Hinemoana Baker is this year’s Writer in Residence at Victoria University’s IIML. As she described in her first blog post about it, she has an office and she gets paid to go in there and write. ‘There’s enough room to lie down. There are walls and windows and tui and today, a slightly damp guy with a leaf-blower.’
I loved a blog post she wrote yesterday that was simply a list of questions. Questions like:
Why, when official records pertaining to loved ones are locked in stacks or storage, does it somehow feel like the loved ones themselves are locked in there?
And why is it that when a question is written down it suddenly seems urgent? I want answers to all of these questions too. Anyway, her list kind of triggered something off for me, and I felt like writing one of my own. So, here are a few questions that I’ve noticed idly circling me for the last while. (Obviously, I am hoping that someone else will respond to this post, and someone else will respond to that post, so that ultimately a kind of Mexican wave of questions will form, not unlike that epic poem by Matthew Yeager.)
- How is it that an inanimate object – like a sculpture of a bird, or a stuffed camel toy – can look full of such weird delight at being alive?
- How does its maker know when they have achieved that expression?
- When did the age that I consider ‘old’ change?
- Why is the one childhood moment I consciously decided to remember – that is, thought to myself firmly, ‘I will remember this moment forever’ – the moment of my mother standing in the kitchen in her apron, holding a baking bowl and a spatula, having a coughing fit after eating some cake mix?
- When was the last time I wrote a letter, before the one I wrote this week?
- Why, when I see an old film with an animal in it (e.g. a monkey or dog), do I feel more wistful about the animal being dead now than the actors being dead now?
- Why, when a friend begins telling me a story that they’ve told me a few times before, do I let them go on?
- Does my old workmate Mark ever think of the time when I accidentally crushed him in the automatic doors when he was adjusting a window display?
- Will I ever forgive myself?
- Does the realisation that The Dead Poets Society was actually a terrible film diminish your experience of being moved by it as a 12-year-old? Does it diminish your experience of being moved by the experience of standing on your desk with your classmates, to imitate Mr Keating’s students in the movie?
- Why are you all the way over there and why am I all the way over here?
- Will I ever use an ordinary-sized spoon to eat with again?
- How is it that when a seemingly intelligent, empathetic person says something cruel do they not seem to hear themselves?
- Why do I sometimes earnestly consider constructing an anonymous space on the internet where I can ‘speak freely’?
- Did I make that guy at the gym genuinely angry when I disagreed with his argument that water was a privilege and not a right, and that people who couldn’t afford to pay for it should die of thirst?
- How did that guy’s day start out?
- What were his parents like? What is he doing right now, that guy?