Denne teksten skrev jeg en gang jeg tilhørte et amerikansk bloggernettverk. Siden har jeg ikke evnet å oversette den til norsk.
It was a coincidence that I, at the age of 18, became a journalist. Maybe I wrote before that, I kept a diary from I was 12, but I cannot remember ever dreaming about being a writer. My need to write is highly involuntary. If I could shake it, I would. It is a constant restlessness, a chronic bad conscience, a devilish presence hanging over me, asking critical questions about the way I spend my time, poking me, pinching me, pulling my hair for not writing enough and for not writing good enough. If writing is my plight, then why can’t that devil serve me a grand story to tell?
It should be mentioned that when I write, the few times I get warmed up and decent sentences find their way through my fingers, out on my keyboard and on to the screen, I feel at home. I actually do not think you will find me any happier. No. When I think of it, nothing in this world can measure up.
Whenever I can’t write, my mind strays off to the woods behind my childhood home. These woods are my imagination, my playground before the world got all its limits. The Pancake Meadow. Church Road. The Lake. The Ghost House. Places where the books I read blended with the life I lived. They are all over my writing. This is from a poem I wrote some years ago about my mother:
One day you were excited, telling us about a surprise you had made.
Late in the afternoon you brought us to a silvery meadow.
Out of the basket came pancakes and lemonade.
And as the sun went down I saw fairies dancing in the shadow.
The Pancake Meadow does not exist anymore. It was swallowed by huge sand mines feasting on my childhood. From another piece of writing:
«We have to turn on the radio,» I insisted. «The alarm!»
«No, Kristin. It’s not the airplanes. Look!»
My nanny pulled up her sleeve.
«It’s twelve o’clock. The men in the sand mines are having lunch. That’s what the alarm is all about.»
«Why do they need that ugly alarm?»
«Because the men can’t hear much inside their noisy trucks… Listen, every day at twelve o’clock that alarm will go off. There’s nothing to be scared of.»
But I knew she was wrong. There was something to be scared of. I had heard about a cold war. A war that could come to Norway anytime, from anywhere.
The sand mines are black holes in my imagination. When I was so young I can barely remember it, there was a little stable in our backyard with two horses. Sometimes I picked the forget-me-nots growing in the grass around it, and sometimes the older girls let me come with them for a horse ride in the carriage. We used to take Church Road, which lay on a long ridge dividing two mines, over to the church. When the road disappeared, I was haunted by nightmares. Not even the dead appeared to be safe from the abyss, its edge running far too close to the fence around the churchyard. Would they never stop digging?
My mother had nightmares too, to the extent that she conspired with our neighbours to tell on us when we kids walked to the end of our street. Our Sprucefield Street met Heatherhill Street, and down Heatherhill Street the big trucks came speeding from the sand mines. Whenever we were caught on Heatherhill Street, mom would simply go to her bedroom and stay there till she was normal again, our father scolding us for our misdeed.
Reading is a great remedy for writer’s block. It was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road which sparked off this blog post. In his novel I came across the word sedge. I took out my notebook, wrote down You read to remember!, and then turned on my Mac. I was back in the woods again.
The rhythmic gravel crusher, the bulldozers’ complaint. A faint soundtrack to summer days when school was out. My confrontational nature brought me through the woods, to the mines. I often found myself on the edge, staring into the biggest pit. Someone digging that much had to find something. By then my plans for the future had changed slightly, instead of a gardener I wanted to be an archaeologist. I still got to dig in the ground, only deeper. One of the dunes were not that steep, and more solid than the others. The miners had left it alone for some time. I took my chances and ran down. At the bottom of the enormous mine I was overwhelmed by the sight of all the sand everywhere, as if in the blink of an eye I had been teleported to a desert. But then something in one of the mine’s nooks caught my attention, something which seemed out of place. It was a tall weed with dark brown, velvety rolls on top. A kind of sedge I only thought existed in my picture books. And behind it I found a tiny lake. The miners had dug into an oasis in my traumatized imagination. They must have had lunch right there, because someone had left a jar of strawberry jam on a big rock. I sat down and ate some, thinking sweet thoughts of places far away.
If I could write a crime novel, I know where I would have hid the body. But the Ghost House I once was so scared of is out of reach now. I still remember coming up on that hill with my horse, I was a teenager then. The woods we had to ride through to get to the Ghost House were supposed to lie at our feet. But they had been chopped down, bulldozed over till there were only naked, white twigs left, resembling bones sticking up from the mud. A big wasteland soon to avalanche into one of the mines.
The sand mines lie in the Northern part of the woods behind my childhood home. I could have written many stories about the Western part as well, where I did a lot of the excavations myself. But those places still exist, I can go back there some other day. For now I want to linger by the places which were on loan to me at a time when the world and my imagination were one, when life had yet to lose its immediate epic qualities. The Pancake Meadow, Church Road, the Lake and the Ghost House have become fictional places I go to in search of a story to tell, my memories of them are constantly woven by an involuntary need to do so. A means for the homesick me to find her way back home. I guess that is why I have to write.