First of all Happy New Year to you all!
Doesn’t 2023 feel like a date from some futuristic science fiction novel. Amazingly it is now 55 years since 2001 A Space Odyssey was first screened in Ireland. Even more astonishing is that all of the futuristic ideas in it were from a book by Arthur C. Clarke written in the 1950s. I’m wondering what 2023 will have in store for us.
I am reflecting too on the writing and publishing adventure of my first book Solace. There are many reasons to write or create. For some of us it’s just part of everyday life. For a lot of artists, much of what we make lies at the bottom of drawers or in shrouded files on our old computers. Some of us found an online sharing method to mitigate that issue by becoming bloggers. I began this blog 12 years ago. Writing Solace wasn’t part of the plan I had then, it was prompted, two years ago, by a lovely publisher The O’Brien Press, the perfect fit for a meanderer like myself. I didn’t know what an adventure it would be. Now at the closing of a circle, my book Solace has grown up, left home and found somewhere else to live.
Something that I didn’t anticipate was that the publication of Solace would spark hope about the future and shine it right back at me. I had no idea that people would contact me and tell me how grief had impacted on them, or talk to me about their own creativity or connections to the natural world. Now when I meet people I sometimes ask them to simply “tell me all about you?”
These chats are a continuation of the conversation opened up by the book. Most of us who lost parents at young age, have years of silence in common. We have no one to tell as we are no longer children but adults with lost childhoods. I loved and embraced every opportunity to hear about other forgotten children, not abused or ill treated, just abandoned by a parent at a young age.
Writing the book in the middle of the pandemic I was aware that many people were in a dark place. Our own family had lost its oldest member to Covid and the first part of the book oozes that pandemic love affair with the outer landscape, nature and the beauty of that first Spring. Underneath there was also some despair about the loss of biodiversity. Feeling my way through the biodiversity crisis in the book was a much tougher challenge.
Don’t lecture, scold or cry I told myself. Write to include. Write to open up the subject gently. When I wanted to rant I instead stood still and wondered. I hoped I could touch hearts more than anything else; softly, simply, with understanding. But at the same time, I wanted to end the book with some reality, with that uncertain future spread out before us. I know I wept as I finished the book. I had just discovered the word ‘solastalgia” meaning a fear of losing nature.
So the book was published last September and at first I was totally discombobulated about the challenges; a launch, promotion, social media. Then readers began to respond with their stories, questions, and with such warmth. Around me came all these signs of understanding from readers, other writers, artists, farmers. Connecting with the others who care about these things has given me hope. Because I realised it wasn’t just me. Mark Roper launched his exquisite book of nature poems, Beyond Stillness, Jennie Castle shared her 365 diary of drawings from nature, Margaret O’Brien releasing her book The Weather Report a 90 day journal for reflection and well being. And there were many more too!
And all of this awareness, connection and beauty lifted my spirits.
Going into 2023 I still feel the uncertainty, the solastalgia, the mystery of it all, but there’s a huge dollop of hope too! I’m sensing that human creativity is turning more in the direction of what is needed. For now I am welcoming all of that with open arms. So my word for this year will be HOPE.
I hope as they say, that it keeps fine for us.