Use of Natural Imagery
THE SHIFTING POOLS is full of imagery of the natural world. I wanted to create a a wild, wind-swept environment, where the natural world was as central to the story as any character. And that holds meaning - as Eve refinds her place in the world. She is essentially discovering that she is a part of all this - a piece of that tapestry - and woven deeply into the fabric of the world around her. She has lost that sense over the years - and it is in refinding it that she discovers herself. She is far more wild and untrammelled than she had led herself to believe. And it was this side of nature - the raw edges, the power and the unremitting force that I wanted her to be set amongst. Enanti captures that wilderness for me, and that is where her subconscious takes her to. This taps into everything she always was, but has hidden. It hints at the power in any individual, and also their irrefutable place in all of this landscape. If any sense of belonging is needed, this sense of the natural world provides it at the most primal level. Eve had cut herself off from the very thing that she was searching for and was missing. Trauma blunts the senses in many ways - and colour is bleached away. A strange numbness can descend, for many years for some. Eve experiences this most starkly when she starts to live with her aunt and uncle, and notes how everything sounds muffled. The sensory world is too overwhelming, and so is shut down as a form of defence.
Nature holds many truths. Our insignificance, our incredible importance, how nothing stays the same, how elements interact ceaselessly, destruction followed by creation in a never-ending dance. I wanted the backdrop of natural imagery to be holding these lessons silently there for Eve, until such time as she could start to hear them again. The image of tiny sea thrift flowers on the coast, pounded by salt spray and buffeting winds, is a true image of resilience and joy. Life taking hold wherever it can. Opportunistic, gritty, adapted, beautiful.
There are echoes back to Eve’s original garden, throughout the book. It was a place of growth and abundance, symbolising not only Eve’s nuclear family, but also her own position on the brink of adulthood - full of possibility. As an adult, she is aware of something nagging at her when she enters the wilder area of her nearby park, but can’t yet bridge the gap. There are references too, in that childhood idyll, of Eden being lost - and the world then becomes a desert.
The tree imagery is deliberately used to touch on all the symbolism of trees - their giving of life - their network of hidden roots and anchor points. The symbolism of the dead tree is to represent all of that interconnection and life suddenly being abruptly shut down for Eve. In Enanti, where the land is mostly forested, Eve is scared at the outset, uncomfortable with being out in the open, unaware of what all the trees and life around her are doing for her - putting her back in touch.
The sea itself has long been an image of the unconscious. The scene where Eve wades out into the sea and deliberately puts her head under fully, is symbolic of her desire to finally reach those parts of her own self once again - being ready to start listening to them. Hence, rather than drowning in the sea, she starts to be able to breath again in that realm. She is learning where she has come from, and what gives her life and meaning.
In the same way - the idea of the Shifting Pools is to highlight that readiness to go into the water - and embrace your unconscious world - wherever that may take you.
These bodies of water can be seen as the holders of dreams - and the waves simply wash these up occasionally onto the shore of the conscious - leaving us clues and nudges in the strandline.
The natural world is what is there when all artifice is stripped away. It is where we stand when we have nothing else. And yet, when too much else comes into our lives, we tune out from it, and turn away. It is what Eve yearns for: “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home”. (Gary Synder).
I try to make my writing very visual - conjuring up scenes for the reader. This is instinctive - as it the sort of writing I am drawn to, and it is how I see the world. I see images very clearly in my head, and that is how I experience things as they are related to me. It also must, I suppose, be drawing on my past as an artist, or at least be part of that same path and drive.