The news of the Red Room closing down reached me at a time when I especially feel the need for continuity and something solid under my feet.
I am preparing for my fourth house move in eighteen months. A few close friends and family members are going through very challenging times. Challenging. Challenge. I hate these words. This isn’t a sporting event, or a job interview, or a Power Point presentation, so let’s call a spade a spade. These friends and family members are having serious problems. There. Problems. No point in putting a positive spin on it. Positive. Another word that makes me wince. Let’s use happy, instructive, fortuitous, optimistic, or any other specific, meaningful adjective and leave the insipid positive to blood groups and polarities.
But I digress.
So, on the morning of 4th July, I dragged myself out of bed after an almost sleepless night full of worries and a draining sense of powerlessness. Sipping my lemon juice and warm water, I switched on my laptop, checked my e-mails and saw Ivory Madison’s message about the Red Room becoming part of Wattpad, and going offline on 8th July. As you can perhaps imagine, coming on top of every other instability, the news made me feel as though I was standing on a boat that had suddenly been rocked by a wave.
The Red Room is closing. Slap!
Closing down in four days‘ time. Slap!
This isn’t happening.
Is there anything stable in my life?
Four days‘ notice to migrate to Wattpad. Slap!
Four days only?! What are they thinking?! Where’s the fire?
What the hell’s Wattpad, anyway?
I stood up and walked to the French window in the living room. After a day of glorious sunlight, the Brussels sky had recovered its customary bleakness. I felt oppressed by greyness. Sun. I need sun. I need colour. Light.
I switched on Radio Klara and the light, colourful notes of Baroque music breathed life into the living room.
Meanwhile, my brain was trying to process the information received and its consequences. A list ran through my mind of all the people whose blogs I regularly read on the Red Room. Wonderful writers whose thoughts, whether in prose or poetry, have inspired me, encouraged me, given me joy, provoked thoughts, made me laugh, taught me and – in a way – gradually made a better person out of me. People whose writings have broadened my horizons. I thought of these women and men. The one with a subtle, wise and deeply humane outlook. The one with the fierce intelligence and the courage to expose the harshest realities. The one whose zany stories make me giggle out loud. The one who describes food and smells in a way that touches your every sense. The one who doesn’t balk at describing pain and trauma in raw detail, yet keeps a sense of the goodness of the world. The one who takes you travelling – often on foot – to magical lands. The one who captures the seemingly most insignificant human story and turns it into a microcosm of warm-hearted humanity. The one who writes poetry that touches the heart with the clean, innocent touch of a child’s heart. The one who writes elegant verses that bewitch you. The one who entrances you with sophisticated poetry and fascinating historical figures. The one who drops brain-stretching non-sequiturs. The one who weaves words and music into a harmony of colours and sounds. The one who – but I cannot list them all. My yet un-met friends. That’s what I realised. Even though I have never met them, over the past couple of years since I joined the Red Room, many of us have become friends.
Suddenly, my plans for the day were capsized by the need to do everything I could to keep contact with these un-met friends. I checked whose personal e-mail addresses I already had, and exchanged them with others. I tried to find out if anybody published their blog anywhere else besides the Red Room and immediately subscribed to it or bookmarked the site. I noticed many other Redroomers were doing the same thing. Rushing to exchange contact details, thanking one another, sharing sadness at the closure of the Red Room, saying goodbye, expressing hopes of meeting again, on new roads, in new lands.
My heartfelt thanks go to Huntington Sharp and Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons for the kind retweets and generous Editors‘ Picks, and to everyone else at the Red Room for creating a unique writing community that has meant a great deal to me – perhaps more than I had realised until now.
And, of course, my gratitude goes to all the writers who have shared their prose and poetry, and read and commented on my scribblings.
Please, let us keep in touch.
To quote Robin Goodfellow,
“So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends”