need me to go, at a pace that I can keep up with.

This past week I’ve been heartened by rereading Jeanette Winterson’s Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery (1995). I first started reading Winterson’s work when I was a teenager, and I admit, I did not fully understand her then, though I was certainly beguiled; now, older and a little wiser, with much more reading behind me, I do understand her better (though not perfectly, I am sure), and I love her work all the more. 

Initially, what drew me in were the fantastical elements of her stories, which, nonetheless, I would not have described as ‘fantasy’ in the usual sense. To me it seemed more like she had taken reality and skewed it sideways slightly, so that the impossible suddenly became possible. As she writes in Art Objects, ‘I wanted to create an imaginative reality sufficiently at odds with our daily reality to startle us out of it’ (188). I think this is, perhaps, one of the things that the best books do: they startle us into seeing our own reality with different eyes, with greater intensity, and our imagination kicks in, allowing us to believe in and dwell in other worlds.

Reading Winterson is something of a challenge—I often feel like a tiny intellectual minnow to her grand Salmon of Knowledge—but it is worth the effort. Art Objects, especially, is replete with insight and wisdom, so much so that I have typed out almost nine pages worth of quotes for future reference! 

I particularly identify with Winterson’s approach to life. She says:

I like to live slowly. Modern life is too fast for me. That may be because I was brought up without the go-faster gadgets of science, and now that I can afford them, see no virtues in filling the day with car rides, plane rides, mobile phones, computer communications.
If you deal in real things, those things have a pace of their own that haste cannot impose upon. The garden I cultivate, the vegetables I grow, the wood I have to chop, the coal I have to fetch, the way I cook, (casseroles), the way I shop, (little and often), the time it takes to read a book, to listen to music, the time it takes to write a book, none of those things can happen in microwave moments. I am told that the values I hold and the way I live are anachronisms paid for by my privilege. It is a privilege to make books that people want to read but why would it be more appropriate, less anachronistic, for me to spend the money I earn on a flashy lifestyle instead of funding my own peace and quiet? (158–159)

Remember that she was writing this in the early- to mid-1990s, before mobile phones, the Internet and all the other technologies we take for granted had become as ubiquitous as they are today, and therefore I believe she was, and remains, a woman ahead of her time in striving after a way of life that is real and nourishing, yet to so many seems ‘behind the times’. In some ways I could describe her, and her writing, as being outside of time. If you have read her books, you will know what I mean, for she often plays with time; also, as she has said, in stories, whilst writing them and reading them, time as we know it ceases to exist. It is clear that Jeanette Winterson knows what is important, necessary to life, and necessary to the making of art: peace and quiet; a lack of haste.

I need this peace and quiet for myself, this slow pace, for I often have a tendency to rush rush rush, and it does me no good, physically or mentally. (Does it do anyone any good?) Though don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what technology, in particular the Internet, has given me—information at my fingertips, connections with people near and far, and the opportunity to share my work publicly, by blogging. Yet, sometimes I long for a return to a pre-Internet, pre-technological life, in which I would have more time, and would use it more wisely, forming a better relationship with the world around me. In which there would be less distraction, less digital/virtual intrusion into physical reality and my own imaginative realms. That day may yet come (whether through my own choice, or by technological collapse), but for now I must find my own ways to live with less haste, to use my time (and energy) wisely, and to walk the creative path with patience and trust. 

Life takes time. Art takes time. I must be patient.

Winterson writes:

My work is rooted in silence. It grows out of deep beds of contemplation, where words, which are living things, can form and re-form into new wholes. What is visible, the finished books, are underpinned by the fertility of uncounted hours. A writer has no use for the clock. A writer lives in an infinity of days, time without end, ploughed under. 
It is sometimes necessary to be silent for months before the central image of a book can occur. I do not write every day, I read every day, think every day, work in the garden every day, and recognise in nature the same slow complicity. The same inevitability. The moment will arrive, always it does, it can be predicted but it cannot be demanded. I do not think of this as inspiration. I think of it as readiness. A writer lives in a constant state of readiness. For me, the fragments of the image I seek are stellar; they beguile me, as stars do, I seek to describe them, to interpret them, but I cannot possess them, they are too far away. At last and for no straightforward reason, but out of patience and searching, I find that what was remote is in my hands. Still uncut, unworked, but present. (169–170)

I am going to take some advice from this, to invite silence in, and pursue Nature’s Time in favour of clock time. To live by the slowness and rightness of the turning seasons, the sun and the moon, and my own internal seasons and cycles. To read and think every day, and to spend time outside, walking or just sitting in the garden, watching the birds and insects and newly emerged skinks, listening to the living, speaking Earth around me. Trying, as much as possible, to remain in a state of readiness, so that out of patience and searching, what I seek will at last arrive glimmering in my hands. 


  1. -happy sigh-

    Beautiful post.

    Thank you.

    May we all absorb such wisdom. Learn to follow the cycles of nature, rather than those dictated, by our ridiculous-rushing-world.

    Peaceful blessings,
    Luna Crone

    1. Thank you, Luna. It's a challenge, isn't it? Going our own way instead of always being controlled by the artificial ways of the world. I hope I am up to it.

  2. From your comment; "What we need to remember is that all we are is inside of us." on my post...

    Oh yes, especially as we age, we need to "dwell inside," as it were. The young, pretty 'shell' is no more. By then, let's hope we have been working on "the inside." :-)

    It will carry us, into Croon-hood.

    So lovely to have found others, who have a deeper vision! To help me, on my way, to deeper vision.

    Gentle Autumn hugs,
    Luna Crone


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