What makes one fall in love with literature, with art, with music, is not necessarily something tangible, something pervasive or even apparent. Instead its the evocation of an essence, the whiff of a smell we can no longer find and which we only identify with through the sprawling mass of ink on a page. It takes form subtly, slowly, and draws upon the recesses of our minds, the desires of our imaginations as its process of incarnation solidifies.
For me, I was caught within an era when women rode horses bareback across uncultivated fields, a dry wind whipped our faces, and callused hands knew the hilt of a sword, as a mother knows her child. There was a simplicity, a ferocity and something deeply magical about that belle époque. I could smell the sweat and blood, taste the fresh grass as it danced through the sharp, dry air and I felt the soft pulse of magic that whispered through the eaves of bowed trees.
For others, it is the brash sound of a trumpet as it sways through a piano medley whilst finely dressed women Charleston across a polished dance floor, fascinators shaking, sequins spraying coloured lights across a 1920’s ballroom.
At times the blurred streaks of paint that turn canvass into poetry capture our lethargic eyes. The shimmer of water creeping under splayed lily pads taunt our concretised minds; we can even hear the cooling breeze as it ruffles the weeping willow’s gracefully arched head, shaking tears of pearly raindrops over the noon-day sky.
The arts draw us in like an intoxicated lover revealing all her wonders. They drape elegantly jewelled hands over our hearts and tease out our desires, our fantasies, the worlds we wished we lived in and often wrote, sang or drew ourselves into. And that is what is so beautiful about their power.
They give us a respite from the present which we always try to erase away, yet which they are forever hungering after like unsatisfied children with an unquenchable thirst. They remind us what it feels like to be alive, and when we finally resign ourselves to the notion, the knowledge, the realisation and acceptance that we cannot inhabit that beautiful era, they give us new eyes to see the beauty of our own.
We in turn transform the present into tomorrow’s fantasy, and inside its enveloping folds, find the fading taints of the old.
(Inspired by Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris)