The past is never far away

A wooden writing desk set against a window with sunlight coming through

Constance's writing desk

In this place of so many homogenised spaces, so many unremarkable, low-ceilinged little units, I have found my home: a nest for dreaming, a shelter for imagining; my corner of the world to daydream and escape into solitude. I am lucky to have found that even in the most colourless of places I can experience beauty.

The mess of the construction site for the Thomson line has been cleared away. We now have our open space back. I am standing in the corridor outside my flat and looking over the canal, the open field, and the freshly cemented and covered walkway leading from my block to the bus stop. The upgrading includes a lift to the pedestrian bridge across to the other side of the street and plants on the sides of the road that welcome many small birds… I can now go for short walks without worrying about uneven ground that might trip me. On one such rare walk, I sat on the steps leading to the pedestrian lift and watched as about eight beautiful egrets wandered around the green in front of me. On the railings by the canal sat a lone grey heron, still as a meditating monk. Much as I wanted to watch it fly, that heron was not going to move.
I have watched a couple of families of bulbuls build nests, and raise families of baby bulbuls just outside my window. That experience inspired me to write my children’s book The Birds in the Bamboo Tree, and then two more: Toby the Cocky Rooster and Porter the Adventurous Otter.

I left the heron to its own meditative stillness and returned to my flat, to my writing corner, reenergised to continue editing the updated version of my memoir, now titled Where I Was: A memoir about forgetting and remembering, first released almost ten years ago in the aftermath of the AWARE Saga. With this updated edition, I tell my story of the saga in the context of the wider civil society, and try to capture in words and images the world in which I grew up, civil society activism and historical events that influenced us in Singapore. These stories are the most inspiring and powerful sources of my memory and writing.
My writing corner brings back memories of other writing corners in my history of writing. The past is never far away. My little homogenised flat is a treasure house of all the beauty I have experienced through my life, where memory and imagination come together, each enhancing the other. The past is never far away.
Constance Singam

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