New beginnings

This article is based om my last Cowbird post. It seems like a good way to bridge my presence on two platforms: one I have loved, and one I hope to feel at home on very soon.

I am a writer, always have been. Language is my tool, my means of weaving a spell, of throwing a pebble in the Universe’s pond. If such a thing as reincarnation exists, you will find anonymous traces of me in Ancient Egypt’s hieroglyphs, in a medieval monastery’s scriptorium and in any other profession that worked with language, communication or print. There’s probably also something with temples, rituals and living in the forest or on some mountain top or other. I have a thing with caves, with trees, with places that were once sacred or that bear the traces of a very potent moment in time.

I weave echoes of all these things into the web of my life and my craft. I often feel blessed to be able to live this way.

But that doesn’t mean things have always been easy. Even though writing is my vocation, almost every book I have managed to publish up to now has been a struggle. Not the writing of it, but the part where I had to get it out into the world. Mine is definitely not the story of the youthful prodigy recognized, celebrated and widely published, nor that of the ambitious-yet-tormented artist ready to mount any available pub table to recite her verse. Quite the contrary: I have cowered away in corners and at times I have felt more like J.K. Rowling toiling away in poverty at a book she wasn’t sure anyone would ever publish but she feverishly believed in nonetheless. Except that I haven’t written anything resembling Harry Potter, either in style or popularity… ;-)

Okay, enter the truckload of disclaimers: I’m not poor, I have a family I love, I do have some books to my name and I’m currently employed as a journalist for a paper that has me write in-depth articles about topics that matter to me. Life could definitely be so much worse.

But when it comes to this immense inner source that craves poetic depth and spiritual significance, carrying stories that reach out way beyond the cheap chatter of the day, for most of my life I have had the experience of swimming upstream. There was endless rejection, followed by some sort of recognition, at times publication, even praise and something resembling stepping out into the open for a brief moment — after which the buds closed prematurely and the cycle returned to phase one.

Perhaps I was not quite ready to reach out. Perhaps I and the world were ‘separate’ (Suzanne Vega!). It doesn’t matter. I have returned to my desk again and again, and I have toiled on. Because I felt I needed to. Because this was the one place I wanted to be. I have learned to be grateful for the experience: it has made me a long-distance athlete instead of a hipster craving a quick fix.

But of course, at the horizon there is a dream pulling one on. Of being published and celebrated, is what I used to think. Now I know that doesn’t cover it at all. Quite the contrary: it’s about allowing my work to flow freely, in all honesty, wherever it happens to be headed. Even if I don’t immediately understand where that is.

Isn’t that a shaman’s job, after all: to process that which wants to come into the world, with the necessary wisdom to facilitate the transaction, but without judging its nature or holding it back?

They say you only get the things you really want when you have let go of them completely. Somewhere in the course of last year I abandoned all pretense of becoming an ‘author’, seeing it for the dear illusion I had made it out to be. Instead I focused on what it was I really wanted to bring into the world.

Since that moment, things have started to shift significantly.

I have teamed up with Jurgen Walschot, a talented illustrator who sought me out for collaboration, much to my initial surprise. We have known each other for seven years, lost track of each other, bumped into one another again (once almost literally), and voiced our interest in working together. We’ve creatively circled each other for the better part of two years, carefully exploring our common ground but still holding back, not knowing whether to trust this strange mutual creative attraction, or how to work with it if we did.

But magic has its own way of weaving spells, and in a flash of recognition I offered him my most ambitious manuscript, a literary novel drawing heavily on Egyptian and Christian mythology — not the kind of work you would ever consider making artwork for. He fell for it, however, embraced it intuitively, and despite all our fears and doubts we decided to dive headlong into it.

I hope to post fragments of our book, titled The Book of Seth, here in the future, but the first joint project we decided to share with the world is an idea that only came later, a gust of playfulness that wanted to surface in between everything else.

We call them ‘saplings’: sprouts reaching for the light, small and modest, yet aspiring to grow tall.

The very first one of the Sapling series is Komorebi, a poetic seed that served as a milestone, introducing this beautiful, magical collaboration we have finally fully embraced for all the world to see.

In order to be able to reach this point I have had to shed the cloaks I used to hide myself under.

Now, after swimming against the current for so long, I finally have the feeling it is embracing me — and pushing me on.

SAPLING #1

Komorebi*

© Jurgen Walschot

I hear your voice, but I cannot see you.
Your words are too bright to behold.

Take me by the hand, shroud the glow, shield me.
I will not ask you to paint things prettier than they are. There is no room for lies in this claire-obscure that tenderly, mercilessly, line by line, draws us out.

How insignificant the hairs on my arm. How sharp the scent of old wood and moss.

Perhaps the forest has understood from the beginning, and the truth is simply too painful to face. To stare into the sun is to go blind.

If we perceive it, it is only through a membrane of mercy, a filter willing to spare us and that, by the time it has reached the ground to pin down all rustling echoes under a gilded coat of silence, will make us feel we are being caressed.

I hear your voice. Your story is reaching for me.
If I stretch out my hand, I can touch it.

(* komorebi (Japanese): the quality of sunlight filtered through a canopy)