Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Letter from Sabine to Griffin

My friend Adelina sent me this exquisite book, Griffin & Sabine for Christmas. It arrived in late January and I read it in one sitting.

This is the book she sent me and the letter that accompanied it.

And this is what the book actually looks like:

Anyway they talked on postcards until Sabine sends Griffin this long letter, explaining how, though separated by thousands of miles, she "sees" his art...


Now that it comes to answering your questions and telling you about myself, I feel oddly shy. Not that this is a reason to hold back; in fact I deem it a sign to press on.

I know nothing of my real parents. I was handed to my father and mother by an old picker who'd found me on the slopes of Pillow Mountain, "bellowing among hot black metal and broken grass."

My after (who was at that time the only European on the island) went with neighbours to search the area. But it was the rainy season, the mountain was deserted and one of the regular mud slides had obliterated everything. Later he tried in vain to find a record of a plane crash -- but I had, it would seem, appear from nowhere. I must have been six months old when I arrived, hungry but otherwise unharmed. In this way, I became Sabine, daughter of Gust and Tahi Strohem, and by their kindness and caring have grown to my present age of 28 years.

During my early childhood, I spent most of my time with my mother, who is a native of Katin and Sicmon's only midwife. She's fun and wise, but by the age of 7, I'd grown bored with babies and birth. I decided to trade her company for that of my father, who'd once been a curator at the Natural History Museum in Paris and had a mind that retained information like flypaper. He and I would go on wandering in search of specimens for his 'Catalogue of the Islands' (a book that would document every species on the Sicmons). I'd skip along by the side of him, clutching his canvas bag and clinging to his every word. He loved to talk as much as I loved to listen. Sometimes it would be about Paris or Amsterdam or the other cities he'd lived in, but mostly he spoke of the islands and the things we saw and heard. He encouraged me to draw those things, promising me the position of official illustrator to 'the Catalogue' when I grew up.

I remember one time when we'd just come up to the village from hunting shells on Polemy Beach and I dropped a monstrous conch on my foot. I howled with pain, and a tree ahead of us exploded with blue and yellow macaws. My father, who could see that I didn't know whether to attend to my toe or the feathered fireworks, laughed and whispered, "Pain and beauty, our constant bedfellows." Young as I was, I understood. On the dawn of my fifteenth year I was lying in that easy state between sleep and wake when the image of a half-dream flower came into my head. I was entranced. Gradually, it grew and changed, lines appeared and disappeared - it was so real and clear. I could see the picture but not the hand that created it. Eventually, a noise form outside broke my concentration and the image evaporated. It was your drawing, Griffin -- the first of hundreds of pictures I witnessed without knowing who made them. For 13 years I've waited for a clue, anything that would help me locate the artist. You seemed destined to be an enigma forever, when a few months ago, I came across and article in Grafica about a one-man postcard company. It said that the art was "all Moss's own work," and there was a photo of your fish card. It was the same piece I'd seen being drawn 3 years before. Finally, I knew who you were. I counselled myself to be cautious and find out what you were like before revealing myself fully. Please don't feel invaded -- it's not like that, I promise. But I am impatient to hear about you. Write soon. Yes I can only see you.


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