Hi! So, I’ve started a little vlog account on instagram where I talk about writing and reading. The vlogs will act as a kind of extension of this blog, so if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can follow me @noorlikeswords on instagram. I’d love to see you there ~
There’s a kind of barrier that exists between me and nature. I feel it even though I live in a generally quiet area. From beyond my balcony there are hills and mountains, and on clear days you can even see the gleam of the Dead Sea. I myself am deeply connected to nature, and find that it follows me everywhere: it comes up in my writing, my photography, even my dreams. In times of distress, I close my eyes and imagine certain landscapes to calm me down. Sometimes I’m on a green cliff and the wind is blowing hard; other times I’m lying on my back on a white shore and the water is baby blue and the sun is silver. Still, though, in spite of all this, I feel that barrier.
I think maybe being around man-made things for so long can make us cold to the natural world. We can feel like we’re above it. We can even begin to fear it. Today I came across an expanse of farmland, golden fields that rolled and unraveled into the city. The white stones of the metropolis were hazy in the distance, and at the farthest point of the horizon stood those two, familiar towers. It was special, to say the least, so I grabbed my camera and went.
But not too far.
What I wanted to do, deep down, was keep wading through the grasses until they brushed against my hips; I wanted to crouch down like a preying lioness and grab shots of the city through the stalks of wheat. Instead, I stayed relatively near the edge of the field. I thought of insects, of allergic reactions, of the time my brother-in-law was bitten by a snake because he hadn’t worn his protective boots on his farm. I remembered my father, warning me about all the things that lurk.
And so I stayed put. I used the zoom on my camera lens and kept a safe distance from the thing that makes me feel most alive.
There are layers and layers of anxiety that stop me from really throwing myself into nature, but I think for the sake of my art and for the well-being of my heart, I need to start breaking those barriers down. I need to feel bugs tickle my feet and splash in the wind and feel the sun and get sand in my shoe. I need to leave the politics of being a member of society behind and go back to the start, to the mud and clay, and to the God who created it all.
So, I realize that I’m not the best blogger, and I guess it’s because I’m not really used to talking about my projects publicly. Usually when I write, I keep my ideas close to my chest and work silently until I have something of substance to share. But I do want to get into the habit of documenting my process and hopefully inspire some kind of readership, so here goes nothing…
I’m currently working on a novella for my university graduation project, now tentatively titled The Safe Place. The book follows the story of Rona, a young girl who has lived her entire life in the woods. The only person she has ever had contact with is Anne, an older woman who is something like a mother or an older sister to her. Rona loves Anne deeply — more than she loves herself — so it is quite jarring when she wakes up one morning and finds that Anne is gone. All she has left behind is a note, telling Rona that she has ‘gone to the sea’ and that Rona ought to meet her there.
Rona is terrified of leaving their little clearing in the woods, but she is even more terrified of being without Anne, and so for the first time in her life she must venture out beyond the thicket of trees that encircle their cottage and venture out into the world.
The novella is separated into four chapters: The Clearing, The Woods, The Town, and The Sea. Each chapter presents its own unique challenges for Rona, and though her journey is riddled with uncertainty, one thing is for sure: she will never be the same.
Doesn’t that sound interesting and magical and fun? I know, I think so too! Anyways, I’m planning on posting some excerpts soon, so don’t stray too far, okay?
See you soon.
My whole life I felt odd among my people. I didn’t fit. I didn’t agree with them. There came a time, even, when I was sure I hated them. This feeling got so intense that eventually I took my things and moved up north, where the rain was heavy and there was no one to argue with. All my life I thought turning my back on my people would be easy. And then he came: the man dressed in the cloud.
It was raining that day. I sat at the foot of a cave with my dress over my knees and listened to the raindrops – the stones – ringing off the mountains like music. As the song played, I saw something shifting nearby. Lines drawn in the shape of a body. It was a man, dressed entirely in a white and puffed up suit, like a cloud. He looked towards me and the face behind his glass orb washed with shock. Carefully, he raised a hand and moved it. Side to side.
I paused. I waved back.
He told me he was from Earth, and asked me if I had ever heard of it. I said no. He asked if it always rained like this. I said yes. He laughed and shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe it. He said that the rain on Earth wasn’t solid like this. It came down in droplets of water, not stones. With a gloved hand, he picked up a stray raindrop.
“Do you know what we call these stones back on Earth? Diamonds. They’re very valuable. People have killed each other over them.”
“Killed?” I asked, a little shocked. It seemed a bit excessive to kill each other over stones, whether they fell from the sky or not. But the man only nodded.
“Mm, they kill over just about anything on Earth. Sometimes I think I took this job just to get away from it all.”
These words would echo in my head in the days to come. The man stayed for three, throughout which he told me all about Earth and its people. He told me about green grass and blue sky. It sounded beautiful, and I thought about asking to go with him. But I didn’t. For some reason, I didn’t.
On the day that he was leaving, I watched as he readied his ship. He was putting his things away, and among them was a small, clear bag of raindrops. Of diamonds.
They kill over just about anything on Earth.
Uneasy, I told him that I didn’t think it was a good idea to take the diamonds back with him. His people would no doubt come back for more, wouldn’t they? They may even bring violence, or war. He told me that they wouldn’t. I told him to promise me that they wouldn’t.
He couldn’t do it.
Still, he was refusing to leave without them. I reached over and tried to take them from him, but he shoved me to the ground. He told me he was sorry and, strangely enough, he looked it too. As he moved towards his ship to leave, I imagined otherworldly men fighting over the rain. I pictured my family – my mother and siblings in the south – getting caught in the crossfire. I pictured clouds forming over the villages. All laced with red.
These images were so frightening, that all at once I found myself with a leg at either side of the man’s body, gripping a rock in my strong hand. With all my force, I came down on him. I broke his glass head and I broke his real head, too.
As he bled, I sat beside his body and shivered. It began to rain again, and as the stones filled the valley with song once more, I thought: maybe it’s time to go home.
I could sleep and wake up
and you might be here
I could sleep and wake up
and you may not
either way the sleep will be hopeful
I’ll hug myself like a girl
and touch the sign on my wrist
and try not to wait for the bed springs to quake.
When I was sitting with my legs under me in the grass, covered in a shiver with the wind at my neck, I was at first confused. How did it find me? And how could it have overcome me so quickly, and quietly? I put the heel of my palm to my head and rubbed it furiously. There was a voiceless, unbelieving sob (my own) as I asked—
And then as it all gathered, I began to remember. He had been planning this for days. He had been there. I remember. I should have known.
Perhaps I did.
I remember the green glow at the edge of the window, and as I lay in the dark I felt lulled by it. It was like a lighthouse, fading, and I was meant to close my eyes before it had a chance to swing back again. I was meant to. I would have outsmarted it. I would have evaded it.
And then in the evening, when I was with the others, I tore and aligned twigs in straight rows as they spoke of their nights, nights they kept in lockets at their breasts. I pulled up my collar. I could not speak.
In the morning when I woke and went to fetch the water, I found myself led far from the path of the house. I was down a divergence on ground that has since been grown with green, and the blades of grass gave shocked, silent gasps as I broke their spines. The sky was gray like ash and I could see its glow from behind a tree. It throbbed, and I placed the water down and walked towards it—all on my own, too. It took me by the waist.
It was not pleasant and yet not unpleasant. I did not push it off, and when it lined my jaw with its green fingers I let it. It did not last, but it happened more than once so it must have taken a while.
And then it lifted off of me, swirled high into the tree and watched me lying on the floor, with my arm over my eyes and my heels in the dirt and a scream in my throat. I took the water pail and lunged it at the tree, but it splattered back and made mud at my feet and on my hem.
I breathed heavy and hot. The sky rumbled. There would be rain.
I walked away, determined and pulling my hair back and up and tying it with a steadfast flick of my ribbon. I made my way back down the path, walking around the grasses and trying to ignore the corpses of the blades I had crushed. The clouds rolled. I went home and, in my fever of determination, fell fast asleep with my hand against my cheek.
I woke normally at first, stirring in the dark of the clouds. Still no rain. But I could smell it. I meant to sit up — really I did. I meant to sit up and retie my hair and go fetch fresh water for my face, but there was a whispering at my back, and from the corner of my eye I could see the glow behind me. It was pulling at my ribbon, my hair was falling out. I turned to face it.
Its glow was frightening and endlessly moving, like sick steam. It wrapped around my waist and I breathed it in, until it reached the end of my lungs. It was still swirling when I turned around again and bit the edge of my pillow. My chest was burning.
“Be gone, be gone—”
But it would not go unless I made it. So I swung myself out of bed and faced it.
“Come with me.”
It listened. It always listens when you want something from it. It will give you anything you want. I led it through the house, and had to keep down my cries as it moved around the furniture and shadowed the flower vase by the window. When we reached the front door, I turned to it.
“I’ve had enough.”
It was sometimes soft, and it placed a hand on my cheek. I held my breath and turned away from it. Then I waited until full darkness had returned to the house and I could hear only the pounding of my heart.
Soft twinkles started on the window pane. The flowers shivered.
I closed my eyes, slowly, and waited for the thunder. When it came the twinkling became excited, and my chest softened. I walked towards the window and pulled it open. Chilled wind and water came in. I slipped my body out, just until the waist, and lay with my face upwards. It was uncomfortable, but the water ran down my cheeks and broke on my lashes and slipped down my hair and chest. It tickled on its way down my collar and onto my stomach. I let it wash me.
I read something the other day that said “people who mock positivity don’t realize how hard it is”. I really felt that, because I know first-hand how impossible it can feel to try and rewire your brain. Negative thinking is a spiral. I’ve been there. I’ve reached rock bottom plenty of times, and the trudge back up always begins with the realization that my thinking patterns are largely to blame.
It’s not always our fault. Sometimes things really do suck. I don’t like having an anxiety disorder. I don’t like having piles of work to do for uni. I don’t like that there’s a war happening across the sea from where I live. I don’t like any of that. But I have to live with it. I have to cope. And I do that – or try to do that – by changing what’s within my reach, staring with my thoughts.
My little brother is prone to negative thinking, too. He comes home from school most days dragging his backpack behind him. Everyday is a bad day. The kids in his class are loud. They throw pencils. They’re aggressive. I feel with him. Kids can be awful, and I would never want my brother to bottle things up and not tell me if he was truly going through something. But the other day I decided to try something new. When he came home from school, I asked him, “How was your day? Tell me the good stuff first.” He struggled a bit, but in the end he did actually manage to come up with something. It’s not much, but one good moment is better than no good moment (and sometimes one moment is really all you get). Anyways, the point of me asking him the question the way that I did, was to try and get him to acknowledge that good moments do actually happen sometimes – which is a start, if anything.
I’ll admit, though, I’m lazy with it. That was the first and last time I ever asked him to “tell me the good stuff first”, and that’s because positivty is hard. For me to even ask him something like that, I myself need to be in a positive state of mind. But I want to try harder. And I think you should, too. Honestly, I think we’ll all be better off that way.
So, here’s a good moment that happened today: my sister and I sat in the kitchen eating really sweet cereal and laughing at Buzzfeed Unsolved.
There. Your turn.