Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Solitude of Palliative Care

I read One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1996, while my mother and I nursed her mother through the final months of terminal cancer. I had grown up with my grandmother and her stories. She was born in 1912 and did not go to school, instead she rode wild horses through prickly pear on the central western Queensland cattle property her father had built from scrub. She grew up with tribal Aborigines, with the Depression, self-sufficiency, but also dressing for dinner and having books sent out from England by boat.

The experience of reading One Hundred Years of Solitude at this time changed my life. My grandmother died about the same time I finished the book, and I returned to my inner city bohemian share house in Sydney and sold all my possessions. I then began four years of constant travel around Australia and around the world. I earned my money by being a street musician, boat builder, farm laborer and smuggler. I had entered the world of possibility and coincidence.

For me the fluid, cyclical and charmed world of One Hundred Years of Solitude cast a glow over everyday life. It gave me courage to take a chance, to throw caution to the wind and step outside the habits and routines of what is expected by some unwritten social code. The characters shimmered and flickered and died, not living safe and predictable lives, but remaining true to their inner thoughts and feelings. The world is amazing. This is what Gabriel Garcia Marquez taught me.
Published in The Guardian Online: The Solitude of Palliative Care

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