write it down


Well, the storage space us empty, as are the bookshelves on our old house (in fact, I took the shelves too). The movers were just about able to close the truck, and then they had to tie the bed on to the back of it.

I arrived in Antalya with the boys yesterday at noon, Baki with two teeth filled and a two minute egg-timer from his dentist in his pocket. The truck arrived last night, and now all of the stuff is in the flat, having been marched up a flight of stairs by three very determined movers. The flat is a maze of boxes, which threw me into a bit of a panic.

Thankfully, my mother was there and she was perfectly calm. She reminded me of how many times we have packed, moved, and unpacked (six big moves in my lifetime alone) and she assured me that there was hope. All I could see was total chaos. One room in the flat has been completely devoured by boxes. The photo above is one my mother took of Kaya in the mess this morning.

Still, moving is always full of little surprises. While I was gathering books that Ali and I had left behind, I came across some old papers of my dad’s — there were three files that he had written, assignments for work; and there was a sheaf of his poetry, a work in progress, with lots of corrections and scribbling on it. I stopped for a moment to read them and was immediately thrust directly into my father’s mind. His voice, not the physical one but the written one, was right there. I felt for a moment that my father, who is so resolutely gone from this world, had been momentarily revived.

Nothing can fill the deep chasm that is left when you realize that you will never, ever see someone or speak to them again, but to be able to hear them speak, even if it is not in dialogue with you, is a remarkable, potent thing. It reminded me of how precious a few written words can be. Forget reliquaries full of bits and pieces, the most powerful remains I can think of are words.

If you have something to say, for the sake of those you leave behind, write it down somewhere. Write it by hand in a notebook while no one is looking, type a blog post, send a letter. You can direct your words at everyone or no one.

Think of Sei Shonagon’s pillow book, completed in the 11th century in Japan. Here’s a little excerpt:

Elegant Things

A white coat worn over a violet waistcoat.
Duck eggs.
Shaved ice mixed with liana syrup and put in a new silver bowl.
A rosary of rock crystal.
Wisteria blossoms. Plum blossoms covered with snow.
A pretty child eating strawberries.

Things That Should Be Large

Priests. Fruit. Houses. Provision bags. Inksticks for inkstones.
Men’s eyes: when they are too narrow, they look feminine. On the other hand, if they were as large as metal bowls, I should find them rather frightening.
Round braziers. Winter cherries. Pine trees. The petals of yellow roses.
Horses as well as oxen should be large

Things That Should Be Short

A piece of thread when one wants to sew something in a hurry.
A lamp stand.
The hair of a woman of the lower classes should be neat and short.
The speech of a young girl.

(Translation Ivan Morris – The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon – Penguin Classics)

I think it’s remarkable how much there is in those three short lists; I feel as if I know her.

Your words are a gift, why not be generous with them? The people who mourn you and miss you will be grateful. And the ones who like you now might, too.

9 thoughts on “write it down

  1. Such a wonderful find for you and how happy it must have made you. Thank you for the reminder to not just tell those in our lives how we feel about them but to put pen to paper and write it down.

  2. Wow i am stunned by these words of a woman so long ago, can I buy this book? I shall source it.. thank you.. and yes i write.. by golly i write! So do you darling girl and your exceptional education at the hands of your lovely parents shines through.. c

  3. That’s so lovely what you wrote about your father being momentarily brought back to be with you. Yes, long after we’ve gone, it’s our words that we’ve left behind that live on xx

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