Wild Things #2 Beatrice Alemagna - Children's Book Author
"Dreaming, I realise now, is necessary for becoming a free, happy person. Thinking about my own childhood boredom, I realised that boredom is freedom."
In the second of our Wild Things series we catch up with French-Italian author and illustrator Beatrice Alemagna about her new book 'On a Magical Do Nothing Day.'
We've been road-testing the book over the summer - it beautifully captures the possibilities that arise when you create the space for magic to happen. Tapping into the zeitgeist of our times, we wanted to find out more about Beatrice and what inspired her to write the book.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and how you came to do it?
I write and illustrate children's books. Since I was a child I always wanted to be a ‘book painter’. I was shocked when I first discovered that there were real people making up the stories and the drawings and I never stopped doing it after this wonderful discovery.
What inspired you to write 'On a Magical Do Nothing Day'?
It all started as a phrase in English. This is funny because I don’t speak English very well! I wrote the words, ‘Just a day of nothing’ and in my mind, I saw a drowned landscape in the rain.
I realised that I wanted to say something about boredom. About how important is it to experience it. Think back to that unbearable and vacuous space that tortured you, when there was nothing to do and it felt dreadful. I didn’t realise it at the time, naturally, but those feelings gave me something: the chance to dream. And dreaming, I realise now, is necessary for becoming a free, happy person. Thinking about my own childhood boredom, I realised that boredom is freedom.
One of the things we love about the book is how it brings to life so beautifully the simple pleasures that come from unhurried time in nature. How can we get more of this in our daily lives and in our families? Is it as simple as turning the internet off?
I don't know if it's that simple to turn off the Internet, but it is surely a good way to start.
Going on vacation where there is no or at least less network available; forget willingly our phone at home when going on a stroll with our children, in order to look around with them and maybe have the same amazed look when discovering little animals hiding or flowers that we, grown-ups have forgotten. Being close to the things that are physically close without escaping to another world..
Why do you think this kind of time in nature is important?
I don't think it's important, I think it's vital. We are all part of nature, and we won't change that. It's vital because nature made what we became as a species. Unfortunately our lives bring most of us to cities where nature is hard to find if not non-existent, as in Paris.
We need to get closer to it, at weekends or whenever possible because feeling nature makes us better human beings, I think.
What are your own memories of ‘wild time’ outside and nature growing up?
I've always been an ‘urban child’ and rarely experienced ‘wild time’ in nature. This created my curiosity and fantasy regarding living extraordinary and uncommon things in nature.
When I was between 8 and 10, I remember going into a forest with friends of my age and we found a hollow tree. It was, for us, a real fairytale tree! We decided to stop by for a long time, to make it our home and to ornate the hollow part with the most beautiful things we found in the neighborhood: flowers, leaves, berries. It's was wonderful ! I recall perfectly the magic of coming inside the tree and feeling a totally unknown joy.
Did you use much technology?
At the time, in the late 70's/early 80's, we didn't have internet or computers, video games had just started and so no, I didn't use much technology. I've seen it becoming more and more part of our lives.
It was noticeable to us that the mum in the story also needed to experience the magic of a do nothing day - what role can we play as parents?
Today's children, the "digital natives," have what amounts to electronic limbs--mobile phones, computers, tablets or whatever else technology provides. But it hurts every parent of my generation, seeing their children stretched out on the couch, alienated in front of a bright screen, when there is a world of wonders to explore.
Do you have any other stories you can share about a magical do nothing day you have experienced recently?
I went recently on vacation, during the summer time and I went for a stroll in a pine forest with my two daughters. We found pine cones and opened them to extract some pine nuts.
We didn't find them at all but our hands were totally covered with a wonderful glue smell of both resin and sap. It was intoxicating. It was nothing, but it was really wonderful to experience it.
So who fancies a Magical Do Nothing Day then?
Image copyright ©Kristine Thiemann