Every cloud has a silver lining. I lie on a hillside, turning those words over in my mind, gazing up at an undisturbed blanket of blue, searching for the hidden treasure amongst the flawless cerulean. For the past few days I have been suspended in a cloud of my own, one of negativity and frustration. I was missing a place to work, envious of friends with their writing desks and un-stolen computers, their long hours clocked at the keyboard.
I needed space to clear my head and let the words back in, a place to let my imagination come alive, away from the noise of the internet café and the noise of my self-doubt. A place to call mine for a while.
So I have come up here, to a deserted hillside, to find peace and productivity while the windswept waves carve their stories into the rocks below me.
I make the short commute from my house, around the soft curve of Colomb Bay, to where the road slowly tapers off, and everything changes. It’s like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, but instead of pushing back thick fur coats, I’m turning up a nondescript path, ducking my head beneath low hanging branches, and leaving India behind.
The pathway to my own little Narnia
No sign of Mr Tumnus, sadly
Suddenly I have entered a new land, one that could more easily be mistaken for a rugged Greek island than the chaotic country I have called home all these months. Palm trees give way to a wash of pines, their fallen needles blanketing the rocky ground, the air heavy with their delicious perfume. I climb up and up, along narrow, barely worn walkways, carefully picking each foothold until at last I reach the top.
This is it; my outdoor office, scruffy, relaxed and wild.
I kick my flip-flops off and nudge a few fallen pine cones with my foot, preparing a smooth space to lay down my
desk blanket. I set out my stationery and books, light some incense, and pull on my sunhat. I stretch out on the blanket with my hands behind my head, and allow myself to just be. To relax and take it all in, unhurried.
I’m not trying to find the words; I’m waiting for them to find me, and when they are ready to be written, I’ll begin.
An office with a view
In the distance, Palolem beach skirts the edge of the hills like a yellow ribbon. I close my eyes and listen; the only sounds the sea, the birds, the breeze and the distant hum of fishing boat engines. The air feels different here, cooled by a steady rush as the sea air meets the cliff top with a muffled roar, reminding me of crowded stadiums, cheering me on, blowing words of encouragement from distant lands.
An endless swathe of blue tumbles secrets in its waves, ushering them to shore. I feel like, if I stay here long enough, maybe I’ll hear one of them, whispered on the wind.
And just like that, the words begin to arrive. Whole sentences and paragraphs rush in, and all I have to do is reach up and grab them, tucking them away safely on my page, lest they blow in one ear and out the other. I wonder, is this normal, or does it only happen to writers – and if so, does this mean I really am one?
Portrait of a writer?
My elbows are tired, pricked by pine needles as I write, but I can’t stop. I put my pen to paper and let the ink flow, writing everything and nothing, pages of words that don’t go together, just happy to set them free.
It is simple and easy and glorious, and I laugh in disbelief at the speed with which I allowed myself to forget the most basic of truths. That I can always carve out a place for myself, a place for my subconscious to spill forth, where I can drink it in and write it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect; I just have to show up.
A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.
– E. B. White
I return to my hill the next day, eager to get back to the words. This time I pack something extra amongst my office essentials; gratitude. This break from modern technology, this chance to fall in love with new ideas and form new habits, has been a blessing. I smile beneath the branches, thinking of all the things this tree has seen. If only I could crack her open and learn her stories.
But instead the tree just stares down at me knowingly – for she is wise, like all trees. She knows that I am the one who has been cracked open, and it is to be my stories shared on this hillside, not hers.
I allow my eyes to drift from the page across my bent knees and follow a row of fishing boats setting off towards the horizon. I wave and the men on board wave back, our hands the only form of communication needed.
I shift my gaze from the fisherman to my own hands, resting them gently in my lap with my pen and notebook. I know I already have everything I need.
The silver lining of a cloudless sky.