A Sunny Bookshelf, a Dark Piece of Writing

26 Dec

Sunny greetings from my bookshelf this morning!

my favourite part of my apartment

wearing a hat

Over the last few days, I did two things I have not had much time for lately: I caught up with sleep. I wrote Munay.


This is how it happened: I recently bought a book entitled “Phantastica: A Classic Survey on the Use and Abuse of Mind-Altering Plants” by Louis Lewin, M.D. Very informative on the impact of plants on society. More ethnobotany. The first chapter is dedicated to opium and morphine, and as I was idly sipping tea while reading it, I had an idea.

So I set the table for writing.

from my Tumblr

from my Tumblr

It’s been a long time since I wrote for Munay. I’ve been meaning to post an extract from her, my second novel, for a while, but life kept catching up and posting other things. Having this extract fresh out of the oven, I’d like to share it with you immediately. Consider it a Christmas present, from me to you.

Along with this exquisite picture of the Melbourne based model, aerialist and contortionist. Merry Christmas!

Vicky Aisha Blackthorn

Vicky Aisha Blackthorn

This extract will be in Chapter 2: Death. As I wrote it, I mused a bit in my diary (which you can see beside the computer in the photo), and at the end of the extract, I’ll share these musings with you.

What Happened Previously: there’s been a terrible accident in the sky, and now, Anahata, the main character, can’t sleep, can’t eat, can’t fly. No one else dares to fly. The caravans come to a standstill. No one performs. Ti rents the stage out to poetry slammers and musicians. And now the extract.

I’ve not included everything. I’ve deleted some bits and pieces to keep it simple(r) and short(er). And to make the reading happier, I recorded a video of myself tonight, reading it for you.  I hope you enjoy my hat. My bookshelf normally wears it.

Just press play… and enjoy the next extract… 


Ti understood her role as the heart of the caravans. The pulse in her veins was what kept the caravan wheels in motion. The tenacity of her soul was what attracted the audiences. Somehow, they felt it; somehow, they knew: here was time away – away from the surfaces of everything they knew to be true. They came because they wanted to flirt with the idea of believing in something else. If just for a short while, they wanted to bend reality. This was the promise with which she called them, and for more years than she cared to count, she had done it well. She was the heart of the house.

The lifestyle they led as nomads placed them beyond the periphery of the norm, and it was Ti’s knowledge that kept them alive: her knowledge of herbs, meats, liquids and the weather. It was she who guided the caravans to their next destination. She poured over maps that depicted not countries, but the locations of plants. Depending on what they needed, that was where she led them. Did the women suffer from irregular menstruation, they headed for forests of wormwood, chamomile, and thyme. Did the men suffer from impotence, they sought fields rich in garlic, anis and salvia. Ti kept an elaborate apothecary in the splendid jars in her caravan kitchen, but they paled in comparison to fresh herbs and sudden needs. Thus they sailed the tempest of life, always reacting to its storms with alternating herbal answers. Being simple people, they never needed much. But sometimes, they did – and now was such a time.

Where she gave, Ti also received. That was the price of balance. And now that one of her caravans could not sleep, Ti inadvertently suffered the melancholia with her. Her own sleep became lighter, and with the footfalls that murmured past her door every night, she slept less and less, until she realised she was awake and staring at the wooden planks of her ceiling.

Ti feared that girl’s insomnia. She could not bear to watch one of her own unravel slowly over time, until all that remained of that once strong-hearted girl would be a miserable ghost who had nothing to do. And how carry something with you that is devoid of passion and life? No, if she continued this way, the girl would have to go. At the next village, perhaps, left sitting by the road – a ghost, nothing more. It wouldn’t be Anahata they were leaving; Anahata would by then be long gone. And they wouldn’t mourn her shell either; they would only acknowledge that sometimes, on bitter occasions, Darwin commanded the law. You either learnt to swim in the depths, or you returned to the simple life. Perhaps back in the shallow end she could regain her footing. Perhaps tending to chickens was just the therapy she needed.

Ti knew she couldn’t keep her much longer.

But Anahata would never leave voluntarily.

So Ti got out of bed and walked thoughtfully over to her kitchen. She stood in the dark for a long time, peering onto her shelves before finding the plant she was seeking. Slowly, she pulled the dark thing out from among the other herbs, and dug her long thumb nail along its side. Its milk seeped out and down her bony fingers. She sniffed at it. It was not friendly.

In that moment, Ti hated the world. She hated the messy boy sleeping on her floor; she hated what the world had done to him. She hated how the world sometimes tipped to one side and, after some things had fallen over its edge, it restored its balance – but in this movement, millions of people lost something, and this loss now left them suffering.

She knew better than to ask herself why the world sometimes tipped. Pacha Mama’s hips were in constant motion, and she was a traditional lady who loved to dance. We have a mother whose next move is never easy to predict. If we don’t know the rhythm of her song, how can we hope to keep up with her dance?

Ti looked at the nepenthes in her hand. A shadow had risen from the floor: the boy was awake. “What is that?” he asked, creeping over.

“It is to help her forget… the life of the world,” Ti answered.

“We can help her!” he responded, sounding hopeful and surprised. He hadn’t been aware that such a thing existed.

“It comes at a price,” Ti said, “and I don’t know if she should have to pay another one… In addition to the one she is already paying. It will help her forget her pain, but it will make her forget everything else, too. Her joy, her energy, and her self. Once she takes it, she’ll stay behind.”

He couldn’t believe his ears. No one was ever left behind.

Ti was silent for a while, and then she said: “She must get better. She must. We will have to wait and see if she can survive this. But if she continues to hold this siege against our caravans, then we must find a way to make her leave. Sacrifice her to this plant. Make it all that matters to her. We’ll leave her enough to ease her pain for the rest of her life – or enough to end it in one dose.”

The boy looked at Ti. She was shaking – with anger, with confusion. She had always been their guide, but this time she was lost. He stood beside her in the dark, knowing that he was seeing her weakness and her anger at having to make a choice she did not want to make. She shared her weakness with him in the dark – but her eyes never left the opium poppy in her hand.

– FIN.

from Wikipedia

It’s a provocative chapter, and I’m curious on your thoughts on it. Especially Ti’s idea of “sacrificing Anahata” to a plant. How do you feel about Ti now?! And who is this “messy boy” sleeping on her floor???

Anahata never knows of Ti’s thoughts. Shortly after this bit, the novel will go to a wild place. I can’t wait.

Here are the musings from my diary:

My characters are not meant to be moral advocates. Their actions are deliberately debatable, and that is what I hope they open doors to: debate, thought, and consideration.

“Munay” is an emotional map of my 2012. I remember exactly where I was when I wrote each paragraph, each chapter. It has been a long time since I worked on her, but she remains constant. I have a tender love for her. I can’t wait to read her out loud, although she’s not done and her body will change. As I write her, she is in “puberty”. Still emotional, still maturing, not a solid established personality just yet. When she’s done, I’ll know her character and her message.

I am happy that I have gone back to writing her. She feels wonderful.

today, writing

today, writing

Next time, I’ll post all your beautiful, beautiful FINGER HUGS. If you missed it, please watch THE VIDEO BELOW! Shortly before Christmas, I initiated a small movement to show our solidarity and compassion to all the people who, for various reasons, may not be having a jolly good time over Christmas. It’s a small thing to show them they’re not forgotten, or alone. If you want to participate, paint your fingers and send me a picture (with your face, if you like) to: rittisoncco@gmail.com

Your Finger Hugs will be in the next post! That gives the rest of you out there some more time to send HUGS.

In the next post, I’ll also talk about why SWR Television came to my apartment, made me eat ice cream and cookies, and filmed my bookshelf.

filmed by SWR

photos by Mr Benjamin Paul


In the last post I mentioned that I’m not big on celebrating Christmas. And you thought of me…! Thank you to everyone who sent me songs, stories, pictures, and emails. I appreciate the love VERY MUCH. Beforehand, I thought: “It’s not going to be easy being alone…” – and then I wasn’t. Thank you. ♥

But Tom Waits’ version of Silent Night scared me. I appreciate the sentiment… Was it meant to scare me?

One reader asked me about my Christmas celebration, and I’ve decided to answer that on my Tumblr because this post is already long enough!

Until next time, I leave you with a great postcard sent in by a reader ♥

happiness is

And if I don’t see you before: Remember! How you spend the first seconds of the New Year is how you’ll be spending the whole year. That’s what they say in Peru. Party wisely!


2 Responses to “A Sunny Bookshelf, a Dark Piece of Writing”

  1. Tom December 27, 2012 at 12:20 am #

    All I can say is: I love your writing. I can tell how much you like your story and characters through the passionate words and storytelling. Can’t wait to read more!


  1. Back to Illustrating Qayqa « Rit'i Sonq'o: A Journal on Being a Writer - January 30, 2013

    […] few weeks ago, I published an extract from Munay, in which Ti speaks to Damian (yes, it was Damian…!) about Anahata’s insomnia. To this, […]

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