June Jubilations: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
How delightful it is to find myself at my writing desk, penning yet another missive to you! It is like writing to a pen pal, a reader in a distant part of the world, with whom I can't help but share the deepest longings of my heart.
So tell me, my dear friend. How has the month of June been for you?
We're almost midway through the year, and somehow it seems to me that the latter part of the year tends to whiz by faster than the first half. But before I start to plan for the rest of the year, I must give June its due, for it has truly been a month of celebrations for us.
We have a newly 6-year-old at home!
In the years past, I used to be teary-eyed as we marked the passage of time, the lapse of yet another year since my child's birth. This year was markedly different, though.
There was little space for sentimentality as the calendar this month was replete with occasions to celebrate–birthdays, of D's as well as many of his friends', playdates, a field trip from D's school in which I had the amazing opportunity to go along as a parent volunteer, catching up with a friend, the end of yet another school year, and the beginning of summer holidays.
We were all caught up in a endless wave of celebrations each weekend, as if to compensate for all the joys of living we couldn't share with each other over the past two years. This month, I was alive in a way that I hadn't been, that most of us haven't been, in recent times. And this aliveness left little room for nostalgia or anxiety, for thoughts about the past or the future, in a wonderfully liberating way.
It reminded me of a long-ago remark made by the late mythologist and writer, Joseph Campbell, in a series of interviews on the power of myth with journalist, Bill Moyers.
Moyers: So myths are stories of the search by men and women through the ages for meaning, for significance, to make life signify, to touch the eternal, to understand the mysterious, to find out who we are.
Campbell: People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that the life experiences that we have on the purely physical plane will have resonances within that are those of our own innermost being and reality. And so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive, that’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves.
That rapture of being alive! We look for it in the big constructs, the abstract ones, in the grandeur of vision, in the significance we attribute to purpose and meaning. But it was right there in the seemingly insignificant details of my daily life this month.
In the birthday parties and in the field trips. In the laughter of children and in the unexpected hush of summer afternoons. In the dance of sunlight and leaf-shadow on the wall in front of me. In the violent but mercifully brief bouts of illness that KrA and I endured. In the first overseas trip for work KrA has embarked on since D's arrival – an entirely new experience for all of us in more ways than one.
In the loop-listening to Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, A Deal with God. Oh, yes! For I too have fallen in love with that song that Season 4 of Stranger Things has brought back to life, nearly four decades after it was first released!
(On an aside, for someone who claims to not watch much TV, I have been binge-watching exactly one new show every month for the last few months. After Bridgerton and Heartstopper, it was Stranger Things this month. And after watching Season 4 (actually only Volume 1, because Volume 2 will be released only on 1 July, a clever move by the powers-that-be because it feels as if everyone and every ghost that haunts them are now holding their breath in anticipation for July to arrive), I went back and watched the first three seasons, one episode a night. As a writer, I had much to learn from the sheer story-telling genius of the team that brought Stranger Things to life.)
And yes, that euphoria of being alive was also to be found in my everyday writing of new poems and stories, of words that I hope somehow soothe your soul. Like in the writing of this missive, as I think of you and hope that when you read this, something will light a little spark in you and that you too may experience the rapture of being alive.
One such piece of writing that lit me up from within when I first read it is a poem titled Antidotes to Fear of Death by Rebecca Elson, the late Canadian-American astronomer and writer. In fact, I loved it so much that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall in front of me. I hope it makes your day a little brighter too.
ANTIDOTES TO FEAR OF DEATH by Rebecca Elson
Sometimes as an antidote
To fear of death,
I eat the stars.
Those nights, lying on my back,
I suck them from the quenching dark
Till they are all, all inside me,
Pepper hot and sharp.
Sometimes, instead, I stir myself
Into a universe still young,
Still warm as blood:
No outer space, just space,
The light of all the not yet stars
Drifting like a bright mist,
And all of us, and everything
But unconstrained by form.
And sometime it’s enough
To lie down here on earth
Beside our long ancestral bones:
To walk across the cobble fields
Of our discarded skulls,
Each like a treasure, like a chrysalis,
Thinking: whatever left these husks
Flew off on bright wings.
It is perhaps this newfound joy of being alive that explains why, despite the incredibly busy month that June has been so far, I've ironically also found the time as well as the drive, one in snippets and the other in boundless measure, to make progress on my publishing projects.
My new novel, Erased from Existence, is in the last stages of getting readied, and will go live before the end of July. You are the first to hear about it! Below's the cover and the blurb.
I'm so excited about this book. It feels very different from all my books thus far. It's a supernatural mystery, and I've played around with genre conventions enough to offer my own gentle, mystical take that I hope you'll find refreshingly new yet familiarly Dream Pedlar-ish at the same time.
A lavender farm in summer.
A fifteen-year-old girl who loves the colours of sunset.
A handsome stranger who begs her to run away with him.
It could have been a love story. Except, it is not that kind of a story.
When a strange man approaches Rebecca Classion outside her farmhouse in the dead of the night and begs her to not go back inside, she does what any sensible fifteen-year-old would do. She runs straight back into the safety of home and slams the door shut behind her.
Only, it turns out to be the worst decision of her life.
From that day on, Rebecca Classion fades away. From the memories of all who once knew and loved her. From the perception of everyone she encounters.
Not a trace of her persists for more than a fleeting instant. Not her voice. Not a footprint.
All she yearns for is to exist again in the world of her loved ones.
But oblivion may be the only safe place. After all, to be seen is to be exposed. And some truths are better left hidden.
I am also delighted to announce that my short story, A Benevolent Goddess, is now available as an auto-narrated audiobook on the Google Play store!
Google has rolled out a project whereby publishers can use AI-narrator voices to have their ebooks converted into audiobook format. I chose the voice of Mary, which Google categorizes as a 60+ year old American female with a US accent. The result is mindblowing!
The technology in its current state is best-suited for non-fiction titles, which don't entail a range of vocal inflections, so it seemed apt to try it out for A Benevolent Goddess, which has only a few dialogues. Nonetheless, Mary sounds like a dear, older, wiser friend narrating a bedtime story. I could also teach Mary the correct pronounciation of certain words, including my first name.
The audiobook version also includes the Bonus Chapter 7, which does not appear in the ebook or paperback versions currently.
Grab yourself a copy here and give it a listen! The runtime is about 1 hour 30 minutes.
Countless gods you pray to. Only one answers. It will cost her dearly.
In a land where gods have long mastered the art of ignoring the prayers of human beings, a new goddess arrives. She desires nothing more than to help those who call out in faith.
But every choice, no matter how noble, comes with its own consequences. Even the benevolent goddess will have to pay a steep price if she chooses to follow her heart’s desire.
Tales for Dreamers
In a different lifetime, KrA and I visited New Zealand. If I remember correctly, we were on our way to Milford Sound in a bus when the driver halted at a place near a little creek and declared that the water was absolutely delicious and undoubtedly potable. We filled our bottles and I took tentative sips, worried that we might fall ill. We didn't, and the water truly tasted divine. This picture was taken near the creek, and the story followed soon after.
Books You May Love
Alas, I have little to offer you on this front this month! I continue to struggle with reading. I've been picking up books, then letting them fall by the wayside. What I have below is a pile of books that I returned to the library, all of them unread. But I share them here in case any title catches your fancy.
Each one of them did appeal to me at one point, which is why I lugged them home from the library in the first place, but somwhere between falling in love at first sight and making a commitment to stay with the book until the end, I found myself wandering away.
And I wasn't even multi-timing this time unlike last month when I was thumbing through several books simultaneously–one on Kindle at bedtime and another in paperback during the day, or a non-fiction title alongside a work of fiction, shuttling between them as my mood dictated.
And now, I must bid farewell, dear Dreamer! It is Tuesday afternoon as I type these words. KrA's away on a work trip (he'll be back by the time you read this), D's happily at summer camp, and the house is doused in a peace and quiet that I've longed for, for aeons it feels like, but have only managed to enjoy today.
It was only fitting that I spent all morning and much of this afternoon, composing this love note to you.
Thank you, dear Dreamer, for once again allowing me this luxury of piping up in your inbox with my latest custom-made concoction of thoughts and words. It is a privilege I will never take for granted.
May your coming days be filled more often with the rapture of being alive!