Tania Unsworth, Children's Writer

The Big Picture

13 Jul 2015

Things look different from above.

I’m floating over upstate New York in a hot air balloon. The farmhouses below are building blocks and the lines of corn are drawn on the ground with a green crayon. I count the cows in a field at a single glance. Roads lead directly to a distant town.

I can see the shape of everything. I can see what happens next.

It reminds me of what a book looks like before you actually start to write it.

We rise and fall over a series of ponds and a stretch of woodland. A dog barks in the shadow of a red-roofed barn, its body no larger than a comma. A second dog answers from a neighbouring farm. And then a third from a house by the side of the road.

Everything is connected.

We are descending, drifting towards a field. From this height, the grass is as smooth as velvet. On an impulse, Oscar takes the cap off his head and flings it over the side of the basket.

“Why d’you do that?”

“Don’t worry! I can see where it is!”

But when we land, the field isn’t made of velvet any longer. It’s a huge meadow and the grass is waist-high, full of flowers, and drenched with dew. It’s impossible to see Oscar’s cap and nobody can remember exactly where it fell. He plunges away, searching blindly. We wait as he tracks this way and that, his head held at an increasingly dejected angle.

The big picture is beautifully simple. It’s only up close that life becomes complicated. Like writing a book. Wading through meadows of words, unable to see more than a few steps ahead.

“Found it!” Oscar waves the blue cap triumphantly above his head. His jeans are wet to the thigh and speckled with pollen and buttercup petals.

I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a miracle.


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