Sunday 26 April 2020

Lorca Under Lockdown - Shirley-Anne McMillan

I hope everyone is well.

I seem to be starting every greeting like that at the minute. Even in these days of mindfulness-mania we are still surprised to find that life can change really suddenly. Respecting the present moment has become popular because of its advantages: a beautiful day becomes highly significant through the awareness that it will change- why else would it be particularly beautiful. But it becomes challenging if the present moment is a difficult one.

The big shock of the pandemic wasn't so much that things change, as that they changed for everyone all at once. We are now having a more collective experience than perhaps we have ever had before. It's a bit trippy, isn't it?

So I'm getting to the part in my YA novel work-in-progress where the students go on a school trip to Granada where they will encounter Federico Garcia Lorca. This day last year I was in Granada. The feeling of it is still very present. Which is lucky, because I didn't think it would take me this long to write the novel. Anyway, I'm deliberately remembering it now, and as a consequence I'm going back to his poetry and his thoughts about writing, and the point of his own work.

I return to this piece, which I could only find in Spanish online. In a tiny corner of a mostly-Spanish-language museum book shop in Granada I found a £1.50 English language translation of it. It's called In The Garden of Lunar Grapefruit and it details a man's thoughts, as he sets out on a long journey, about the possibilities he has missed in life- all the things that didn't happen, which could have happened. It is a piece about regret and determination, and it is not difficult to imagine that Lorca was thinking of his own life and how he could not be fully free to live as a gay man. But now I am reading it and thinking of all the cancelled events of this Spring: the concerts my teenager wanted to attend, the gigs he was due to play, my sister's wedding, her hen weekend. All the things we were looking forward to which will not happen now. And it makes me think that those things only existed in a dream- they were only really possibilities- and what is real is what we have now. I don't mean this post to be something sad, really. It is just a fleeting thought about permanence (or the lack of it) and how strange it is to be thrust into considering that reality is only ever a moment.

Here's an extract from In The Garden of Lunar Grapefruit:

A sharp emotion, like an elegy for the things that have never been- good things and bad, large things and small- invades the landscape of my eyes, which are almost hidden behind a pair of violet-tinted glasses. A bitter emotion that compels me to walk towards this quivering garden on the highest prairies of the air.... What is past remains filled with yellow undergrowth... No man ever toppled backwards onto death. But, when momentarily contemplating that desolate, infinite landscape, I have seen drafts of unpublished life- multiple, overlapping drafts, like the buckets on an endless waterwheel. 
Wishing you some happy moments today. x

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