Sunday, 7 April 2013

the end and the beginning

A sunny April Sunday, absolutely divine, green and blue instead of grey. The world has been washed clean in the past few days by the constant patter of rain, and I was starting to feel as if I lived in England, not the south of France...But now there's a load of wash out on the line blowing in the breeze, and I think I can put away the clutter of scarves and mitts and woolly hats, and take my bright red duffel coat to the dry cleaners to have it ready for -- no, don't want to leap that far ahead, let's just stay here where it is the end of winter and the beginning of this enchanting season, when life springs forth again.

It is also the end of the Humber School for Writers' Correspondence term for those writers who have been with me for the past 30 weeks, and we are in the process of bidding each other farewell.  This period since last September has been -- as is always true in this mentoring work I do -- an adventure in every sense, getting to know people through their written words and doing my best to help those same people dig deeply to discover what they want to say and then how to say it... and most of all, help them polish their prose or poetry. Every year I delight in the variety of manuscripts that come my way, as well as the various individuals who become as real to me as their stories or memoirs, even though we never meet (although it's true, some of us have seen each other now on SKYPE).

So to Tina, Michelle, Margaret, Lycia, Lainie, Jonathan and Bonnie, I can say it has been a great pleasure, although none of you has given me an easy time of it.... I've enjoyed helping you fine-tune your stories, and even more than that, enjoyed seeing each of you improve your mastery of the craft through revision... "Go at this one more time" -- you've all been recipients of that grand piece of advice, haven't you? And then one more time after that, and maybe even another.

WRITING IS REWRITING has been my constant counsel...

But sometimes it feels so difficult, doesn't it? As if you're banging your head against a brick wall... I know. Aiming for perfection is hard work, and it's not meant to be a piece of cake (oops, cliche)...But you're not meant to knock yourself out, either... Sometimes we have to know when to stop....

I would like to be able to give this advice clearly and distinctly to a particular bird who has come to nest near Mas Blanc in the last few weeks, and who is repeating a pattern of behaviour I've seen exhibited in other years... This fellow (definitely a male) is a yellow-bellied wagtail, with a prettier name in French: Bergeronette.  He spends his day, starting at dawn and continuing until dusk, bashing himself against the windows of my house. According to information I've found on the web, this bird sees his reflection as another wagtail in his territory, and by flinging himself against this competitor, he hopes to smash its hopes and drive it away. Another theory that prevails is that he is a lost ghost of some Protestant farmer who once lived in Mas Blanc and wants back in...And another theory holds that he is a wacko-headbanging birdbrain who gets a little thrill from throwing himself against the glass.  (Nothing deters him, not cut-outs of hawks, not newspaper pinned up, nothing....)

In any case, he does seem a pretty good little metaphor for that frustration some of us humans feel when we keep trying and trying to "get things right"... whether it's words on paper, or perhaps trying to get someone's attention, to be noticed ... or perhaps trying desperately to make a difficult relationship work out better.... This foolish creature certainly has my attention,  and I spend far too much time trying to take his picture, but he hits the window so quickly I've yet to have any real success. Still, here's one.

So here he is doing one of his least 100x a day