On the first page of my work-in-progress is the title, Easthope, and under that: a novel? When I began to write, I wasn’t certain what I was going to do. Maybe it would be an extended essay on place and how we perceive it, how it changes as we change. Because the place where Easthope is set isn’t really called Easthope. It’s the village at the end of the road near me. It’s the place where we first looked at a property in 1979, not long after we got married, and I remember thinking, If we don’t buy this, maybe we’ll never have anything. It wouldn’t have suited us. Or it wouldn’t have suited us then. Maybe it would now. And, in a way, that’s where this story is leading. Because I’ve become very fond of the village at the end of the road and particularly during these strange times, where meaning and values are shifting, it seems to me to be a place that is intact.
In the past few days I’ve written 2000 words. I come up for air and wonder where I am. It’s the best way to feel when working on a novel or an essay. Transported and immersed. And this story has so many surprises. When the couple who have inherited the cabin on the Doriston Highway unlock the door and enter, they think at first that the walls are painted white. But then they realize there are washes of faint colour on them, soft outlines of trees, misty skies, as though the weather has come indoors. When they open a freezer, the neat packages of prawns, fillets of ling cod and salmon have GPS coordinates noted on them. I didn’t know any of this when I began. I know this sounds disingenuous but it’s true. There are some things I know– the names of the main characters, something about them, the name of their daughter–but I didn’t expect the rooms painted with weather. The fish.
This morning after our swim, I walked a little way along the shore and saw the island in the distance against the rise on the other side of the lake as a kind of watercolour, not unlike the rooms in Easthope. It’s the time of year, I guess, or the time of my life, or maybe my eyesight is fading. Or maybe this is how I will see the world for the next few years as I write this novel. This novel? I’m going to leave the question mark there for now.