Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Art of Finding Things

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The Art of Finding Things

When I was a kid, I wasn't interested in taking care of my toys- even my favourite ones. I used to carry around a purple Cabbage Patch Kids bag filled with plastic bangles. It would accompany me on family dinners, road trips and walks.

It was left behind at a restaurant.

I didn't miss it.

There were other things: a velvet sparkly bean bag frog (I have to admit that I do miss him sometimes, he was a beautiful frog), a clown doll (now the idea of me sleeping with a clown doll freaks me out), a necklace with multicoloured plastic hearts...the list goes on.

My parents tried to discipline me by taking away my favourite things, but it never worked because I stopped caring about them after a few days. Maybe I was a Buddhist in my past life & had mastered the art of detachment....until I discovered books.

I don't remember how or when I acquired "Platero & I" by Juan Ramon Jiminez, but it quickly became my favourite book. I read it and re-read it- marvelling at the vivid descriptions of the countryside, various kinds of fruit, and a little donkey. Yes, the book was about a man and his donkey. I don't know what it was about the writing or the friendship that kept bringing me back to the book, but it was addictive.

I traveled to Kenya to visit my family and had lent the book to my younger cousin, who also fell in love with it. In a grand gesture of maturity, I entrusted the book to her- stating that I would get it back upon my next visit.

The next time I was in Kenya, she had reluctantly informed me that my beloved book had gone missing. Despite searching the bungalow from top to bottom, we couldn't find it.

I never forgot about it.

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I remembered it over the years, but couldn't locate another copy.

It was only this year, after preparing for a storytelling event, that I came across a tale about a man and his donkey- from the beloved Sufi poet, Rumi. It triggered my memory of "Platero & I", and I decided to search for the book once again.

The lovely thing about the internet is that you can find treasures you lost in your childhood.

As I re-read "Platero & I", I am shocked at the fact that parts of the book is dark and difficult-it's not a child's book in so many ways. And perhaps that's the beauty of being a writer- the readers grow into your books and find new meanings at every stage in their lives.

It's why we can go back our favourite childhood books and find gems that relate to our adult experiences.

The act of writing is an exercise in remembering what was lost- or what could be lost. Finding a book you had once lost is like rediscovering a part of yourself that was lost- someone and something you can revisit every time you flip the page.

And so I leave you with a little glimpse of the world that accompanied me when I was a pre-teen, and has come back to me once again:

Night falls, hazy and purple. Vague green and mauve luminosities persist behind the tower of the church. The road ascends full of shadows, of bells, of the fragrance of grass, of songs, of weariness, of desire. Excerpt from "Platero & I"

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Sheniz Janmohamed

Sheniz Janmohamed is a spoken word artist, author and graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Guelph. Her first book, Bleeding Light (TSAR) a collection of sufi-inspired English ghazals, was published in 2010.

Go to Sheniz Janmohamed’s Author Page