An antidote to the internet. A walk in the winter sun at high tide. An attempt to still my thoughts and gain some perspective. I keep thinking ‘this too shall pass’ and of course, it will, but… So I took my own advice and went for a walk – to this exquisitely beautiful part of East Lothian which rarely fails to lift my spirits.
Except, as I squelched along the shoreline, I wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t feeling grateful for being fortunate enough to live near to such beauty. I was awash in a complete information overload, horrified at events playing out across the other side of the world, aghast at our own government’s lack of spine, moral compass, ethical stance…
In the face of current affairs, I feel powerless. There are events afoot in the wider world that make me so afraid, I’m amazed that sleep is possible. There are events afoot near to home ( the looming spectre of a vast housing development ) that make me feel besieged. If it all goes according to the developers plan, our little single-storey houses on a leafy lane will be overlooked by the upper floor windows of three hundred identikit three-quarter of a million pound executive homes with their massed entitlement to the best part of the sky, light and view. For the past umpty decades, we’ve filled our eyes with that sky, that light and best of all, that view, and counted ourselves blessed.
Caveat. Blessed when I haven’t been wrangling with depressive illness ; at such times it’s impossible to feel anything other than star-crossed.
Back to the walk along the wintry shore. My tangled thoughts carried on twining and snaking around inside my head, jumping from one bleak prospect to another ; a series of what-ifs leading off into some grey and dystopian future. With five children, I can’t just write off that future knowing that I won’t be around to see it. In truth, we have a massive stake in ensuring that there still is a decent future for all children, whether they are related to us or not. Then I had a short pause while I beat myself up for overloading the planet, diverting more resources to looking after my family, publishing books that entail chopping down trees, running a car, burning yet more trees on a woodturning stove, occasionally eating meat and generally being that hackneyed thing; an eco-hypocrite. Never let it be said that I don’t know how to have good time when out for a walk. Oh, the thinks you can think.
The high tide made walking along the shore quite a tricky proposition. At times, I had to head inland into deep mud and leaf mould, weave under jaggy branches, risk soggy boots and slither over rocks. In short, I had to pay attention to something other than my own thoughts. And at such times, solutions can suggest themselves to you. Precisely when you’re not looking for them. Solvitur ambulando, as the Romans said. It is solved by walking.
What came to me was that we are always out of control. We are always powerless. To accept this is to take a step towards true freedom. To acknowledge that no matter how tightly you cling, or holler, or clutch the sides of the river, or try to keep things from changing, in the end, everything changes and everything is swept away. And to cling to keeping things unchanged is to waste time and energy that might be better spent experiencing the full heft and breadth of right here and now.
So ; in that vein, today is the proper launch day for Night Shift. My publishers at Hot Key in association with the excellent booksellers at Blackwells on South Bridge, Edinburgh are having a proper launch event tonight complete with a Q&A, drinks and signing of books. It’s a big day, I’m slightly nervous ( actually, make that very) but also looking forward to releasing my book into the wild and hearing what people say. And remembering that ultimately, I can’t change anyone’s opinion of the book, or my ‘take’ on the subject. All I can do is let it go and allow it to find its own path.