Often when I walked I was moved by the sense of community I observed in the Spanish pueblos. People in small towns battened down against the elements and the swirling forces of global economies, swapping tomatoes and jokes, bread and comfort, chorizo and chat. They knew each other’s most intimate details, gathered for births, deaths and fiestas, and committed to wading through the tough times together, and celebrating the joys.

The life of a village has always been seductive to me – the idea that we are all responsible to those within the sound of the church bell. Walking across Spain, there would be mornings when I would hear bells from all sides, in all notes, ringing out to me across the fields. I loved it, though it did occasionally make me lonely. I was reminded that in spite of kindness and welcome, I was an outsider, a pilgrim passing through.

It’s easy to forget that I inhabit a village.

Mine isn’t a picturesque camino pueblo with adobe houses, or white-washed walls, or a town square. It isn’t focussed around a church or a community centre or a bar. It isn’t in a physical space at all, although there are places where I can locate deep connection. Places where I have history on the earth, like the house in which I type these words, and the neighbours and shopkeepers nearby.

But that isn’t it.

My village is located in the ether. It lives in the space and time alignment that we call love. It has been forged through travails and triumphs and poems and wishes. It is often glued together by laughter, but tears have cemented much of it too. Loss has also shaped this village, so when there is a gain, we all rejoice.

This last week has reminded me of the depth and breadth and potency of my community. As the book began to make its way into the world, my village has been holding a fiesta! Photos arrived in my Inbox – people I love holding the book, shouting its praises to the skies, and spreading the word as though it was their own. And of course it IS their own! I’ve learned that my book is no longer mine. Maybe it never was. It has its own life, and to see it snuggling into the hands of my village, my beloveds…Well that is joy unexpected and unparalleled.

My villagers have become ambassadors, mailing information to journalists and peers, chirping to the twitterverse, group emailing their fingers raw, and waltzing into bookshops and libraries demanding they stock SINNING ACROSS SPAIN.

“Everyone in Claremont will want to read this book!” one friend said to a bemused bookseller.

Now that is faith!

I was even sent flowers for my opening night! Some of my village know the traditions of the theatre live deep in my bones, and that although there is no curtain or lights up, “attention must be paid.”

Well attention has certainly been paid.

I’m sitting here at my keyboard, the most confounding, wonderful, frustrating view I know, trying once again to suck words from the air to express my gratitude for the miracle of my village life. For the mystery of love, and that I get to wallow in so much of it. For the fact that my journey is your journey. That your days create my days – colour them, infuse them, light them. That we all hear a bell, and move toward a village square that exists in the space between our hearts.

We have a centre. A forum. A meeting place. We know where it is.

And we flock there. Every day.

Thanks for gathering for me this week. Thanks for ringing the bell.

I bow in gratitude.

14 thoughts on “My village

  1. So very proud of you Ailsa. I can’t wait to read the book. I had lunch with Fiona Spence yesterday and she was raving about it. She laughed and cried all the way through. Love and hugs Amanda M

    1. Amanda! How gorgeous to have you visit. Thank you! And yes, I think Fiona is my ideal reader. She has updated me at every stage of her journey with the book and it is so exciting. I’m lucky to have such support. Big love back to you. xxx

    1. Hello dear villager. Please send on a pic when it arrives, won’t you? I want you in the gallery of rogues!

    1. I think I’m RADIATING at present, cos I’m so excited.
      I think that for overseas readers,you may have to go to the Melbourne University Publishing website and order from there. Sorry it is a bit tricky. Maybe google it? I will ask and let you know. Thanks for visiting in cyberspace! x

  2. I bet they have a copy at Readings, or even closer, Brunswick St bookstore… even though I have made the supreme sacrifice (as sacrifices go it’s pretty non-fatal), to read George RR Martin’s epic series Ice and Fire because I’ve got to share some currency with my son, I may have to practice some multi-book reading. That’s not my favourite way to read, but hell, I’ve just finished the first of the other – 700 pages and they’re all like that and there are eight… if I waited till I finished I might be reading Swag of Sins in 2015! Looking forward to it. Tell Phillip it would make a great talking book – I believe he listens to those on his drives… xx

    1. You are an excellent Dad. I’m sure my Pa didn’t read Sand Dune Pony for me!
      At least I can promise that it is waayyyy shorter than the one you’ve just finished. xxx

  3. Dear Ailsa,

    Such wonderful writing and heartwarming insights. Wishing you every success — looking forward to reading your book!

    Besos y felicidades from the City of the Angels, amiga! Hello to Oz!


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