The children are back to school and already the heat of August is a dim memory as the cold nights draw in, and the trees start to shed their leaves for winter. Though temperatures in Italy are higher than in my native home, I look forward to this time of year, loving
pumpkin soup, bonfires and the flickering candles above my hearth. It is a time to resume serious work, a time for me to submit my latest manuscript and bite my nails as I wait. I enjoy the cooler weather, sliding into my jeans gratefully after a summer sweating in shorts. Yesterday evening, I sat watching my eldest play football. Perched high above him on colourful, cracked bleachers, the wind blew as the sun descended behind the trees and Italian mothers shivered in ski jackets. I sheltered behind my enormous handbag and drummed sandal-clad feet on the thin metal floor, bemoaning my lack of foresight to carry a coat. Autumn caught me on the hop.
It is a weird month, September, a sudden rush into the real world again after ten weeks lazing about on beaches, shouting, comforting, driving, mediating and mollifying children. One weekend working flat out to edit a fascinating document on Migration, Conflict and Food Security, another; working to polish and pearl my latest novel. On both these weekends I should have been relaxing, playing with the family, and I found myself stuck to a screen like Cyprus sap. The ugly head of cultural appropriation and authenticity arguments popped up again to sully these weeks, with a controversial outburst at a literary festival and the answering ripost posted the day later to be reprinted in the Guardian. Having completed my report and novel, I marveled at the difference between the ‘real’ world of conflict alleviation and writings on migrant suffering and the ‘creative’ world where to form policy based on focus group discussions, (the refugee ‘VOICE’), led by foreigners would be seen as ethically spurious.
I fiercely defend the right to write, and I love to write about different people and places, digging towards the Universal human experience. I grew tired reading the animosity on chat threads, wary of arguments between angry American writers and commentators who clearly couldn’t think beyond their individual contextual circumstance, imposing their especial problem on everyone, everywhere. I felt the frustration seep back – the years spent listening in social anthropology classes; told to study, yet rendered impotent to put the knowledge into practice by my background and identity. Thankfully, the argument was laid to rest within days as the dust settled. Aminatta Forna wrote a wonderful piece on author pigeon-holing, ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s author’; calming my mood back down to a steady whir.
Meditation resumed, the daily practice of switching down the mind, transcending the conscious mind to find the inner flow of mind waves that run deeper than thoughts. It was an epiphany – In many ways, I thought, this sort of transcendence is needed in the world of cultural discourse. Let us transcend our outer boundaries and cast off the barriers that people want to build between human beings. Let people unite and write. I realise, as I return to the practice, that I have never thanked my Mother enough for allowing me to take a TM Course a few years ago. (Thanks Mum!) It revives and restores, leaving me refreshed even when tired. Creativity increases, as does intuition. Negativity recedes.
So, onwards into autumn. A new book to write, a new book to get printed. And the baby, my debut. ‘The Disobedient Wife‘, to keep promoting and pushing out into the world – a reluctant child clinging to my skirts.