Friday, January 23, 2009

Nothing Happens by Accident

Serendipidy... synchronicity... I found them this morning in a wonderful clash of coincidences that make me understand, yet again, that nothing happens by chance.

I have finished Amira Hass's remarkable book Drinking the Sea at Gaza, and moved on to something that I picked up on the way home from a UK writers' workshop last November – Raja Shehadeh's Palestinian Walks. The author's name rang a bell there, among the stacks and bright lights of Gatwick's departures terminal. Twenty years ago his Samed: Journal of a West Bank Palestinian had opened my eyes to the realities of the Occupation, and when I had been in Jerusalem I had tried to find him but met only blank looks. It had been the height of the First Intifada and perhaps I was asking the wrong people.

So last night, Shehadeh mesmerised me again – this time with the intricate descriptions of his native hills and the way that he weaves observation with commentary with culture with history – that of his family and that of his people. This morning, after doing the housework, I Googled him.

The third hit brought me to a blog on walking – a particular passion of mine (I cherish a dream of future long-distance walks). Linda Cracknell's 'Walking and Writing' details her reflections during a major project of 'recounting walks which follow human resonances in wild landscapes' and on January 11 of last year, she discussed the bittersweet quality of Shehadeh's work and the links – that most of us take for granted – of walking the land, belonging to it, and its belonging to us.

Her words struck a spark and I followed links to her main blog. Joy! Another discovery. Blogging can be beautiful. In an October 2008 entry, she writes about the Wigtown Book Festival and her enjoyment of Sara Maitland's A Book of Silence. And there, on the right … another link 'How did I get here?' I feel like a dog, released from a house-bound day, running on wild land – dashing, darting, nose down, tail waving... Which links do I follow? What shall I read first?

I worked my way through them slowly, blessing Friday mornings when Best Beloved does the school run and I have more time in the mornings. Sara Maitland's book looked too wonderful to miss – so I went to Amazon and ordered it. And in a fit of extravagance also ordered Notes From Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin.

Back on Linda Cracknell's main page, I clicked on 'How Did I Get Here?' and it took me to the literaturetraining site. What a feast! I read about how a number of writers became writers, then passed on to one of their links – the National Association of Writers in Education which, as its name suggests, supports 'the development of creative writing of all genres and in all education and community settings throughout the UK'. I had to join. I had seen one of their brochures when I was at the UK workshop, and had thought that it looked good. Their website explodes with creative possibilities – for students, for teachers, for writers, for anyone interested in using writing in education.

Linda's 'How Did I Get Here?' PDF finished with a list of addresses. One of them was for the
Open College of the Arts which offers tutored on-line courses for beginners and advanced writers. I clicked on their link, and then on the course that most interested me, I-Lines. Its course material is written by Sara Maitland, whose book I have just ordered...

So from enjoying Raja Shehadeh's rambles in the hills above Ramallah, I have come on a full, thrilling circle myself to the point of considering committing to a year's course that might get me out of the frozen-feeling rut that I'm in with writing. What a marvellous way to spend Friday!

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