Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Where to Start ?
I have been thinking of writing a book about the Adventure Playground. Perhaps it's more an essay as I want to include my opinion. I'm inspired by John Berger's writing, specifically his book A Fortunate Man. I'm resisting the urge to paste a hyperlink here, as old fashioned books cannot leap to Wikipedia to allow someone else to fill in the gaps. Old fashioned books are more contained within their pages. Ideas flow out of them and into the world but they use the brains of people rather than electrical wires to find their pathways into the world. Berger's book follows a period in the life of Sassal, a country doctor who was inspired by Conrad's talk of the sea and notions of being the captain of his own life to become a well qualified and competent local practitioner; the only intellectual in the village, the accepted outsider. Sassal is fortunate as, according to Berger he has found a satisfactory reason to get out of bed in the morning. He relies on skill, science and an astute practicality crafted over years of experience. Yet his commitment to his community and therefore to a great extent his value is drawn from more than a relationship to the physical entropy of bodies aging or injured by exposure to hostile worlds. Sassal is fortunate in that he lived within a time and a place where, regardless of the hardships people faced, he could carve out a space of value, a space of usefulness and personal mastery.
Berger is a writer who treads his own path, his works range widely yet at the back of them is a commitment to looking and an instinctive storytelling. Stories hold truth in a different way to histories or descriptive anthropologies. The truth of stories often remains in the woods, down the deep paths, in the isolated cabins of Thoreau's Walden or among the carnage of Ash's The Evil Dead or Little Red Riding Hood's grandma's cabin in the woods. In the opening few pages of A Fortunate Man Berger describes Sassal's visit to an elderly woman with heart failure,
English autumn mornings are often like mornings nowhere else in the world. The air is cold. The floorboards are cold. It is perhaps this coldness which sharpens the tang of the hot cup of tea. Outside, steps on the gravel crunch a little more loudly than a month ago because of a very light frost. And on the block of butter, grains of toast from the last impatient knife. Outside, there is sunlight which is simultaneously soft and very precise. Every leaf of every tree seems separate.
This deep description is more reminiscent of Haiku than conventional prose yet the familiarity of the morning highlighting what we have in common yet drawing us towards a sense of isolation and separation allows us to see the story of Sassal and his patients within their landscape. It is neither metaphor nor context rather it is a sense of place where a real story, however fictitious or personal, can take place.
So can I write like Berger? Can I be a fortunate man like Sassal and for a moment at least find a place where I can value myself and be of value? This is the intention of this project. Today is nothing special, there is no crispness to the air or to the light. The city has it's grayness, the streets are still damp from early morning drizzle, there are no special noises underfoot that the Foley expert could conjure for the radio play yet it is the day I start to write, the day I attempt to make some kind of sense of this project that I have carefully constructed to make some kind of sense of the chaos that calls itself a vocation. The leaves on the trees do not feel separate, every leaf feels either dead or emerging from a curled up bud. Spring is waiting to surprise us but it's not in these words or outside my window.