By Jacqueline Dowling
The images of childhood have no symmetry. They swirl and surge beneath the currents of the sub-conscious, tossed coloured and shifting through the ever-changing prism of life. They fly free, like skeins of wild geese filling the silence with their cries and the rushing of myriad wings.
The music of one glorious childhood summer has tempered my thoughts and attitude to creative writing throughout life. I make no apology for indulging my love of writing straight from the soul, for the sometimes unorthodox usage of words, images and for allowing imagination to soar with birds and race down the wind.
Perhaps the words are not meant to be published, therefore adherence to norms doesn’t always take pride of place. The music, however, always will.
Mine was a magical childhood. One spent running wild with the ponies on Dartmoor, exploring Cornish lanes and hearing everywhere the music of the wind, gulls wheeling, eagles soaring over crags and, on long summer nights, nightingales in the woods.
Exploring orchards heavy with ripening fruit: picnics between the roots of ancient oaks. Places of long tender grass and mossy smells, the sound of bees loud in our ears. And in dusty attics the musty-cidery warm yellow smell of withering apples set aside for winter. Wandering home along dusk drowsy lanes, meadowsweet clotting the space above. Hedgerows of foxgloves, fuschias and daisies and the late ambered cornfields brilliant with crimson poppies.
It took many years of living in Africa to feel red dust between my toes, to hear the crescendo of towering thunderstorms overlaying soft sussuration of wind through grass.
‘We like your stories’ one editor wrote.
‘But they are too English. Change the genre and African-ise them, then re-submit.’ So I did.
I lay on sun-warmed rocks at night, high in the Koue Bokkeveld and listened to the stars. They were so close you could almost touch them. They crackled, sparkled – nearby a shy leopard padded softly, almost soundless. From caves above us the staccato barks of baboons made their own kind of music. And a distant river sang its own song.
On an island beach, under softly clicking palms we listened as the sea wove its adagio through the coral sand…
The music of words, of thoughts and imagination – the music of the soul.
I wish every child could hear it.
Author’s note: In spite of all the non-conformity, I do keep a copy of Lynn Truss’ work and several Thesauruses (or should it be ii?) on hand, at all times! just in case.