One thing I find remarkably hard about starting this blog is the prospect of writing about what I truly think. I am used to being insulated by the requirements of academic prose (and the reflection that only seven people are ever likely to read my dissertation besides myself) or by the distancing effect of fictional narrators. Now I sit here wanting to write deeply, down the nerves, down to the bone, and I feel as if I am writing about water in letters of fire.
This is not helped, as one might expect, by an audience currently consisting of a very small number of people, all of whom I know. If we were sitting in a real stone-and-mortar inn somewhere, I should be able to tell if you were listening, interested, amused or astonished, argumentative or in agreement. (Eventually, of course, I hope you will comment, and let me know that way.) I would also know a bit better who was here, strangers and old friends, new friends, the quiet gentleman in the corner who knows the way. I hope you will all be here, today or another day. The purpose of this blog is to issue an invitation, as well as to explore the invitations I receive: that is why it is called an inn.
These invitations are to my friends and to strangers, just as if I were opening an inn on some cross-roads somewhere instead of nestled in the ether-and-electricity wood of the Internet. Nevertheless, the invitations are there, to me and to you, to come in from the cold or the heat, to sit down for a little and talk about trifles and other things that matter. To converse, which is to say, to turn together. To speak of shoes and ships and candle-wax, of cabbages and kings. Why is this so frightening?
Perhaps because it is new; because it makes one vulnerable (but then again, that is the only way to learn); because the real seems at once too insubstantial and too strong to drink in. I can’t pretend I know the real, though I am looking for it; just that somehow, where I flinch away is probably where I should be focussing, in the fire that is light turned to touch, in the cupful of water held for a moment and examined in defiance of Heraclitus.
One of my favourite blogs to read, Cold Antler Farm, is very much about the real, and I am sure it is often very hard to write. It’s very hard, I find, only a few days in, not to close the door already. But I have hung out my sign, set the table, laid the fire, drawn the water from the wishing well. It will take me a while to bring the fire to a respectable blaze; in the meantime, I hope you will stay a moment, look around, come inside when you pass by this way again. You’ll be welcome to stay for a chat any time.