As I write this first blog post, a copy of my book, Fallen (Affirm Press), sits on the desk beside me. It’s a beautiful object, I think, with gratitude to the designer, Josh Durham. The cover is the colour of sand, an old photograph of me as a 24-year-old woman standing on a Perth beach, wearing black and holding my square-heeled sandals. A dark shadow spikes out beneath me like a curse or a premonition. Did my best friend, who took the photo in 1996, realise then what she was doing with the camera? Do I know now, what I’m doing with this book?
Next week the memoir will be in bookstores (May 2015) and I’ll be talking about it on radio and writing about it in magazines and online. I’ll be talking, talking, talking. And writing, writing, writing. And I feel afraid of the noise and motion, and of being seen, my nakedness on show to the world. But what did I think was going to happen when I wrote a memoir about sex, religion and marrying too young?
I never intended to write a memoir. I wrote the book as a novel, with characters and events drawn from life, but always shrouded in fiction. But in the journey to publication I’ve had to own (chosen to own) the story as my own. There’s artifice still, and the first-person narrator is a heavily crafted version of me. I’ve tried to be brutally honest and self-aware. But I’m vain and hungry for love, and I probably want you, the reader, to love me. So who knows what seduction I’ve tried to perform through my words? But yes, it’s me there on the page, taking my clothes off, swimming in the clear, green ocean and breaking the rules of an open marriage. It was a long time ago, but still, it’s me…
With this blog, I want to tell the truth. I want to write about what it feels like to be me. That’s the only excuse.
In some countries, they’d stone me for being me. Some days I stone myself. But mostly I feel wide-eyed, innocent. Curious. The ways we love and desire, lie and promise, are so varied and fascinating and complicated. And I believe (foolishly?) that openness and honesty might be some kind of protection; a defense for all kinds of transgression. Or is that the lazy morality of the ‘artist’?
I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I’ve given this blog the name ‘Stand Still Like a Hummingbird’ because it’s the state of mind I aim for at this time: a seemingly paradoxical peace and stillness amidst chaos and change and a flurry of motion. Adapted from the title of Henry Miller’s collection of writings about his personal philosophy of life (Stand Still like the Hummingbird, 1962) I draw inspiration from Miller, whose vitality, honesty, courage and free-thinking continue to make my world larger. He wrote so much more than ‘smut’.
As Erica Jong writes in her introduction to the 1993 Flamingo edition of Miller’s book Plexus: “In an age of cynicism, Miller remains the romantic, exemplifying the possibility of optimism in a fallen world, of happy poverty in a world that worships lucre, of the sort of gaiety Yeats meant when he wrote the Chinese Sages in Lapis Lazuli, ‘their eyes, their ancient glittering eyes, are gay.'”
And in Miller’s own words: “Everyone has his own reality in which, if one is not too cautious, timid or frightened, one swims. This is the only reality there is.”