Thursday, May 17, 2012

Letting go

Strangely for someone who gets sometimes debilitatingly stuck in remembering, I find the places I've lived in the past imaginatively arid. They feel like they're stuck under a coffee table and are beyond re-use. My experience growing up in George was so antipoetic that I find it hard to believe that South Africa provides imaginative wheat alongside the chaff. Aside from whatever JM Coetzee or Damon Galgut have gleaned. Or whatever Marilynne Robinson has sculpted from the Midwest. I'm sure I'm not alone in the embarrassment of one's birthplace. It's an inevitable part of weaning. But I am surprised and proved wrong.I came across the blog Letting Go by accident and I found it hard to believe that the writer is in a landscape I know well but have found unable to put into words.
The English have a long tradition of writing in the country. The words for English flowers and birds and insects and animals pervade literature. This is a common experience for postcolonial lovers of English literature, people who know about badgers better than their own dassies (rock rabbits). In South Africa the bluebottle is a small jellyfish no bigger than a 50p piece which floats on the afternoon tide. They come in menacing clusters and their stings are vicious. I've been told the aloes that grow on the beach act as ideal salves, though I have never been stung. When I read in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that Lucy saw a bluebottle on the ledge next to a Bible in the room where she found the wardrobe, I imagined a miniature Portuguese Man o'War dessicated and collapsed. It was an image out of place and still familiar, as though CS Lewis had come across a description of one in a dictionary and liked the exotic contrast it provided, the cobalt blue of stained glass windows in the dull room. Until I found out that the English bluebottle was a fly.
In reading Letting go, which is about much more than the South African flora and fauna, I realised that reflection is still possible in the southern hemisphere. That people find the just word for things in different landscapes. This gives me hope that those words will someday uncover themselves for me.

1 comment:

louisey said...

What a lovely post, so unexpected -- thank you