Sometimes I just like creating scenes. This doesn't have a concept, and it doesn't have an elaborate story behind. But what if it did? I feel compelled to add background to these things I create. I make these images to entertain myself. I survey a mundane space and I invent ways to transform it into the edge of a nightmare. I've always loved creating fantastical, unreal worlds, since I was little, whether I expressed them through childish scrawl or kept them hidden beneath a blanket fort in my mother's bedroom, in my head. Now that I'm older I have the means to visualize and crystalize these worlds, but they've turned dark. They're all dark, even if they completely contradict my mood (my mom was standing by talking to me about our New York adventure at the end of the summer as I got into the sink), these worlds just fall into shadow. I don't think that's a bad thing, because most of the time I don't live in them. I did, however, create a series of images last semester that were very dark, and very real, and very much a part of me. You can look at them here, I won't talk about them now.
I am exhausted, and I still can't write, so I'm not going to weave a story for this image just yet. But I will, very soon.
What I really want to talk about is a short novel I bought yesterday afternoon and have read twice since then. Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane came out on the eighteenth. I don't want to give much away, so I'll say it's a fantasy novel about the darkness of childhood, told from the perspective of an unnamed man whose memories overwhelm him in a fast wave when he visits his previous home in Sussex, England. I had previously read three of his books (American Gods, Neverwhere, Smoke and Mirrors, which is a collection of short stories) thanks to the book lending generosity of friend Maya, but he has many more novels so I wouldn't call myself an expert on his work. I had read many great things about this almost novella length story, especially from Gaiman's wife, Amanda Palmer, on her blog (you should really read the post here, it's hilarious and enlightening), but through the first half of the book it didn't feel as groundbreaking as his other stories. They are always lined with myths and symbolism and are told in beautiful poetic prose. The Ocean is no exception, it just didn't hit me with the same sense of wonder as did the other books.
Until it did, and then everything happened at once.
It's hard to explain how a book impacts you if it's not a well known piece of classic literature, or you don't want to give away much about the story. I'm not sure how much sense it makes to claim I felt connected to this man's disjointed memories of a girl who could fit an ocean into a bucket. I'm only seventeen; childhood may feel like a hazy dream, but it didn't end too long ago. I think everyone goes through a Holden Caulfield phase at some point, and The Ocean does a hauntingly beautiful job of drawing connections between a kid's fantasy world and the horrible, half-truths of adulthood that are always present throughout youth, but manifest in ways that are almost impossible to understand.
This book goes far beyond what little I'm saying right now, which is why I started reading it immediately the next morning after staying up until midnight finishing it.
When I finished reading it the first time, I wrote something, so I'll record some of it here because it makes more sense in a poetic way than what my somnambulant brain can come up with now–
In childhood, wisdom is observation, knowing completely the minute world that you can fit into. The universe at large is cavernous, like adults, like the space between electrons and the nucleus, between the quick minded negativity of adulthood and their center, their heart. How far away adults can seem from their heart...
...it goes beyond a fear of growing up, or a fear of dying. What is most frightening is that I don't even know what it is that made me drop tiny oceans down my cheeks in that moment. Part of me hopes I will never know.
And that ocean, that beautiful void that no physical image could ever replicate, that suspended space that undulates through a child's dreams– it feels like a place we've all been. It feels familiar. I've breathed in those salts but no grains remain embedded in my soul, now. That forever understanding of anywhen and everyplace... it's like we all leave it behind when he kick over the sloshing bucket into the sandbox when it's time to go inside. I cried because I understood that I will never feel that again.
Childhood, childhood. I don't know if any of this is making sense. I am very tired, so I will sleep now, and not read this book for a third time. Not tonight.