For the past week or so, the illustrator Ben Wood and I have been doing a series of creative exercises to celebrate the publication of our book The Wattle Tree. Each day we spent half an hour responding to a theme; I’ve been posting the results here on the site.
The theme for the final exercise was “Departure”. Ben’s response is above. Here’s what we came up with:
I can imagine living almost anywhere.
Whenever we travel, I subject Ben to these fantasies: looking longingly into other people’s front yards, pouncing on houses open for inspection. The boundaries of my own life seem makeshift at these times: that with a little wriggling I could be living another life in another town, that I could slip from life to life as easily as someone walking between rooms.
How many lives will this life contain? How many lives will I leave?
Of course, you return to your primary life; its contours firm up, you fit back in, a moving part in a routine, and that life begins to seem definitive. You forget the choices you made to make it, and the reasons why you made them. It seems inevitable simply because it is, this machinery that fits you so snugly.
You forget the warren of possibilities that fan out around you. You forget that you can leave.