July Journeys: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar

In which a Scottish literary giant of the past reminded me that the story of humankind is as old as the story of the stars ...

July Journeys: Monthly Missives from The Dream Pedlar
Photo by Connor Mollison on Unsplash

Hello, Dreamer!

Something special happened this month and so, even though I didn’t expect to have much to share in this column until September, turns out I now do.

But before that, here's a short announcement to let you know that next month, you can get The Mind Meddler and several other fantasy short stories, some for 99 cents and some for free, as part of an annual promotion run by the International Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (IASFA).

The promo will run only for a week – August 20—24 this year.

I will send you a short reminder on August 20th, so you can fill up your e-readers with several awesome short reads in the fantasy genre!

Now, on to all the fun stuff!

For you see, I’ve been a-travelling. We were in the UK for a few weeks. Among the many moments of happiness we had, visiting family and doing touristy stuff, there’s one two I’ll hold very dear to my heart.

The first is that my darling nephew, not even 10 years old yet, has signed up to this newsletter! Hello, Aadit! 👋 A big welcome to you here!

So you see, dear Dreamer, I'll have to make doubly sure now that I don't post any NSFW stuff here! I don't wish to be accused of corrupting young, impressionable minds and all that, although I reckon some of the best creatives we've seen in history did precisely that with much aplomb. 🤭

The other thing that happened was the one which left a lasting impact on my own impressionable mind.

One fine afternoon in Edinburgh, I set out by myself in search of The Writers’ Museum. It features memorabilia from the lives of three Scottish literary giants — Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

It was literary heaven for me!

While Sir Walter Scott has an entire monument erected in his name, the Scott Monument, The Writers' Museum housed some fascinating items of his.

One was a rocking horse he used as a child, with one foothold higher than the other to accommodate his handicap resulting from polio at an early age.

There were other treasures too, like his fancy Meerschaum pipe and walking stick, as well as his silver seal and inkstand set!

The rocking horse Sir Walter Scott used as a child as displayed at The Writers' Museum, Edinburgh
The rocking horse Sir Walter Scott used as a child
Sir Walter Scott's walking stick (top) and Meerschaum pipe as displayed at The Writers' Museum, Edinburgh
Sir Walter Scott's walking stick (top) and Meerschaum pipe
Sir Walter Scott's silver seal (L) and inkstand set, as displayed at The Writers' Museum, Edinburgh
Sir Walter Scott's silver seal (L) and inkstand set

But what touched me the most were the words of Robert Louis Stevenson. It was in the rooms dedicated to this writer that I spent most of my time at the museum. Here is what he had to say about travel, writing, and life.

To Travel Hopefully
For all his life, Robert Louis Stevenson believed that ‘to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.’

Can you imagine the gladness my heart felt upon reading these words? I, who have been long chasing some imaginary milestones and goalposts to cross in my writing journey, needed this reminder as badly as flowers need rain in the grip of a heatwave.

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.
~ Excerpt from Travels With a Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson
Riding boots, spurs, crop and hat used by Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa as displayed in The Writers' Museum, Edinburgh
Riding boots, spurs, crop and hat used by Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa

And like every great writer, Stevenson's words were a great reminder of why we need to keep creating, keep telling our stories.

When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium; and consider one who writes them as a sort of doctor of the mind. And frankly, it is not Shakespeare we take to, when we are in a hot corner … It is Charles Reade, or old Dumas, or the best of Walter Scott … We want incident, interest, action; to the devil with your philosophy.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

And here is what Stevenson said about life.

To be honest, to be kind — to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make, upon the whole, a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends, but these without capitulation — above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself — here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.
~ Excerpt from A Christmas Sermon, Ethical Studies 1888 by R. L. Stevenson

Funny how even 150 years ago, humankind aspired to the same values and ideals in life that so many of us hanker after in the present day.

The story of humankind is certainly as old as the story of the stars.

We make the folly of thinking that our joys and our sorrows are unique to us, that we’re all alone in the successes we achieve and the trials we face during our oh-so-brief time here on earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So here is the permission we find ourselves needing from time to time to shed any regret and guilt over past mistakes, and to relieve ourselves from the pressure of having to 'make' something extraordinary of this wild, precious life of ours.

For life is already exquisite in its ordinariness, and seeks nothing more from us but our absolute acceptance of this extraordinary fact.

Tales for Dreamers

A Crisis of Identity

I wrote this story more than a decade ago! We were living in Singapore at the time, and were often treated to views like these.

Funnily enough, when I looked at this picture a few days after having taken it, I couldn't quite tell if the sun was rising or setting. When I asked KrA about it, he promptly replied that it was a sunset. I asked him how he knew.

His reply? This was a westward view and so there was no way the sun could rise from that end!

tales for dreamers: a crisis of identity
Even the sun and the moon can have dilemmas of their own.

Books You May Love

Reading took a backseat this month as I was out and about, greedily soaking in the sights and smells and sounds of the new worlds I was visiting. I did take my Kindle along for the journey but I didn't even switch it on. Movement was all that my body needed to enjoy a good appetite and a good night's sleep.

But fret not! I've now gone back to my usual vice of browsing the library shelves and picking up books, so hopefully I'll have some lovely recommendations for you next month.

Now that I'm back home, I miss being on vacation. I miss being in a place steeped in history, because history means lots of stories. I miss being with family, all of us having come together in this lifetime by some quirk of fate — call it birth or marriage — and enjoying each other's company.

But the best thing to do is to look ahead, not behind. So here's to more adventures, more joy, and more of this wonderful life for all of us.

In parting, I will leave you with Stevenson's immortal words from Treasure Island, published 140 years ago.

Fifteen men on a dead man's chest — Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum! Drink and the devil had done for the rest — Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!

Until next month then!

~ Anitha