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”

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?


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3 Responses to Solstice

  1. SabineSabine says:

    Seven years is such a long time ago – too distant. But I remember very clearly that I read “In your face” exactly four years ago when I was stumbling through my own maze of illness. Of course, my story is completely different but knowing that there was someone – and in a familiar surrounding as I have lived in Dublin/Dun Laoghaire/Dalkey myself some years ago – coming to terms (and beautifully so) with this chaos of changes and pain and trauma was uplifting. Still is.

    At the moment I am reading “No time like the present” by Nadine Gordimer for obvious reasons.

    • libranwriter says:

      Thank you for that! And here we both are.
      Nadine Gordimer was a hero of mine when I first came across her novels, back in the last century. I haven’t read this one, though – I’ll add it to the lengthening list of must-reads. Isn’t this what Christmas is really for – to catch up on all that reading, once the eating is out of the way? Enjoy yours.

  2. Sheila Barrett says:

    Thanks for these thoughts and the pointers to Donne and Janet Malcolm! A welcome shard of clarity during the restless Christmas process.

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