Almost 30 years later the treasure resurfaces. What else is there in the world that has been made and lost? Our products can be painstakingly wrought, like working all summer in a garden, and then, in a single dismissive frost, it seemingly comes to nought. Best to enjoy and appreciate each moment, for like the caring selection and precise placement of each pebble in a great sand picture, our works are so easily wiped from public recognition once done. Such was certainly the effect of holding the three original rejection letters from Australian publishers as far back as the 80's. That, along with having a treasured original of Nick Sinclair's 'Captain Balboa.'
We make things out of nothing. Such is imagination. We create giant statues that eventually crumble. We invent things that might make it to the museum, or they too eventually are discarded, turned to rust, and are pulverized by the process of time. Dust to dust. Yet some things make it beyond our reach. Some things gets duplicated, published, replicated, and evolve way past our own lifetimes. But as for the real Captain Balboa?
Nick Sinclair's protagonist is nothing like the original man. Guts, glory, and gore attend Vasco Nunez de Balboa's life (1475-1519). An explorer, governor, and conquistador, he met a horrid end with the axman, declaring his innocence to the end. Yet what he perpetrated on those with whom he clashed en route to his grandiosity is now so easily forgotten; the dramatic statues of him in Madrid and elsewhere conceal his arrogant egotism and religious self righteousness. But Nick Sinclair's Balboa is nothing like that. In Nick's realization, Balboa is compassionate, visits Africa, speaks with and rescues drought-stricken animals, and is considerate in the extreme.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge," Einstein is purported to have said. Yet imagination can also extrapolate, prevaricate, befuddle, and confuse. Many a history has been glossed over, recreated, and intentionally restructured to suit its proponents. Yet Nick Sinclair in no way has taken anything other than the name of Balboa 'in vain'. He has given Balboa a benign and grandfatherly persona. He has anthropomorphized the creatures Balboa meets, and with caring words as well as his own magnificent illustrations, has created a world of magic for his children, Barnaby and Anna, and indeed, as intended for all of us too.
Those who have the commercial power to promulgate our productivity, the book makers, the ones commissioning statues, the art buyers, the recording-label contractors, the manufacturers of patterns and material and foodstuffs and motorcars and aeroplanes and furniture, these are those that can provide longevity, that can ensure a commercial success. The publisher's rejections are succinct. "...against the competing merits of other submissions"; "...we must be extremely subjective"; "the setting is too European." Indeed. We all have reasons for dismissing whatever comes across our way. Not everyone gets to have an award in a fanciful parade.
Just how many art works, manuscripts, recipes, ideas, articles, letters, essays, never get past the small circle of the immediate? Just how many artists, singers, musicians, actors, and inventors never 'make it'? We can but enjoy the process, or we may be dissuaded from the creative essence of our productivity. We may start to commercialize, to make things just to sell, to be known, to become famous, or to want that most elusive goal of all, to become really rich!
Nick died in 1985. His life was its own jewel. But a pebble in the vast panoply of mankind, Nick's life glistens and shines for those who knew and loved him. As does his work. The rest is not easily up to you or me, but to those with the power to publish, promulgate, promote, and perpetuate that which has been the product of one's making. Enjoyment of the process, in the meantime, is all. Nick’s Balboa sails on and on in the mindscapes of other adventurers, always.