I’m a sucker for significant dates and this, the winter solstice, is one of my favourites. It’s the mid-winter pause, when the sun is said to stop moving. From here we make our way back up through darkness towards light. It’s a moment of balance, a pivot point. Or for those of us obsessed with language: a caesura.
A caesura is a break or pause in a line of poetry or music, time to take a breath. The word itself is surprisingly busy, despite its meaning. It has a plural, a masculine and a feminine form, enough applications to make your head spin; it boasts qualifiers like ‘initial’, ‘medial’ or ‘terminal’. Luckily we’re in a medial, here – or as John Donne would have it, ‘the year’s midnight’.
(“A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173378)
It’s a good time to look back on the year and see how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to look back, and forward. Does your present balance your past? What do you see in your future? The span you choose to look at can be as long or as short as you like. 7 years ago, I had just finished treatment for mouth cancer. I was daring to breathe again, but quietly. I was working on a book about the illness (In Your Face) – I didn’t know if I’d ever write another novel. I was reading Andrew O’Hagan’s Be Near Me and made this note: the writing sings with a richness that could stop my heart from beating.
Well, I’m still breathing. My third novel (Fallen) is on its way to publication and I’m reading Janet Malcolm’s Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers with an entirely different kind of pleasure. What were you reading, seven years ago, do you remember? What are you reading now?