Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Invisible Rider

Some parents take their children to church.  We take ours on marches.

I love my garden.  I've been out in it, even just tiny bits of wedding and caterpillar squashing, almost every day this past fortnight.  I planted out seedlings of crimson kale. green kale and celery last weekend, and have packets of coriander and rocket ready to scatter this weekend.

In The Rushing Woman Syndrome, Libby Weaver talks about exposing ourselves to seratonin through daylight as soon as we get up.  This is supposed to have the effect of helping us start the day bright and full of energy.  I think it is helping.  We have blackout lining on our curtains (I like proper dark to sleep in and also it blocks the street lighting), so it's good to go outside as soon as I get up.  Even when it is raining, I can stand under the lean-to by the old shed and look at the chooks and my garden and greet the day.

Although I haven't dared ask my loved ones for accurate feedback, I think I am calmer than I was.  I'm certainly heaps calmer than in summer when the hyperthyroid symptoms were terrifying.  I didn't even have a tantrum when the photocopier persistently misbehaved at work today.

The fabric shop in town has 25% off everything.  Rumour is it is going to close down.  Although they don't sell the fabrics which I would love to wear, it does so happen that they have red stretch velvet for sale.  I can't decide which I fancy more - a red velvet Tiramisu dress, or a red velvet circle skirt.  I vaguely recall that velvet gives an enlarging illusion to the feminine silhouette, but really, red velvet is gorgeous, and I'm a post-fashion rules woman.

I recently read The Invisible Rider by Kirsten McDougall. It was good.  She has a considerable talent for capturing small details in compelling ways.  When reading this book, I wondered again at the world in which mothers of young children write.  It's a time which, for myself and many others and, I strongly suspect, McDougall, is both rather easy and wickedly difficult at the same time.  It's easy because there is job security (despite the fears which possess us when low on magnesium and sleep) in that mostly the children stay alive and still need their mother.  It's easy (until something changes it to make it not so) because despite the financial pressure, there is food on the table.  But it is difficult because finding yourself, your adult partner relationship and even a decent amount of sleep can be very very difficult with babies and toddlers.

I don't mean to be reductive to motherhood in commenting on this book.It's not even a book where mothering plays a central role.  But I think those challenges around identity and the blurring of love and work which reign in that period of mothering very young children does infuse this book.

When I read McDougall's book, I'm very conscious of her the author.  Why?  It's not like I've ever met her.  I think it is because she writes from a position of privilege (white, educated, financially stable) and she wants to get into something gritty and meaningful and what she has at her disposal is a considerable talent for observation and relaying that in brilliant imagery.  She instinctively writes about a sparse world, and please show me a New Zealand author, writing in a realism mode, who doesn't.  Cliche alert, but it really seems that there are still not that many people in this country and we are mostly inside our own heads in literature.  And why does this chafe at me in some way?  I suspect because if I were to write with the dedication that McDougall has (i.e. considerably more effort than shopping lists and the odd blog post), I might have similar strengths (though not, I would point out, necessarily as good as hers).  All this language rolling round my head, and no big story canvas to paint.  In the end, nice girl writes nice book.  Virginia Woolf made a great job of it, though I still can't finish Mrs Dalloway because all that nice girl observation just drives me nuts.  And she killed herself anyway, so I'm not of the opinion that being Virginia Woolf was great fun or even that satisfying.

Flip side:  who wants such a shitty life that it provides excellent grit and heft to a novel?  My hand is not up.  But, you know, grit.  Grit is good.


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