Between the lines my heart lies.
As far back as I can remember, I have always written. The trigger that started it all was my fascination with the 26 letters of the alphabet. Beginning in my first year of school, the magic of seeing the letters merge together, in sequence, to make a word, an image with the power to transport me. And later, to see words holding hands in a sentence that could dazzle my starved eyes. It was as if the most precious treasure in the world had been handed to me on a silver platter. As if I had finally found a clever way to express myself in silence. A way that, as I got older, quickly became an outlet for all my emotional excesses: shouting angrily in the desert of the blank page at 16; scribbling my guilty confessions in my diary at 25, where, later, mature and calmer, I dared to play with the words’ exterior and indulge in the most daring creative fantasies.
I am not a real writer. I have no one to account to, no need to write in order to put food on the table. For all these reasons, each sentence that comes to me is a gift from the heavens. I don’t need to convince myself that the text needs to be written before giving it form on the page. Nor worry about or question my own ability to paint a rich story.
For me, the process is more similar to going through a photo album. I want you to peer into each memory, laid out in great detail, as if you had actually witnessed it with your own eyes. It fills me with happiness to recount these delicious moments that contributed to shaping our future. And great pride too, as I introduce you to the memorable characters who passed through our modest doors in the early years. Each generous soul who shared with us a big part of their heart and know-how.
The more time carries me closer to the end, the more my memory stirs up my passions and leads me back to where we began. Like a tough old ghost, my past seems to re-emerge without needing to be conjured. An inventive recipe, a magnificent dish, a business hardship, a moment of flirting one afternoon, anything really that made my heart leap – the good ogre comes to me at my desk bearing these memories. And I so love telling stories; sprinkling my words with vivid colours and watching the text quiver with unexpected images. I give very little thought to sowing seeds along my path, and I am not so presumptuous to think I deserve a place in people’s memories. Rather, just like our imperative to breathe, I need to write to be happy. It’s a necessity, whose call must be answered.
During this time of confinement and adapting to a strange new mode of working, my morning writings allow me to fulfill the pressing need to frequently readjust my lifestyle, my values and my priorities.
Wedged between impending retirement and the risks that accompany aging, writing is what keeps me standing, creative and passionate about living. Writing is also a way of expressing hope for better days.
And they will come!
Since so many great things have happened in these past months. The waters of Venice have become clearer with less pollution, the skies over the world’s great cities have been wiped clean of smog. And apparently the healthier air in China has saved 20x more lives than the number taken by this horrible virus. Things are getting better and better.
But if by chance, sad thoughts, heavy spirits or too many tedious hours cause your heart to tighten, don’t wait. Take a pen, some paper, a few deep breaths of courage and write down what you are feeling. Listen to the lumps of emotions knocking around in your stomach and fill the page until the discomfort disappears. I have been practising this for over 60 years. And it works. See for yourself!
As Countess Ségur said, “After the rain, comes beautiful weather.”