Let’s all pause to appreciate the unpredictable tangible consequences of creativity. When we put new things out in the world we can have many hopes of the effect they might have. But, we don’t really know what they might be. And, in the end, we will almost certainly never know. I’ll give you an example.
My husband is the son of an Englishman, so early in our relationship he taught me to enjoy a nice cup of tea before bed. Unfortunately, my body responds to the smallest bit of caffeine like a tuning fork, so this ritual didn’t work well for me. (Also, I always had to go to the bathroom during the night, which made me grouchy.)
Luckily, one day, several years ago, I read a lovely book you may have already heard of (it’s the first in a large, popular series); The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
The titular agency is run by two Botswanian women, who believe strongly in the power of tea to solve any and all problems. The lady detective herself swears by the traditional red bush tea. Her secretary prefers by the new, fancier English tea. (Incidentally, this book contains possibly the sweetest discussion about apostrophes.)
Anyway, I was intrigued by this red bush tea. What was so great about it? Turns out, plenty. Also known as rooibos, it’s naturally caffeine-free and pretty sweet on it’s own. As I said, that was years ago, and we have been drinking red bush tea almost every night since. But, injustice of all injustices! Our local supermarket no longer caries it. Just another indication of the decline of Western society.
All this to say that I hope authors (and all creatives) sometimes pause to imagine how a detail like a character’s love for a specific drink can be the pebble dropped in water with unforeseen, rippling consequences. That it can bring something small, but significant, into the life of a reader who came across their work.
Do you think McCall Smith knows he brought red bush tea into my life? No way. Is there a huge group of us who now partake in it because of his books? It’s possible. I’m sure it wasn’t the purpose of his books though. But, oddly perhaps, it’s the way his stories have affected me most intimately.
(I feel like I’m being wordy and metaphorical today. You’ll have to forgive me. I have just finished re-reading The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, and am still thinking in her writing style. As you do.)
It’s one of those tenuous moments of happenstance that gives me a great feeling of interconnectedness.
Teacup with birds image found by The Graphics Fairy in an antique Victorian cookbook