Orthodox Crossing: Labours of…

My Dad can build anything, but if you left him to it without direction, he’d build the sweetest shed or greenhouse that you ever saw. No working plans to go by, just God-given instinct and experience. An intimidating ability to grow up around for me and my brothers, but one honeyed in pleasure; you could tell he enjoyed building all of it because the essences were all over everything. Labour is labour, and that is fair on its terms, but labours of love are love, they reek of sub-creation, and it doesn’t matter how expensive the thing might or might not be. I used to, seemingly without end in that particular job, move around a then-new Steinway piano, and regardless of all its history and the pageantry of its brand, it was made with love. Now it was almost certainly more planned than what my Dad would set his heart to, but it came from the same place; for my Dad it expressed itself as some overground Hobbiton fantasia while for Steinway it was the up-keeping of the uber-good. Feel free to insert your own thing here.

For myself, I like writing fiction and the internal process of building that world and the tones of its edges; the loose brooding over it all and then finding out what I actually mean by writing it down. I have been at those buildings for a while now and my memory remembers very well how it started.

When I was thirteen my English teacher set us all in class the task of writing an outline for a story. I thought this was a great idea and as I rarely said about that anything to do with school, I was excited about it and started to put mine together in m’brain at the stable yard that took up my time after school.

I had two points of reference for inspiration, or theft. One was the film The Shadow, which I had then recently seen and enjoyed the 1930s aesthetic of. I wouldn’t have said aesthetic at the time, and it still feels cheap to bring it up here but to be more plain, there was a post-noir, Joie de deco shine to its mise-en-scene and I thought, I’m taking that for my story.

The other thing I was into was the Japanimation titan, Akira. We all remember our first lesson in cyberpunk and Akira was mine. I hadn’t been so into a piece of animation since Watership Down, and the pair could go toe-to-toe for craziness.

So I went ahead and built that world and then wrote the arc and themes of it up for class, but it didn’t stop there. I liked making people up and building their world around them. I found myself getting up to it all the time, especially during lessons. I had it down perfectly, and the teachers couldn’t see what I was getting up to unless they could climb inside my brain, which I wasn’t going to let happen. I didn’t need anyone else in there. It was already getting crowded with people and their worlds.

It has been a thirty-year internal practice at this point. Two actual novels have come from it and a whole adopted family of other worlds written down, and then a little over five years ago I happened upon becoming Christian all-of-a-sudden, so there was that to fit in and start looking out from, which has helped to put things in perspective. i.e. not mine.

When I think about world-building in a practical, writers’ sense, I think about setting a scene and then populating it with details and tone, so that as you read dem words you build that place too, albeit with the flourishes that your own mind is bringing along with it; personal inflections about certain words or situations. Reading is just as much fun as writing like that.

But, when I think about God’s authorship over creation it twists my melon for a very specific reason amongst many. The detailing. You can set a scene in writing, decorate it with tone and fine detailing, tailoring the whole thing; you can even shift from perspectives as free as you’d like and experience the same thing from another angle. But you can’t write all of it. There is a limit to the amount of description beyond which you are no longer doing fiction but rather attempting to indulge in something more Genesis I. But like I say, you can’t write all of it, not like Creation.

There is a spot where I sit to eat my lunch on one of my regular gardening haunts; beneath some tall conifers and across from which lays a considerable pile of waste wood and off-cuts. I was looking at it this week and thinking, I could describe that as a writer. I could describe it up and down but in the true creation I can go rummage through that waste pile. I can see the created description as close as the grain on any piece of wood, throw it back and then find another. And another. I didn’t because I was having a break, but I was sitting there thinking that the detailing is endless and ongoing with creation. It breaks my understanding of authorship and is beyond my comprehension of the brooding love over such a thing; the tenderness over the threads… I mean, to even comprehend all the threads in the first place.

But then it’s lunch down and back to it. Been a lot of pond work this week. It’s the sort of gardening-adjacent thing that I am always left to sort out late-late winter.

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