I’m not religious. Nor am I superstitious. And I’m aware that what I’m about to say might sound a little kooky. But here it is:
I believe in signs.
I believe that the world conspires in the most beautiful way to bring together people and ideas and situations.
And I also know that this happens when we are tuned into the here and now: when we are being mindful.
While I was writing Milo, I felt that the world was sending me gifts to deepen my story. When everything I see, hear, touch and experience connects to what I’m writing, I take it as a clue that my story is going well and that it’s growing wings.
In those Milo months, I took the bus a great deal, partly out of financial necessity and partly because taking the bus never fails to feed me writing ideas. On one of these journeys, I sat next to an old man carrying a bunch of flowers. Noticing that I was staring at them, he said: They’re for my wife, we’ve been married for fifty years. Yellow roses are her favourite. He had a Greek accent and wore a corduroy cap. I hope that those of you who have read What Milo Saw will be experiencing a tingle of recognition: that afternoon on the bus, I met Petros and I found out what Gran’s favourite flowers were.
The day of that bus journey was the anniversary of my German grandmother’s death. Yellow roses were her favourite flowers too. She believed that, on her children’s birthdays, she should be given flowers as an acknowledgement that she had brought them into the world – that it was her birthday just as much as it was theirs. So, she started a tradition: I now give my mother yellow roses on my birthday and I expect Tennessee to do the same for me one day.
In that encounter, time, place, character, object and my own personal history came together and I knew that I had just been given an insight into two of the most special characters in my novel. I am so happy that my German editors put a yellow rose on the dust jacket of their edition of Milo: Der Junge Der Mit Dem Hertzen Sah. Needless to say, it’s my favourite cover.
The clutter of everyday life makes us close our hearts and minds to this alchemy. We stare down at our phones. We flip from one screen to another. Our minds charge ahead to the next thing. The practise of mindfulness, which is gaining ever more followers, calls us to take a breath and to look at what is inside us and in front of us. It’s then that we notice the signs that enrich our lives and our creative pursuits.
Today, in every interaction, in every conversation, in everything you see and hear and read, open your mind and your heart and be ready and recognise this wonderful truth: that the world is standing in front of you, its palms outstretched, ready to hand you a gift that will make your life and your writing sing.