“Always remember that there’s an old people’s home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity. That’s what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people.” Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Profound Thought no 8: If you forget the future you lose the present.
Everyone’s Everest is different. Some people tackle staggeringly steep climbs, fraught with dangers that make me tremble to imagine. Others have routes that seem unfairly easy. But personal Everests change. Some changes we choose. Some we do not.
Last year, I went to a talk given by a woman who’d chosen to climb Everest. The real one. Well, to base camp, which to my way of thinking may as well be the top. The reason she and several other dozen ordinary women chose that journey was to raise awareness about the oppression of women in many parts of the world. You can read about them on their blog in the link below. Becky’s story touched my heart and is one I have thought of many times since I heard her tell it. After all the preparation and hard work, and with the goal in sight, altitude sickness took hold and she had to stop. She was devastated. Bitterly disappointed beyond words. As she prayed through her heartbreak, she began to understand that she had climbed as far as her journey of faith was meant to take her.
Becky’s story made me think of my parents. My dad died when he was 48, ending a new journey he and my mum had barely begun together. In no more time than it takes a heartbeat to stand still, the course of the remainder of my mum’s life, as well as the continuing courses of the lives of me and my siblings, were altered. It took me some time to learn that precisely because of the Everest I hadn’t chosen, it became even more important to climb those I had. If the Everest of the old people’s home that Muriel Barbery writes about lies in my future, it’s one I will climb at that point. Until then, I choose to climb as many optional Everests as I am able. And I will reach the summit of one such climb tomorrow when I press the ‘publish ebook’ button for my first novel. Once it appears on Amazon (and I will tell you when it’s there!), whether or not anyone chooses to buy it and then go on to read it, is beyond my control. I will be thrilled if anyone does. An Everest I didn’t choose has shaped the way I take every step I have the privilege of still choosing. I pray I will remember that until each particular climb has taken me as far as it was meant.
“I don’t believe in things like that – fairies or brownies or magic or anything. It’s old-fashioned.’
‘Well, we must be jolly old-fashioned then,’ said Bessie. ‘Because we not only believe in the Faraway Tree and love our funny friends there, but we go to see them too – and we visit the lands at the top of the Tree as well!”
― Enid Blyton, The Folk of the Faraway Tree
When I was nine, I was taken to visit some of my dad’s elderly relatives who lived on a farm. I remember settling on the settee, prepared to amuse myself (because no way were any of the old people going to be even vaguely interesting) by seeing just how many biscuits I could manage to eat before anyone noticed it was more than two. Was I in for a surprise! I’m not talking about the surprise I got when the Collie pup sat on my feet and emptied its bladder all over my new white socks (to this day, I get twitchy if a dog shows any sort of interest in my shoe region), I mean the surprise I got from what one of the very old people said. That surprise was a shock, bigger than the puppy kind; it was a shock of deflecting-from-surreptitious-biscuit-eating proportions. How could someone who was obviously at least one hundred and fifty seven-ish years old claim to feel no older than seventeen on the inside? Surely wrinkles and white hair said everything you needed to know about who somebody was? (Remember wrinkles and white hair? Loads of people used to have them.)
The eve of my tenth birthday was a watershed. I stayed awake as long as I could, because surely a fanfare of angelic voices would mark the moment where the universe saw me slip from single to double figures? After all, no one can be a grown up with just one number to their name, no matter how many fractions that single-number-person adds. Nine and three quarter years old just doesn’t have the kudos of ten. And I desperately wanted to be ten. Grown up. I woke up being ten and feeling the same as I did when I was nine and three quarters. Maybe I’d got it wrong? Maybe the moment of magic would fall from the heavens when I turned into a teenager; maybe that’s when I’d suddenly feel like an adult? What do you think happened as my biological clock struck thirteen? Fanfare? No fanfare? So, I continued to read books about ponies and pixies alongside Thomas Hardy and Dickens and waited for the dawning of adulthood.
On the eve of birthdays, I no longer strain my ears for fanfares. Now I let numbers slip past whilst the me that is me stays me. Yes, it’s a me that has seen more, learned more, travelled more, laughed more, cried more. Made more mistakes. Read more books. The same me who knows more than I used to. Like the fact that the universe doesn’t need to sing just because I got a day older. It sings every day. And, even on the days when white hair and wrinkles conspire to turn me into a liar, my number is not who I am and it doesn’t tell me what I can read. What I can write. Or who can read what I write.
Anyone who ever wanted to be in Gryffindor
Anyone who ever fell in love with Edward Cullen
Anyone who ever wanted to climb the Faraway Tree
Anyone who wanted to meet the Gruffalo
Anyone who ever wanted a tiger to come to tea
Anyone who ever wanted to rescue Jane from Lowood
Anyone who ever wanted to be
Anyone who ever wished they could fly
Wished they could do magic
Wished a book would never end.
Anyone who ever wanted.
Anyone who ever wished.
Anyone who wants to join me …
Creating worlds where anything can happen … mixed media by Julia Lund
I’m a visual soul. When I write, I see everything as though I were watching a film. I also hear dialogue as I write it, pick up the background noise, smell the coffee my characters drink, as well as taste it, and feel what their fingertips touch.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts or ‘about’ pages, you’ll have picked up that I’m new to the wonders of technology, having spent the past few years concentrating on writing (i.e. word processing and using Google for research). January 2014 saw that begin to change. In February 2014, my voyage into technology continues. Who knows where it will lead? For starters, how about venturing (adventuring?) into the world of Pinterest where I have created a mood board for my upcoming novel? I’d love to know what you think …