Usually I can’t wait to fling open the windows in the morning and get that first hit of cool dewy eucalyptus infused air, but fires are still raging across Victoria and the windows must stay shut for now. This summer has been a ferocious and erratic one. The tender herbs and vegetables have dried up into wizened crisps, the soft little berries didn’t stand a chance. The only things flourishing now are the ones with thick skins, swarthy skinned tomatoes, watermelons, zucchini, passionfruit. Such is life. A thick skin has served me well too.
Just the other day, I noticed that we had pennants hanging in our playroom, medieval looking Bhutanese prayer flags fluttering in the gum trees, raw silk banners hanging from the window frames, even the labels of our Cable Car Estate wine has a colourful bunting motif that I painted with watercolours.
Perhaps I have subconsciously populated my house with them, because of the metaphor at the heart of one of my favourite pieces of writing, by Jean Dominique Bauby, who was paralysed completely save for his left eye, and laboriously dictated an entire, extraordinary, astoundingly beautiful novel, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”, through blinking the alphabet hundreds of thousands of times.
He wrote a passage about the letters that he received during his long convalescence, which I’ve never forgotten, not only because of it’s unvarnished, austere beauty but also knowing the painstaking process that governed the creation of each word.
“I receive remarkable letters. They are opened for me, unfolded, and spread out before my eyes in a daily ritual that gives the arrival of the mail the character of a hushed and holy ceremony. I carefully read each letter myself. Some of them are serious in tone, discussing the meaning of life, invoking the supremacy of the soul, the mystery of every existence…
“Other letters simply relate the small events that punctuate the passage of time: roses picked at dusk, the laziness of a rainy Sunday, a child crying himself to sleep. Capturing the moment, these small slices of life, these small gusts of happiness, move me more deeply than all the rest.
A couple of lines or eight pages, a Middle Eastern stamp or a suburban postmark…I hoard all these letters like treasure. One day I hope to fasten them end to end in a half-mile streamer, to float in the wind like a banner raised to the glory of friendship. It will keep the vultures at bay.” – Jean-Dominique Bauby
So many of my friends, acquaintances, and even people I have never met before, have written to me in the past month since my last blog post, sending me messages of encouragement and support. Sometimes the most prosaic words are the most touching. Thank you all, especially Robb, Pauline, Deirdre, Lisa Tainton, Tony Paul, Tanya Highfield and many more.
I think of my own half-mile friendship banner often, gusting valiantly while the winds of life blow fiercely, at other times, a gentle ripple in a calm breeze, and I know that I am loved. Thank you.