I know, I know. I haven’t quite kept up the once-a-week promise, but hey, at least I’m still around!
I’m writing this post on the train from Stuttgart to Berlin, where I am heading for my first holiday-adventure-trip thingy since getting to Germany. I realised this morning how long it has been since I travelled alone to an unfamiliar city… it was something I used to do regularly, all over the place in college, and then within India, but ever since I began setting up home in Shimla, all of my “getaway time” seems to have gotten concentrated there. That has its definite charm– the way the city welcomes me back each time, the familiarity of a conversation with the vegetable seller, or noticing a tree having lost a branch or gained new leaves — but I am thinking now how much I do want to make sure to do some solo-traveling into unfamiliar places, even if just for a few days a year. Something about it keeps one alert and alive to little things that one otherwise comes to take for granted. But more on Berlin later. For now, my news from Solitude.
In my last post, I talked about finishing up a new draft of my second book of poems A Kind of Freedom Song, and I have just emailed my publisher a final-er final version of the same. We may still do some edits, or drop a couple of poems, once she has read it, but for now, that project feels mostly behind me, in the loveliest way. This manuscript has been a hard one to write, and perhaps to read, as it is many ways a violent book, but finally tying it up feels a little like having exorcised some important ghosts. There’s something deeply restful and satisfying about it.
In the past ten days, my residency at Solitude has… opened. There’s no other way to describe this feeling of immense possibility, like I have now scratched that surface of what i thought I was going to come here to do, and under that scratching lay the magical password to a whole other what-I-will-actually-do-here. Some of this I owe directly to the wonderfulness of the founding director here, Mr. Joly, whose comments on the manuscript (and whose excitement about my work in general) have been so deeply affirming it’s hard not to believe more in it myself now!
The rest has been the way this space opens up to accommodate what we need rather than asking us to close up to what it demands. The most obvious example being me showing up here as a writer and longing for a pottery wheel… a few weeks of runabouttery later, this 18 century hunting castle has a little basement room with a wheel and clay and tools and so much that is now possible for me here! Similarly, I came here as a poet, but having finished this manuscript, decided it was time to begin work on a non-fiction/ oral history project I have been turning about in my head for years, so I requested to be allowed to spend some of my project budget on a research assistant and transcriber, which was also instantly approved. One Facebook post later, I have several leads for whom I could interview for this project, and in a quick week, it has begun shaping up more rapidly and beautifully than I could have fathomed– I just need to figure out how to keep pace with it now!
The keeping pace part has been made somewhat harder by a sudden inflammation of one of my chronic illnesses that demanded a course of debilitating antibiotics and slowed me down considerably in the last few days. I have taken lots of naps in the last 72 hours, and done some pottery, and I feel myself gently returning to myself now. I brought my laptop along on this holiday so I could spend an hour or so everyday catching up on work I would otherwise have done over the weekend, but let’s see if the city allows me that!
My train has almost reached Berlin, so I will sign off here for now. Some of the specifics of this roundup might change — some of the projects themselves might change. But that’s sort of the point: here, at Solitude, in a context completely different from my own, I feel able to change, feel nurtured and believed in enough to jump off a couple of ledges, take a few risks, and let myself grow.
I leave you with this image of my favourite mug from these last few days, embodying my 2018 vision of making space for whimsy!