As I sit typing this, if I look up from my screen my focus shifts to a print of a little red-haired girl standing in a beam of light, looking up in wonder at a glowing Red Tree in her bedroom.
For those of you who know the book, it is the final image from Shaun Tan’s masterpiece The Red Tree. I have bought and given away that book more often than I can remember. I think it is the most precious and extraordinary story I know. And it is a story told without words. It is all Mr Tan’s incredible images – and heart.
This is my image, bought at one of those times in my life when I was earning nothing and had no prospects, but knew immediately that Shaun Tan’s work would give me hope.
The ghost in the image is the photographer.
It was either me or the flash!
When I went to record my interview with John Safran and Father Bob, I was already nervous. Mates had told me that I finally had cred because I was going on their show. That I had to lift my game to talk to them. That John was cooler than Melbourne in autumn and Father Bob was the man. I didn’t need to be told, but the stakes got lifted anyway!
Then I discovered Shaun Tan was also a guest.
I don’t think I can explain to you exactly how much it meant to me that I might finally be able to tell him what his book has given me over the years, or how it has become my talisman against darkness, or that I have given it to children and grown-ups and for happiness and sadness and grief and joy.
I was excited.
And there he was.
Humble, smiling, surprised and kind. He not only signed the book to me, but he did me my own little drawing in the front of it. See?
I could never have imagined I would get to meet him.
I will always keep this copy of the book.
And I will always be grateful to the mysterious ways of the camino, that brought me to Shaun Tan via John and Bob and their producer Serpil and my publicist Olivia…
And the road…
A miracle. For which I give thanks.
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We can walk together!