The shape of a Life (The Vorkosigan Saga)


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Three pieces to this:

Firstly, I read a travel newsletter called about a trip to Istanbul. I have had a love-hate relationship to travel writing for a long time. The best travel writing utilises scenery to highlight aspects of personality, philosophy or history. The worst reads like an Instagram post sponsored by Sky Mall. This particular newsletter mentions Ukraine refugees and the presence of tanks; it is a bizarre mix of aspirational internet writing and horror, skating along the surface of immense historical pressures.

Secondly, I am in Cincinnati, again. This time I had a realisation: home is not one place, it is multiple places. Home is/are the places soaked in memory and relationships. Home, for me, is a heady mix of Towcester, South Wales, Oxford, Cincinnati and (hopefully) Liverpool. Coming here isn’t like going on holiday, it’s like coming home. There is a frisson of memory (oh yes, goetta and hominey!) and a frisson of change (gosh, what have they done to Newport?). People are the same but different; familiar tics on older faces. And there are a lot more children vaguely related to me; nieces and nephews close and distant.

Thirdly, I am finally coming out of burnout enough to properly read again. Specifically, I am reading Lois Bujold, more specifically The Vorkosigan Saga. This is it’s own ‘same but different’. It’s a writer who grew up reading the same ‘golden age of sci-fi’ that I did, refactored through the same ‘coming of the internet’ fan-fiction that I did, with the same sprinkling of Georgette Heyer that I did. She’s older than me though, wiser. She started writing professionally in her thirties. I see in her a kind of role-model. She was born in Columbus, and oddly I feel the Ohio winding through her writing too, though I couldn’t tell you how.

Three pieces to this and a realisation: how messy and wild the shape of a life really is. Where is my home? All those places. Who am I? All those people.

Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like

My Mum once told me there are stages to adult life; a phase where everyone you know is experiencing the same shit. A spate of marriages, then births, then divorces, then deaths. I’m somewhere in the divorce-and-death stage right now. We’re all old enough to have had our fair share of sad times.

(But happy times too)

I have been reading about psychedelics; about rebirth and renewal and our connection with the universe. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and meditation. Exploration of that fuzzy notion of transcendence. When you think about the human body as a system rather than a thing it makes more sense. We’re an alchemical reaction; pulling in energy, oxygen, food and transmuting it. The human body is breathtakingly complex; a hub of neurotransmitters, electricity, microbes, flesh. And yet, with all it’s complexity, it’s just one tiny part of far vaster system.

Good books remind you of that, somehow.

RELATED POST:  Pause and breathe

It’s the same tropes, mixed up in different ways. Every coming-of-age story is the same. Every coming-of-age story is different. The specifics matter, but so does the universality.

There will never be the one book to end them all.

There will never be the one ring.

Everything will just keep flowing and changing in ways we can’t even imagine.

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