Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Thursday, 8 September 2016

To Dream the Impossible Dream!



Painted by Janine Harrington

 'It doesn't matter about being born in a duck yard,
as long as you are hatched from a swan's egg.'
The Ugly Duckling, by Hans Christian Anderson

'The Ugly Duckling' was always my favourite story as a child. There were so many reasons why. I identified with the 'duck' who felt so jaded, so different, unable to find those who would accept him just the way he was. I knew how it felt to feel 'less-than', that that was all I was worth. Such emotions run deep. Hans Christian Anderson did well to channel his feelings into writings, using them to create powerful and evocative images in a style easy for children (and adults) to relate to and understand. Mum would get so frustrated and angry whenever I called myself 'the ugly duckling'. This wasn't me feeling sorry for myself, or doing the 'poor mes'. It was something I genuinely felt. And always I'd hope that, by listening to the story, I would somehow make sense of my own life, find a formula to change things for the better, hoping for that 'happy-ever-after' ending. Mum didn't understand why I was the ugly duckling. Not then. While I couldn't find the words to explain. We saw the world through different eyes. As a young child, I knew I was different from the start. With a pair of heavy cumbersome calipers on my legs and regular three-times-a-week visits to the hospital a bus ride away, how could I not know! It was the right formula for low self-esteem, walking in the shadows just like the ugly duckling, trying to hide what he wished others couldn't see. As a loving mother, of course Mum could only see potential that lay in a place I didn't yet know, especially as I began to write stories, drawing on my own limited experiences of life.

The story of 'The Ugly Duckling' followed me through life. As I tried to evade bullies waiting at the school gates, taunting chants about 'the cripple', I identified even more, especially when years later I unexpectedly discovered that the author, Hans Christian Anderson, was shaped by his own early experiences which mirrored mine. Born in Denmark, Hans would have been nineteen years old when my great great grandfather Johanne Kromann was born in Dragos, a small village in that same country. I like to think that as a child, Johanne might have heard Hans sharing his stories in some public place in Copenhagen, and felt inspired to discover his own potential, removing any boundaries placed around his dreams ... reaching confidently, with promise and hope, for the stars as he went on to become a Linguist on board passenger liners bound for distant shores. Hans Christian Anderson and my great great grandfather, it seems, both dared to dream the impossible dream.

British Victorian poet, Robert Browning wrote a poem, suggesting that, to achieve anything worthwhile, a person should attempt even those things that may turn out to be impossible ...

'A man's reach should exceed his grasp
else what's a heaven for.'

As a child, I could so easily have accepted my limitations. It was difficult being born at all after spending over twenty minutes in the birth canal. Following a period spent in an oxygen tent, my disabilities were discovered. I couldn't play like other children. Sleep-overs as they call them now, were a 'no-no' given the boots I had to wear to bed, binding my feet together with a steel bar between the two. I was warned in later life not to expect too much - driving a car, walking any great distance, finding a position at work, even having, holding and hugging my own child. It would have been so easy with the mentality of 'the ugly duckling' to remain in the shadows, to do what was expected, to follow the path laid before me and never dream for more.

But then, everyone has a gift, a talent, a skill. You might not even know at first, or feel you have anything to offer. Some discover it early in life, others later, and then again others never find it at all. When it does present itself, in those first moments it is important to uncover it as if it were a precious gift ... as indeed it is ... and then come to recognise, to own it, to know it as a friend. For there will come a time when you will need to appreciate its full potential, and thank God for the Blessing He has bestowed on you to be used wisely and well.

It isn't meant to be stored for a rainy day, or hidden from view, but rather it is something to celebrate, because in time it will define who you are, the person you were truly meant to be. It is this gift that will show you how to make your mark on the world, and prove you truly can make a difference.

I learned to write from an early age, my mind already brimming over with stories I wanted to tell, based on what I could see and hear around me. When I couldn't find words, I would create pictures. Yes, at first they were childlike. Simplistic. But then I discovered colour. It held a fascination, because suddenly it was possible to highlight trees and foliage, the pond, and flowers, making them so much brighter than they actually were. I had enough shadows lurking in my life, shifting and shaping into things I didn't want to know or to be a part of. What I wanted more than anything was to discover the art of teasing out that which other eyes could not see, to emphasise the miracle of life going on around us. I tried to capture special moments and freeze them in time. Like stolen memories, I needed to hold them close when my river swelled with sorrow; and blinding white curtains of mist hugged mountains of doom, a weight of fear holding me down. For me, special moments, happy moments, art moments, became my stars in a night sky which I could turn to when something bad was happening in my life.

It also presented a unique opportunity to create sequential art, made up of drawings depicting a very personal perspective of what was taking place, how that felt, what it meant to the individual concerned. Like a child's dot-to-dot drawing, it brought together an episodic scenario of captured moments, building into one complete whole.

I became caught between drawing or painting life, and writing about experiences as a flowing entity. I realised that nothing could halt time. Time was something that moved on regardless, and in doing so, altered the pictures around me according to event and mood, before I could put them on paper. So I alternated between the two according to mood and nature.

Inevitably perhaps, it reached a point when I began to question, thirsting after knowledge and truths. Where did my ability to create stories come from? Why did some people find it so hard, and there again, others couldn't do it at all? The same with art. A pen or a pencil in my left hand was like an extension of myself. But where did that gift come from? I used to watch my father with his quick deft movements sketch a scene in moments, or else paint in oils, a medium I never use. He had the gift, yes. But it was something different again.

Finally, my searching mind reached a crossroads as I adopted music as another language, discovering sound seeping through my veins, until my fingers throbbed to notate it on paper. A song was born ... words swiftly followed, or else the other way around. No matter. Suddenly, I wanted to know, to learn where all this was coming from. The pressure of creating something came at the most inconvenient moments. It was frustrating, yet powerful, as I realised the force within me wouldn't let me go. It kept pushing ... and pushing ... and pushing ... like giving birth. It refused to give up until eventually I sat to do its bidding, whether it was writing, music or art. There were days when it became scary and wouldn't stop, giving me no rest, coming from some other place, as if someone had control over my mind, my thoughts, my emotions, steering my hand in the direction it needed to follow. They were inspired moments ... moments when I truly knew something wonderful had happened.

But how? From where? Why me?

It was only in later years as I reached back into past lives that things began to make sense. Family history held the key. I discovered my grandmother had composed and played. My uncles also. Music was in my blood, in my genes maybe.

Now, in the Autumn of my years, it is even more important for me to find out where I came from, my ancestry, to know as much as I can about the lives of the people who came before. These are the kind of questions my daughter will need answers to ... and I won't be around, so I need to evidence the findings I already have. It is a quest I have been on for tens of years, researching back to the sixteen hundreds. And as anyone who has tried genealogy knows, it is addictive. The more you find, the more questions there are, the more stories you have yet to know.

My own findings touched so many lives. As soon as I knew I originated from Denmark, immediately I wanted to go and visit, to tread in my great great grandfather's footsteps, to see what he had seen in his beginnings, to follow his story through, and find others who had known him in his youth, before he began to sail on the main ships leaving Copenhagen, and became an Interpreter. Now that is something I definitely didn't inherit. I've never been good with languages ... but then my daughter is!

We are all connected. It is only by tracing our lives, reaching back in Time to those who came before, that we find answers for today. Sharing our findings is even more important as there are so many hundreds if not thousands of us on the same quest.

Recently, I posted on this blog the journey of my life reaching back in time, linking it with those who came before me. Pictures speak louder than words. Putting faces with the writing helps to make people real, holding that image in your mind as you read about them. It has proved a fascinating journey. I felt inspired by people in my past, and I would thank those who have written to ask questions, identifying with what they viewed here. It is principally to them that I say it is with great sorrow I have been forced to remove those wonderful pictures and stories of their lives from this site. I know they offered much knowledge and joy and connectivity. But I have to respect others' feelings in this. It has been my privilege to signpost people in the direction of places to find information. Every one of us has a history, a need to know where we came from, to identify those who came before us, to understand their lives and what became of them. It is a truly fascinating journey. Please don't give up on your own search. I know for me it has been a voyage of self-discovery, to reach into the past and find my roots. There have been surprises, some shocks even, but within our own personal experiences there is all the mystery, joy, fascination, puzzlement, and love we could ever hope to find in an entire library of books. We have it all right here in our own Family Tree if we dig deep enough.

We are all connected.

Once you discover your roots and where you come from, never forget who you are. Always look up at the stars, as a good friend repeatedly tells me. Each of us is so much more than just one dot in the Universe. Believe! Remember your talents, your gifts. Learn where they came from and explore your past ... because you are a part of it, part of something you cannot yet know until you put yourself on this journey. History in the making! One day in the future, someone else is going to realise their own potential, their gift, their talent, their dream, and be curious about where it came from. Their journey in seeking the answer to that question will ultimately lead back ... back in time ... back to You.

The story of the ugly duckling is a simple one, and yet came from the feelings of the author at that time and what was going on in his own life. It therefore offers lessons for us today.










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