As I start to write this blog, I see the last sentence from yesterday’s post. It says:
The word was love.
That feels both perfect and meaningful, and entirely empty, all at the same time.
The day started off in quietness and affection and normality. My oldest brother is here, with his best beloved, and they and my sister and the red mare and I went out for a walk in the mild Scottish air. We looked at the trees and the hills and talked and laughed and caught up. The mare, who adores the sound of happy human conversation, moseyed along on her loose rope with her sweet donkey head held low, entirely at ease with herself.
I went to my desk and got a lot of work done in a fast time. This happens sometimes. Although I always think I should spend hours at my desk, if the work comes quickly then the best thing is to stop and spend the rest of the day on other things. The editing is still not as ruthless as I would like, but I’m secretly delighted by the slightly magical story I am telling. I have not written a novel for many years, and this one is quite eccentric, but it takes me into another world, one I invented from scratch, and there is something almost miraculous about that feeling. I can see and feel and know characters who did not exist until I conjured them out of the privacy of my own head. I never take that for granted.
I was sitting with this slightly magical sense, letting it settle in me, when I flipped on the internet.
A friend on Facebook was saying that his husband was fine. I did not understand. As far as I knew, the husband was not ill or in a war zone. They live a most civilised life in Paris.
I went to Twitter, where all the news breaks. I looked for Paris. And that was how I found out about a mass shooting, and gunmen on the loose.
My body was already humming from the shift the fiction had brought in me. Now it started jangling in horror. I quite often have very strong physiological reactions to strong stories. When the veterans at HorseBack tell me of their experiences, I stand very quietly, but I can feel the atoms of my physical self rearranging themselves. I felt this now. I feel it as I write.
There is no good response to this. People are responding; arguments are already breaking out on the internet; interested parties are putting in their two cents. I have no cents. I don’t know what to say when there are such horrors. I love words and believe in words and use words every day of my life. Words are my business and my passion. But in the face of outrage, I feel, in an act of heresy, that they are paltry and thin. I believe that language is illuminating and healing, consoling and true. But with this, what do you say? Meaning flies away, on black wings.
Outside, the cloud is low, the sky the colour of doves. The bare trees stand, old and eternal, along the horizon. Everything is quiet and unchanged. Quite soon, I shall go down and give the red mare her tea, and make sure she has enough hay, and settle her for the night. The normality of my life in this sheltered place flows on, like a river. Out there, across the Channel, in a glittering city of light, there is death and hatred and grief and loss. There is no sense to it, and there are no words.