The Cassandra Pages will be ten years old in March, 2013. That is a lot of words, a lot of photos, a lot of comments, and a lot of time. Perhaps it's not surprising that I'm feeling like I have nothing new to say these days! However, I've been curious to look back at what, and how, I was writing then, in 2002 and 2003. Over the next months I may post some things from the archives, and from my personal journals.
Here's one, written on December 10, 2003, with a photo taken today. Not long ago, I gave the mezzaluna, that shiny, dangerous, double half moon, to a friend and excellent cook here in Montreal, who, so far as I know, hasn't repeated my mistake.
"When he seats himself at the little writing-desk before the window looking over Bristol harbour, his hand feels as clumsy and the pen as foreign an instrument as ever before."
I cut myself yesterday on the mezzaluna. We don’t use it often, this sleek kitchen weapon with its ebony knobs and stainless steel blades. I’d taken it out of the back of a drawer in order to chop a bunch of cilantro, and as I pried the hard black plastic guard off the curved double rocker-blades I said to myself, this is a dangerous thing, and just then my little finger came up along the back blade, just so, more swiftly than a thought. At first I couldn’t tell if it was a deep cut or shallow, only that it was clean and bloodless and a quarter of an inch long. I waited, staring, in that shocked space after a sudden injury, and then ran my finger under cold water. Stinging, then nothing. I began chopping the cilantro, and then a large drop of dark red formed and I instinctively raised it to my lips. It wasn’t deep, this cut. I was lucky.
Later in the afternoon I stopped working for a while and read J. M. Coetzee’s Nobel Prize address. Somewhere around the third or fourth paragraph, another blade descended. This one was radical, entirely bloodless. It sliced through rosy pride and accomplishment, and then through the fat yellow layers of self-doubt and apathy, right down to the white-blue bone. I’m not finished with you yet, it said. I’m not after bone, but marrow.
There’s always something to write about in the back of a drawer, and always better writing out there, waiting to cut us open, to reveal more of the stuff of which we’re made. We can squirm at the last minute, letting the blade stop in those middle layers, or give ourselves up to the knife, rejoicing in language used so well it leaves us panting, avid.
"All of this news of Lincolnshire his man writes in a neat, quick hand, with quills that he sharpens with his little pen-knife each day before a new bout with the page."
(The two quotes are by Coetzee, from his Nobel address.)