Neil Coppen

writings/ plays/ poetry/musings/travel journals and newspaper columns

The African Aurora

October21

Sweet Aurora

For months I have been trying to pen you this letter yet have found myself inhibited by a paralysis of the imagination.  I suppose a more benign term might be post project daze.

They say Aurora, ninety percent of writing is imagining what it is one wants to write. If this is true ,then I have been spending ninety nine-percent of my waking, dreaming, scheming hours imagining. A luxury for sure. Who wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to suspend reality in order to inhabit a semi-imaginary one. To resign oneself to the company of the non-existent. Reality during such periods slips into the background, is seen as nothing more than an inconvenience…. something to brave when the fridge is bare and a trip to the grocery store is a  matter of life and death.

I imagine at your age this is what your day-to-day must feel like, though you never have to actively set aside the time. Your pass is unlimited and integration seamless. There is no distinction between what is real and what is imagined, no boundary or border post you need ever flash a passport at.

The other night I went to visit Lorkin Greenstone, a whimsical little man with almond shaped eyes, quite similar to you in age and loveliness. Lorkin joined his parents and I at the dinner table and regaled us with tales of Buttercup cottage:  a fantastical plot of fictive real estate if I might say so myself. He proceeded to describe every detail: the hills, forests, rivers and bat-infested caves. When it came to the wolves, he would crouch his voice in a whisper, careful not to let the beasts (salivating around the next corner it would seem) overhear him.

I miss your stories Aurora, often wonder what topsy-turvy universe you have imagined for yourself over there. I am always dreaming up ways to reach you and figured if I could just crack an invite to Lorkin’s Buttercup cottage I might be able to swim across the river and find you living in the imaginary realm next door. I’d know it was you of course by the gargantuan butterflies and pink unicorned ponies strutting around the paddocks.

What I meant to say at the start of this letter is that I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write. While I’ve spent the greater half of this year chipping away at my story block, I have left very little room for anything else. If, during this period, say a new idea, curiosity or impulse has dared to rear it’s optimistic head then it has been made to get in line, wait its turn.

Now that my story has taken its first tentative steps into the world, I find myself sitting with a head bereft of all its previous inhabitants and To Let for the next when they decide, if ever, to show up.  In the meantime self-doubt, indifference and insecurity (afflictions common to most grown up’s) have taken to squatting in their place.

Still there is hope on the horizon. Through this letter you have inspired me to string some words together. It’s like beading a necklace I keep telling myself, one trinket at a time, with the hope that in the end, each word will create sensical sentences of some sort.

 

Your animal friends Sophie, Finn and Mango continually ask after you. There is a framed photo of you –ensconced in a menagerie of stuffed toys– resting on one of Pop Pop and Gogo’s couches and Mango the tabby has taken to guarding it. In your absence he has forgotten (or forgiven) your toddler tendencies to throttle all fluffy living things and has made it quite clear that he is ready to welcome you home. He will not move, I believe, until the little snowy headed girl from the photograph materialises at the front door.

A few months ago I took some time out to search for new stories along the Transkei coastline. There are many precious shipwrecked treasures said to still litter those rocks.

Your friends Sophie and Finn accompanied me. You should have seen him, regal prince Finn, unleashed in his kingdom after what must have felt like centuries of suburban exile. It’s quite something to watch a dog re-acquaint him (or herself) with their long lost dogness. I think humans, should take time every now and then to do the same thing—get in touch with their human-ness that is not dog-ness!

In a couple of hours I watched Finn transformed from whimpering mutt to biblical lion. Proud, poised, muscular from our morning jogs, his mane salted and woolly from the sea air and his eyes the colour of a sunlit glass of ginger beer.

And sister Sophie how she would have made you laugh, not nearly as majestic for genetics favours the few. She is, I have come to the conclusion, more dassie then dog, her squat frame at odds with her dainty disposition. Watching her tottering along in front of us she seemed to resemble a rhinoceros squished into a pair of high heels. She is not built for such a landscape (predisposed by her mish-mash of little dog DNA to warm the laps of lonely spinsters) still that doesn’t stop her from trying.

Intrepidly she sets off along the meandering paths, satellite-dish-ears swivelling to retrieve and make sense of each foreign sound. Every now and then she halts abruptly, raising an imperious paw and sniffing at the air, perhaps a flashback to one of her previous lives, to a time when she would accompany some mink coated mistress out on fox hunting expeditions.

Out here Prince Finn and Princess Sophie’s adventures are magnificent and together we could write volumes inspired by the two of them. In the space of a five-hour car journey their tame garden mutating into the terrifying unknown. The pool now resembles an ocean teeming with aquatic creatures far more treacherous and unpredictable than your average creepy- crawly.

 The Tividale lawn, sans walls, grown humps and bumps that stretch forever. This lawn now plays host to a range of four legged oddities such as goats and sheep, which for Finn, overwhelmed by previously dormant herding instincts, are tremendous fun to try and sheppard off cliffs into the sea.

It is a coast-line shaped as much by myth as it is by centuries of sea and wind. I slept in the loft of an old fishing cottage. At night the wooden rafter’s creaking and moaning, making me wonder what it would have been like to have been holed up in that doomed ship The Grosvenor which was wrecked a few hundred meters from our cottage. Can you imagine that Aurora? Tossed from your bed into the washing machine sea, stranded somewhere between rock and sky, star and firefly.

On each visit this landscape welcomes us with a new spectacle. Last time it was a series of electric purple lighting storms and this year is was the fire-flies who appeared to be embarking on some Guinness Book of World Record attempt to outnumber (and shine) and stars in the sky.

Taking their cue from twilight they would emerge in their zillions and spin us into the centre of their low flying constellation which I named the African Aurora in your honour.

 I imagined you, as I often do, beside me, accompanying me on an impromptu space-expedition, hurtling with arms outstretched through the phosphorescent clusters.

I took the trouble to teach these fire-flies how to spell your name in the sky and asked them to go forth in search of you. Chances are, when you get this, they are still making their way ‘en masse’ across the seas ( Heavens I hope they haven’t forgotten your address) but look out your window any evening now and you might glimpse a suspended capital A…followed by a lob sided U….luminous R….. iridescent O and R…. capped by a twinkling cursive A.

They are just flies with twinkling bums and don’t have much going for them in the way of brains so please forgive them if they cock up the spelling.

I send them with huge love.

Give your sister Autumn a hug for me.

Neilo

posted under Childrens story, musings
3 Comments to

“The African Aurora”

  1. On October 22nd, 2011 at 9:55 am michelle hankinson Says:

    wow…this has brightened my day beyond belief. truly beautiful. thank you lovely x

  2. On November 5th, 2011 at 7:35 pm terri Says:

    It was Coby who slept allowing me space and time to wander around. In his dreams he lead me to you, aurora. I know a bit about you now, and I look forward to meeting you one day. I think Coby might like you (if you don’t take him too far out of his depths- though one day, that may make him like you even more).

  3. On March 16th, 2013 at 1:33 am Lindsay Says:

    This is so beautiful. I found tears in my eyes when I thought about the fireflies and the storm and the sea… you lifted the veil, and I thank you for sharing. What a wonderful gift :)

Email will not be published

Website example

Your Comment: