a lifelong romance
I suppose my mother is to blame for my love of words. Some of my earliest memories are of her theatrical readings of poems by A. A. Milne from “When We Were Very Young” and “Now We Are Six.” Like:
Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Listening to her precise, British diction and sing-song rhythm, my imagination was transported. This was beautiful, musical nonsense that spoke to the heart.
When we graduated to Dr. Suess, words and expressions tripped out of my mother’s mouth. We reread books so many times that a game evolved, where mum would read part of a line, pause, and I would complete it, trying to match her crisp lip-work, her joyous tone. If you never did you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.
In secondary school, I scored a golden run of five English teachers who encouraged immersion as a reader, play as a writer. In this way they transformed a childhood crush into a life-long romance.
Studying film at uni coincided with adopting an arty group of friends. It became commonplace to spend a night at the Valhalla Cinema, soaking up a marathon of Kubrick or Hitchcock. Or sitting on beanbags at StKilda’s artsy Astor Theatre, famous for its free-ranging house cat. Much as I had inked my pen in my soul and grappled with the creation of poetry and prose, I began to dabble in film-making. Doing so exposed me to the layers of artistry which combine and interplay to create the film experience. Composing shots, moving the camera; controlling lighting, adding sound and music; deliberating colour and line, editing to control timing and rhythm. I became entranced; every film I watched, a feast.
Today, we live in a paradise of access to literature and film. The library of Alexandria at our fingertips; the tower of Babel in our pockets. At their best, great texts transport us in time and space and point of view. Allow us experiences well beyond our singular lives. We can travel back in time, forwards to imagined futures, we can live as another. There are texts which allow you to spend time with any one of the greatest individuals to have walked our earth. And there are texts where the very words and thoughts of others long-dead are breathed back to life for our taking.
For me, film and literature distil and trap the essence of our shared humanity like so many seeds held in amber.