I miss God. I miss the company of someone utterly loyal. … I miss God who was my friend. I don’t even know if God exists, but I do know that if God is your emotional role model, very few human relationships will match up to it. I have an idea that one day it might be possible, I thought once it had become possible, and that glimpse has set me wandering, trying to find the balance between earth and sky.
Thus Jeanette Winterson in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, an autobiographical novel that tells the story of Winterson’s painful break with her fundamentalist, pentecostal upbringing.
Joyce’s debut as a novelist tells the story of Harold Fry, a pensioner who, leaving the house one morning in order to post a letter to an old friend, ends up travelling all across England from Kingsbridge in the Southwest to Berwick in the Northeast. This is a book about an old man beginning to come to terms with his life, with mistakes made in the past and the ruins of a marriage that had been dead and loveless for a long time:
… for years they had been in a place where language had no significance.
There was no bridging the gap that lies between two human beings.
However, all this is slowly changing, for Harold’s pilgrimage leads to an awakening, as he becomes more fully aware of the world around him and develops a deep sense of compassion for the people he meets:
It was hard to understand a little and then walk away.
This is a gentle book with deep, yet unobtrusively expressed spiritual truths.
There were times, he saw, when not knowing was the biggest truth, and you had to stay with that.
Not knowing, or better yet, not understanding, indeed so often is the biggest truth and one that we need to learn to stay with, difficult though that can be.
Anne Carson continues to capture (and haunt) my imagination. ‘The Glass Essay’ from her collection Glass and God is a powerful poem, in which a woman reflects on a lost love, the relationship with her mother, her father’s suffering from Altzheimer’s and the writings of Emily Brontë.
Here’s a description of the woman’s pain:
… Woman alone on a hill.
She stands into the wind.
It is a hard wind slanting from the north.
Long flaps and shreds of flesh rip off the woman’s body and lift
and blow away on the wind, leaving
an exposed column of nerve and blood and muscle
calling mutely through lipless mouth.
These are among my favourite lines:
I reach up and switch on the bedside lamp. Night springs
out the window and is gone over the moor.
Or how about this as a description of the morning light?
Astonished light is washing over the moor from north to east.